• February 11, 2010
  • By Paul Greenberg, founder and managing principal, The 56 Group

The Shotgun Marriage of Sales and Marketing

Article Featured Image

Every other edition of my book has had separate chapters for sales and marketing. 

When Denis Pombriant, managing principal of Beagle Research Group, suggested that I combine the two chapters, I had to think about it for a while, because sales and marketing have been such distinct pillars of CRM for so many years. There were still good reasons to keep them separate—for one thing, the likelihood of the immediate integration of sales and marketing is not really that great. But they can and should be aligned, at least as far as your strategy goes.

Marketing is the art and science of getting the attention of a prospective customer and keeping it until she buys something; sales is the art and science of getting that customer to make the purchase. While the disciplines remain distinct, the two need to work as a coherent team to accomplish the objectives of a 21st-century organization. That means they need a unified vision, and their efforts need to be coordinated as if driven by the same objectives.

Salespeople are focused around short-term results such as making quarterly quotas. They’re measured by the number of calls they make or the number of presentations they give, so quantity anchors their key performance indicators. They’re rewarded by commissions, not long-term business development.

Marketing departments also have short-term objectives, but they’re often tied to long-term ones. They develop initiatives around brand-building that take some time. Brand-building is fine when you have the luxury to do it, but, more often than not, their marketing dollars have to generate leads. 

Marketing people still need to grab customers’ attention, and salespeople still have to sell. All in all, sales and marketing are driven by different imperatives but company success is ultimately a product of their mutual alignment.

Marketing 2.0: New Mindset, New Tools

What I’m about to say may be obvious, but doing what I’m about to say just isn’t easy. In order for you to sell to someone, they have to care enough to know who you are, know what you sell, and see some reason to buy what you sell. They also have to see the reason why they should buy what you sell from you since they can probably get something similar from someone else. That’s the essence of marketing, but to achieve that customer advocacy nirvana takes a lot. It takes a strategy, the use of tools and systems, and a completely new view of what marketing is today.

Conversation-Centric Marketing 

By making knowledge instead of product the source of competitive advantage, the customer’s willingness to engage is increased. But keep in mind this is still only one-way communication. There is so much more to be thinking about. In the new marketing model, sales and marketing are not the only aligned departments. There has to be a commonly constructed purpose that makes mutual sense for a relationship between marketing and customer service.

Part of marketing’s responsibility, forced by this social change, is engaging the customer in a conversation. One way they can do that is to figure out what the customer is saying outside the company’s four walls. That means monitoring and listening to the conversation going on about the company. Once they’re able to hear it, they will, with the right tools, be able to figure out who are the most influential people doing the talking. 

The new model is always aligned around the ongoing experience that the customer has in his or her interactions with the company. Marketing becomes the seeker of conversation, the teller of stories, the purveyor of content, and the one at the door shaking the customer’s hand before anyone else. They not only talk to the customer, they listen to them and act accordingly. Marketing moves from being the pusher of product, or the brand protector, to the initial contact for customer engagement and value creation.

What are the best ways to take this new marketing model and run with it? Dissecting marketing types is a Herculean effort: search engine marketing, relationship marketing, database marketing, emotional marketing, trust-based marketing, direct mail marketing, email marketing, mobile marketing, social media marketing, product marketing, solution-based marketing, and, well, let’s just make ad nauseum the punctuation.

But the one that has captured the imagination of marketers, primarily because customers are responding to it, is social media marketing—or, more properly, using social media tools as part of a marketing strategy. The numbers are there to justify it. A 2008 study by Cone on business in social media found that 60 percent of Americans are using social media, with half of those using it more than twice a week. The numbers have skyrocketed since 2008, according to other studies, to between 74 percent and 84 percent. But what’s incontrovertible is that a majority of Americans are engaged in some form of social media—from passive blog reading to participation in social networks to active content creation.

In April 2009, a Forrester Research report forecast a growth in all areas of interactive marketing from 2009 to 2014, but the growth in social media marketing (34 percent) and mobile marketing (27 percent) were at least twice the growth of any other category. Spending on social media marketing alone is set to skyrocket from $716 million in 2009 to $3.1 billion in 2014. Gulp.

That doesn’t mean, however, that there’s a long or deep cultural adoption of social media marketing. That would require a change in culture that would portend the discarding of the existing product- or company-centric models. That ain’t an easy task. (See “Marketing Models: The Old and the New.”)

