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Sales is the new Marketing: 7 ways to embrace it

As sales and marketing continue to converge, sales teams need to be digitally enabled. Start the process with these seven steps.

People prefer going online for most of their information. As a result, buyers resist generic sales outreach, and they are both more informed and opinionated when they finally do. Marketing automation has enabled an effective set of lead scoring and lead nurturing programs – for B2B as well as in the B2C verticals of retail, hospitality, and financial services. It’s also changing how companies use sales people as part of that nurturing effort. The change is so important; it’s making sales – defined by data-infused and content supported personal outreach – the new marketing.

There has always been a continuum of marketing-sales activity, and companies have tested and re-tested scenarios where marketing – fueled by effective automation – manages increasing amounts of the lifecycle leaving inside sales and sales to own the rest. Now that buyers are actively engaged in the awareness, interest, and comparative stages of the lifecycle, the roles of marketing and inside sales have blended and evolved. Yet, sales teams still don’t find value in most of the marketing qualified leads (MQLs) presented to them. More change is necessary to truly meet prospects and renewal customers in ways that capitalize and reflect our digital lifestyle.

CEB found that 57 percent of the buying and research process is complete before a buyer interacts with sales people. Your sales teams need to be digitally enabled, and this can be done through a combination of collaboration, predictive analytics, scoring, nurturing automation, search, social media, and content. The new job of marketing is to arm sales teams with actionable information they can use to engage personally.

1. Collaboration

For any effective change, there must be a culture of collaboration. This is no longer about the marketing function having a beginning and end by serving sales some number of MQLs and then standing back. It’s about both teams participating fully in the entire lifecycle, with the same objectives, in identifying the best time to provide personal outreach. The goal should be to get a very high amount of salesperson time actually spent with buyers. CEB has found that in many cases, only 27 percent of sales time is spent talking to customers. That is a colossal waste of expertise and opportunity.

2. Predictive Analytics

Analytics has been used in marketing automation for scoring and next-best-offer opportunity. It can also be effective to help sales teams act faster and more intelligently. Common applications are to prioritize targets, predict the most relevant offer or message to serve prospects, and suggest the next logical offer to up-sell and cross-sell.

It is increasingly important to ask the right questions of the data. Knowing those trigger moments where a personal outreach will make a difference – where a conversation is stronger than passively reading/viewing information – is key to effective insights. One big box retailer found that the key moment of truth (MOT) was a combination of research activity and payday. A telecom provider found that a research path that followed specific patterns was highly predictive of budget and need.

3. Scoring

Sales is not a transaction. It’s an integral part of a considered purchase. Sales people need access to lead scores – but a new kind of richer, more actionable score. Most powerful as individual online profiles of each customer, these scores provide data on response and feedback. Dashboards – usually integrated with CRM or SFA solutions – are becoming increasingly popular to help improve the relevance and consistency of key performance indicators.

4. Nurturing Automation

Nurturing will be increasingly important, especially when automated through a series of intelligent triggers and informed by analytics. Give sales teams the ability to customize the flow based on their interactions and experience.

5. Search

Since digital research is such a key part of the buying cycle, search is an untapped opportunity for both sales and marketing teams. With training and support, salespeople can be good bloggers – so make sure their thought leadership ranks high for key search terms. For certain strategic accounts, passing the lead directly to a salesperson rather than nurturing through marketing might make more sense. The sales person is the one who knows the influencer-champion-buyer relationships in a firm and can manage the content based on that role. These buyer roles might not be correlated to title or behavior.

6. Social Media

Sales people need to be trained and armed to engage with people over social media. Inside sales teams may be effective here, following up on a post with a like, a thoughtful reply, and further engagement. The nature of social media requires a real person who is invested in the relationship to man the company side of the conversation. In B2C, this is often a customer service role. Social interactions can be measured by tracking interactions through the pipeline. One study found that only 20 percent of CMOs use social media to engage customers. Evaluate your own use of social media in the buyer journey – are you leaving opportunity untapped?

7. Content

Forrester reports that 61 percent of buyers feel better about a company that delivers custom content, and are also more likely to buy as a result. Smart marketers are leveraging “Content Hubs” – actionable repositories of curated content that is segmented both by profile and need. This makes it easier for both marketers and sales people to align content selection with actual need – and saves sales people from many fruitless searches, or worse, inventing something on the fly.

This is not a trend in technology, but a reflection of how customers actually buy. For that reason, the sales-marketing integration is an important imperative. A good first step is to empower salespeople with content that is more actionable and start to track the results of more collaborative. What are you doing to more strategically define the roles of marketing and sales, and be more responsive to customers? With your input, I’d like to explore these ideas further in future columns.

by Stephanie Miller