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The Achille’s Heel of Your Marketing Automation Dream: Sales Integration

Automation offers a window into the ultimate effectiveness of your marketing efforts. However, there are two underlying levers which can make this dream come true, or completely undermine your efforts. This post will address the first – the achille’s heel of sales integration.

No matter which marketing automation platform we’re talking about, we’ve got to have the buy-in, dedication and full participation of each individual sales person to make it work. This may be news to you, but sales and marketing barely speak. They are each in their own silo.

The epicenter of this disconnect is as much measurement as a culture. The long tradition of otherness, of an entrenched distrust between the departments, is underscored by hard metrics for sales – did you close? How big? – and the relative softness of marketing’s metrics – awareness, inquiries, leads.

This disconnect is most evident in lead follow-up. Marketing generates a quality lead (in their opinion) and tosses it over the wall to sales, who immediately assign it second-tier status. Our experience, across industries, is that sales follow up between 30% and 34% of the leads marketing produces. For this automation to be effective, we need 100% follow-up and sales’ dedication to updating the automation with quality data. Which kind of casts a pall on all that “window into the ultimate effectiveness” stuff.

Sales must engage – here’s how.
Here are what to do – our 7 steps to success.

Step One: Sales must have a seat at the marketing table, for two reasons:

  • They have broad experience and expertise that would otherwise be unavailable
  • If they participate in the planning, they have “skin in the game” and will be held co-responsible for results

A strong, respected representative of sales must be involved from day one in the marketing planning process.  Sales must contribute to analyzing the results of previous efforts and planning new ones, strategy development, setting goals and objectives and the co-responsibility for achieving those goals and objectives. Then automation is an enabler, not the demon.

Step Two: Sales contributes to Prospect Persona research.

Personas bring clarity to prospecting, providing actionable insights that may not come out in quantitative research. Personas bring sales and marketing together with their audience by turning percentages into people with whom they can relate. Personas shine a light on prospects’ information behavior.

It’s critical that Sales be involved in determining: the goals and objectives; selection of interviewees; the areas of questioning; and, of course, potential offers and/or events to be pre-tested. Which leads us to Step Three.

Step Three: Sales contributes to offer development.

Sales are talking to customers all day long about their needs, your products and services and the competitive environment. This gives them unique perspective when it comes to offer development. Marketing may propose that a low-level offer is desirable because it attracts many inquiries. Sales may feel that the many include competitors, students, and dead people. It’s a good discussion to have – if sales’ doesn’t support an offer, it isn’t likely to succeed.

Step Four: Sales reviews connected content.

The content that we generate must be connected to our prospects – it must satisfy, entertain and convert.

We are not advocating that sales assume the responsibilities of Creative Director, graphic designer or copywriter. We are, however, asking for their street-smart input and feedback. Sharpening our creative focus due to sales’ input will result in better content that connects and converts.

Step Five: Sales contributes to database development.

Who are we going to send these prospect promotions to? Field Sales has unique access to the most current prospect information. Their own database, whether it’s on the computer, a smartphone, 3 x 5 cards or in their heads, is likely to be deeper, more up-to-date and accurate than anything Marketing can access.

This is gospel, if sales does not have confidence in the list you are using for prospect promotions, they will not have confidence in the results.

Step Six: Sales defines lead criteria.

Look, everyone gets a vote on “what is a lead”, however, sales has the only vote that counts. When does it make sense for them to get involved – is it an event, a point score or key information? With a map of what sales wants, marketing can tee up the leads for sales to hit out of the park. This will go a long way to improving the usage of the automation and lead follow-up.

Step Seven: Shared metrics for marketing and sales.

Both marketing and sales must be measured and rewarded by their contribution to the sale. Which means the heads of the two departments will have to figure this out and agree. Which has an extra benefit, because change only happens from the top down. The rank and file need to see their bosses’ active cooperation.

Realizing the incredible potential of marketing automation requires more than an outlet and a training module. It requires a working partnership between marketing and sales, trusts and respect driving cooperation and dedication. It’s the only way to make the automation work, and by the way, the business, too.

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