Even before technology and automation upended marketing and sales processes, the two groups struggled to collaborate effectively. The conflict tended to center on issues like handoffs and messaging. Now the teams can’t even agree on reality as reflected in data. That’s a problem, and it won’t be resolved until marketing and sales agree on a core technology stack.
In past years – particularly in the B2B world – marketing was in charge of messaging and raising awareness, with prospects generated via their efforts filtering down to the sales team. In other words, marketing’s job was to seed the top of the sales funnel. Salespeople then converted warm leads into hot prospects, and then into buyers. It was a linear process.
It no longer works that way. Now, leads move in and out of the purchase journey funnel. The sales cycle is longer and involves more decision makers. While it’s true that digital tools make it easier to measure activities, the non-linear process obscures revenue attribution. And significantly, a substantial portion of the buying journey is complete before a salesperson hears from a customer.
That means marketing isn’t just in charge of feeding prospects into the top of the funnel; marketers must nurture leads every step of the way. And not only that, they must be able to prove where they are adding value in a non-linear sales cycle. In a world that respects data, marketing’s efforts must be measurable before they can assume their place in the value chain.
Too many marketers have yet to accept this new reality. They are still focused almost exclusively on the top of the sales funnel, not recognizing the enormous shift that has occurred in the digital age. They’ve taken advantage of marketing automation tools and sift through data to gain insight and identify opportunities, but they aren’t aligned with the sales team.
To succeed in a transformed competitive landscape, marketers need to do three things:
First, they must recognize that the game has changed on a fundamental level and embrace their role in nurturing prospects all the way through the sales funnel. Second, they need to align their activities with their sales colleagues. And third, they must embrace a common technology stack.
The first step requires a shift in thinking, but marketers are most of the way there: They already know the traditional way of doing things has been upended. And while the thought of expanding responsibilities to include communicating with potential buyers at every stage of the buying journey may be daunting, it also presents a virtually unlimited opportunity to shine.
Step two, aligning activities with sales, may also inspire trepidation since the two groups are often at cross-purposes. But that’s just the point: Once marketers recognize that the game has changed, it’s easier to understand the necessity of better collaboration with the sales team. Sales has just as much to gain, since prospects are arriving at their doorstep later in the process.
The third step involves accepting an idea that is currently rare in the marketing world, but getting less so: Sales and marketing need to have a common source of data truth, and the best way to achieve that is to consolidate information by using common technologies. To that end, marketing should adopt a CRM platform as a core element of the marketing technology stack.
Until that happens, sales and marketing collaboration will be hampered by the fact that the two teams use two different data sets and reporting tools. Sales is usually the larger organization within a company, and they typically use Salesforce or another CRM solution to track leads, generate reports and manage data.
Marketing typically generates its own data via marketing automation solutions, but technology advances now enable them to easily stream data from popular automation tools into CRM platforms such as Salesforce. This allows marketing and sales to collaborate using a common source of data and reporting.
When sales and marketing align around the CRM solution the sales team uses, they’ll be speaking a common language and working from the same playbook for the first time. Not only will this allow marketing to take its rightful place in the value creation chain, it will give them a voice at the strategy table. And it all starts with a common technology stack.
Bonnie Crater, CEO of Full Circle Insights, makers of comprehensive marketing and sales performance management solutions. Prior to that, she was a senior vice president of Salesforce.