What Does the Conversation Sound Like?

Actually, a marketing person who’s aligned perfectly with sales has to monitor two things: information and conversation. Monitoring information and business intelligence will only get you data on the prospects you have and the prospects you want. What’s more germane is the conversation that comes next. What do you do to track the conversation? Is that all you track? What do you do with it when you find it? 

One of the upsides of social media monitoring tools is that not only can they make coherent sense out of what is otherwise an apparent constant indistinguishable buzz, but they can capture the data and then integrate it, if they’re really good, into traditional CRM data stores. 

Most of the CRM applications and even the standalone marketing automation applications are traditional in their functionality and aren’t that great at it either. Even the new-breed CRM marketing automation applications are built along traditional lines, though they’re good and focused on small shops rather than larger enterprises.

But there are some changes afoot. Marketing automation, analytics, and email marketing companies are increasingly incorporating social features and, while doing that, strengthening their more traditional CRM-ish functionality. Social media monitoring applications are increasingly adding CRM-level functionality or integrating with CRM applications to bring their data into the CRM databases and to make their data usefully actionable. [Editors’ Note: To find out which vendors earn Greenberg’s specific praise, visit us online at http://sn.im/feb10-issue.] 

As sophistication about what it means to engage customers has grown, so has the understanding that the entire organization should be involved in the process of engaging customers and the community online. Personal referral and customer feedback continue to be the most important facets of how sales occur. Social networking and social media give ordinary people the ability to efficiently refer (or “market”) products and services to their peers. Companies that facilitate such referrals and listen to customer feedback will accelerate the process of referral.

Managing the volume of content in social media is difficult. Not only does monitoring take significant effort—understanding what’s being said about a company and its brands—but significant time is also required to respond to the community. Customer service in the world of social media is outside such existing channels of communication as email and the telephone.

Because any response takes place in the public realm, companies are unsure as to which department should field a service opportunity. Public relations is more adept at navigating the process of responding to media questions, while customer service has the infrastructure and the answers. Companies have to understand the new reality and build a new infrastructure that can deal with how social media works. This new infrastructure will be different for every company, different people drawn from different disciplines and with different workflow processes.

“Selling to”: Sales Driven by Product 

Sales processes were and are a salesperson’s traditional method to interact with the customer. But these processes tend to be product-driven, which objectifies the way the customer is going to be approached. They’re organized around the concepts of finding and qualifying a lead, identifying that lead as a prospect, creating an opportunity with that prospect, proposing a sale, negotiating a deal with that prospect, and then closing that deal.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with using sales processes. They may vary from company to company and from industry to industry, but they’re traditionally derived from the most successful practices of salespeople over a long period of time. Those practices have been organized and hardened into a methodology.

These kinds of sales processes and methodologies are commonly available with sales force automation (SFA) tools—representing one of the characteristic differences between SFA and contact management—and the ability to tweak those processes (or create your own) is a common part of traditional CRM. But is it enough to have an established sales methodology to sell to a newly empowered, peer-trusting, myth-busting, never-rusting social customer?

“Selling with”: Sales Driven by Experience and Relationship

The social customer might not really give a you-know-what about the sales processes that require a salesperson to qualify for commissions and bonuses by entering transactional data and customer information into “the system.” What the social customer is expecting is a human being who’s not selling products at them or just following a particular path, but providing a relationship that will be mutually beneficial. [Editors’ Note: For more on this view, see Lior Arussy’s Customer Centricity column this month, “Customers Don’t Buy What You Sell.”]

For the salesperson, this experience will be the purchase of something by the customer. For the customer, it will be an experience that provides her with what she needs to solve a part of her personal agenda—be it in a B2B environment (such as meeting an equipment need) or in a B2C environment (purchasing a family vacation package). But the expectation goes beyond that. The customer is looking to have a relationship—if not with the salesperson then with the company the salesperson represents. Skeptical? Think about your own relationship to Amazon.com, and why you shop there: It’s convenient, and the site “knows” you. 

Handling Opportunities Better

What happens once you’ve generated this lead and made it into some sort of opportunity, you hip, way-cool Sales 2.0 guy?

