Bridging the Sales and Marketing Gap: Four ways marketing automation helps

Sales and marketing people are like Venus and Mars. They exist within the same universe and rotate around the same sun. But they couldn’t be more different in how they see things.

Sales people live in the world of quotas, deal-flow, proposals, demanding clients, negotiations, sales funnel management and profit protection. Marketing people live in the world of lead generation, branding, content creation (white papers, webinars, videos and articles), websites, ad campaigns, email campaigns and getting the greatest possible ROI for budget.

It’s no wonder these two functions talk around each other instead of to each other. Yet truth be told, they really need each other. More importantly, they need each other to perform at their peak. Especially now!

These days, I see the sales and marketing functions being asked to do more with less and to carry a heavier burden. Downsized teams on both sides are expected to perform at the same level as they did before the recession. This places an imperative on sales and marketing cooperation like never before.

I really do believe that marketing automation holds the keys to success for sales and marketing alignment and peak performance.

When I talk about the sales function, I mean any person who is responsible for generating revenue, meeting a quota, making deals and acquiring clients. From one company to the next, this may include the titles of consultant, business development, senior VP, managing principal and the like.

Four ways marketing automation helps

Marketing automation helps sales and marketing functions work together more successfully in four ways:

  1. Marketing automation requires sales and marketing people to agree on their definition of an ideal client, which is the first step to consistent client acquisition.
  2. Marketing automation forces the sales and marketing functions to build and agree on process, which is the source of most disconnects.
  3. Marketing automation asks the marketing function to become more conscious of the sales funnel, which helps them make a greater contribution to the client acquisition process.
  4. Marketing automation arms sales people with more information than they’ve ever had, which positions them to be successful while taking away excuses.

A perfect scenario

Let’s look at an example of what happens when these four areas are addressed effectively by ABC consulting (also known as your business and mine):

  • A VP receives an email from ABC Consulting.
  • The VP opens the email, clicks through and registers for a white paper. He includes his title in the registration form.
  • The VP clicks over to a service or other page that indicates buying interest. He watches a video and then registers for a webinar.
  • Within an hour, the VP receives a call from a managing principal at ABC Consulting.
  • The VP is a bit surprised to receive the call, but also impressed that ABC Consulting is paying attention.
  • The VP says he’s just gathering information right now, but he plans to buy a service similar to what ABC Consulting offers within the next 90 days.
  • The VP reveals that he has budget and must act soon because of pressure from the CEO at his company.
  • ABC Consulting’s managing principal answers all of the VP’s questions and requests an appointment for a discovery meeting to begin the consultative sale. The VP agrees.
  • ABC Consulting’s managing principal adds all of this information to the VP’s record, already set up in the customer relationship management (CRM) system, and schedules the discovery call.
  • ABC Consulting’s managing principal walks over to the VP marketing and gives her a high five.

I love it when a plan comes together. So why did this work so well? Because sales and marketing people at ABC Consulting got together and did a lot of teamwork around four key areas.

Defining lead scoring and the ideal client

What you didn’t see in this scenario is that the VP initiated a trigger in ABC Consulting’s marketing automation system that told the managing principal to call the VP. This functionality is known as lead scoring. It’s a very simple notice that pops up in Salesforce and other CRMs, sends an email to the managing principal or sends a text message.

When the managing principal looked at the VP’s contact record in the CRM, he saw the white paper download, the Web page visits and the email opens and click-throughs. He also saw the VP’s title and company. The managing principal knew a lot about the VP’s interests before placing the call, which helped land the discovery meeting.

For lead scoring to be successful, sales and marketing teams have to agree on what’s important concerning two key attributes:

  • Inherent qualities – where a contact exhibits some quality known to be of significance to the sales funnel.  Often this is a title or area of responsibility. Sometimes this can be a contact from a specific company (especially when a sales person is trying to get a foot in the door).
  • Behavioral qualities – where a contact exhibits specific behavior such as email opens and clicks, registrations for white papers and webinars and visits to key pages within your website.

When sales and marketing people agree on the definition of the ideal client for these two attributes, contacts can be automatically scored and then passed to sales people for follow up.

In the scenario above, a VP (inherent quality) downloaded a white paper and clicked on other key pages (behavioral quality). If a Director had exhibited the same behavior, he might not have qualified for an immediate call back. If the VP had only downloaded the white paper, he might not have qualified for a call back.

Creating a unified process

The sales and marketing function at ABC Consulting also came to agreement on another important topic: follow-up. Most marketing automation systems allow you to split leads along two paths:

  • Contact them now.
  • Nurture them in the sales funnel for a period of time.

When sales and marketing people agree on specific criteria for inherent and behavioral qualities and agree that only leads who meet certain criteria require immediate follow up, good things happen.

First, the sales function is not asked to speak to cold or cool leads. This usually makes them happy because they can spend their time on proposals, existing clients or other productive tasks. Second, this puts the marketing function in the position of nurturing leads over time, tracking their behavior and preparing them to be ready to speak with sales people in the future.

Nurturing the sales (and marketing) funnel

Historically, sales people have owned the funnel. But with marketing automation, the marketing function can now monitor leads in the funnel and pull prospects toward sales dialogue through automated nurturing campaigns. Here is a classic example.

Let’s assume that a Director-level person downloads a white paper, but then goes silent (no other email clicks, Web page visits or webinar registrations). Sound familiar? In the past, this person would have been categorized as a dead lead.

But with marketing automation, marketing people can initiate a nurturing campaign to this contact using a strategy we call 3+1: three engagement emails followed by one meeting request email.

Here is how this works. The marketing team can create three emails that highlight a specific idea or topic in the white paper such as: “What will the chart on page 37 mean for your company?” Why should they do this? Because in my experience, people download white papers, but really don’t engage with them. These types of nurturing emails call out important concepts and create thoughtful engagement.

The fourth email in the sequence invites the Director-level person to schedule an appointment to discuss how ideas in the white paper can be applied at his or her company. Suddenly a dead lead is now engaged in serious sales dialogue, and all because of marketing automation.

The benefits of sales and marketing alignment

When the sales and marketing functions operate seamlessly as one unit, the most obvious benefit is new revenue from new clients. But don’t be surprised if revenue from current clients also increases as sales people focus their time and effort more effectively. If sales and marketing alignment is a goal for your firm, then marketing automation may be your best path forward.

About the author

Randy Shattuck is a senior marketing executive and founder of The Shattuck Group, a full-service marketing firm that specializes in growing professional services firms. You can reach him at randy@theshattuckgroup.com.

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