Then comes the need to optimize your chances of closing the deal, and there are Sales 2.0 tools for collaboration within the enterprise and for richer insights on your possible customer. There are companies that provide the sales intelligence tools and the Sales 2.0 collaboration tools that can improve your chances of effectively concluding the sale.

There are two important social capabilities for the Sales 2.0 professional. First is the ability to engage the resources and knowledge of your company, not just your sales team. That means that the collective knowledge of the staff can be put to good use helping you determine what resources you need to help you with your opportunity. The second is the use of tools to scour the Web for information that will give you a competitive edge, a.k.a. sales intelligence. [Greenberg’s take on the sales intelligence tools of CRM vendor InsideView, one of CRM magazine’s 2009 Rising Stars, can be found at http://sn.im/feb10-issue, along with his assessment of the new generation of lead generation.]

Collaboration: Sales 2.0 for the Enterprise

Engaging other employees—say, in the marketing department—who know the companies or people involved in your opportunities, who have legal expertise you might need, or who are on other sales teams that might have sold a similar deal, has become something that can make or break a closing. That doesn’t mean you have to walk department to department to find the individuals who might know a snippet or a chunk of information. It doesn’t mean you have to send out an email query in the hope of response. What it means is that, using contemporary digital tools, you can actually improve your chances of winning a deal.

IBM Lotus Connections has an outcome-based social software module called “activities”—a temporary wiki built around a specific time-constrained event that is retired to an archive when the activity is completed. Salespeople use it to create an opportunity-focused collaboration space where all the possible experts or knowledgeable individuals in regard to the opportunity can aggregate that knowledge.

For the longer term, sales organizations use wikis, not just the activities, to do things like fine-tune sales “scripts” or develop field sales guides that cover all components of selling at a particular company or to a particular customer segment. What makes these collaborations particularly valuable is the addition of comments on the different facets of selling that enhance the skills of the salesperson. To put it simply, shared content rules.

Salesforce.com is one company that’s providing a platform for aggregating content for the benefit of salespeople. In 2007, the vendor acquired a startup called Koral Technologies and rebranded Koral’s social content management system as Salesforce ContentExchange atop its own platform. Users can now incorporate any content and then comment on it, tag it, rate it, rank it, create RSS feeds—all the things needed to make a genuine conversation that draws on actual knowledge.

That’s just one of the tools that sales can use—especially when aligned with marketing. The two departments, at this point, necessarily need alignment. At some point, sales and marketing may even be integrated. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. 

The Sales 2.0 Value Proposition

Here’s a quick review of why Sales 2.0 is the currency of contemporary business.

• Increased potential for success. If you make a collaborative effort, have better forecasting tools, and know more about your customer, your odds of success are that much greater.

• Increased customer insight. Based on data that goes far beyond transactions, this insight gets to the personal profiles, the influencer relationships, and the state of a particular company or account. To top it off, some of this is based on input from other customers and employees.

• Mitigated risk. The better the chances of success, the lower the risk. (Duh.)

• Collaborative environment. The benefits of working well with coworkers on projects are long established.

• Improved engagement with customers. The more you know them, the better your relationship, the more likely the deal closes.

• Increased portability. Many of the Sales 2.0 applications are delivered as software-as-a-service applications or on mobile devices.

• Competitive differentiation. You’re able to target more precisely than in the past.

• Reputation, influence, persuasion. It’s not who you know, but who you know who knows who you need to know. Those “loose connections” can be more powerful than direct connections. Understand how the connections among people are organized and who can influence whom.

Paul Greenberg (@pgreenbe on Twitter) is president of consultancy The 56 Group (the56group.typepad.com); cofounder of training company BPT Partners; a CRM magazine columnist; and chair of the magazine’s CRM Evolution conference (Aug. 2–4, 2010, in New York; www.destinationCRM.com/evolution). The fourth edition of his book, CRM at the Speed of Light (McGraw-Hill)—from which this article is adapted—is now available in bookstores and online.

CRM Covers
for qualified subscribers
Subscribe Now Current Issue Past Issues

Related Articles

Salesforce.com Launches Salesforce1 Sales Reach

The solution gives sales teams access to powerful marketing tools on the go.

Oracle, CDC Enter the Marketing Automation Market

"Oracle failed to buy Market2Lead," says MarketBright CEO.

Buyer's Guide Companies Mentioned