What’s Next: Sales and Marketing Integration

What’s Next: Sales and Marketing IntegrationBy PAUL RAFFERTY

Over the past three years, much attention has been paid to sales and marketing “alignment.” That is, these two functions have worked toward mutually defining the ideal prospect profile, how leads are scored, when marketing should hand-off to sales, when sales should hand back to marketing, etc.

Sales 2.0 and marketing automation are maturing concepts. Businesses are generally aware that prospects are shopping online without them and not engaging with sales until they are ready to buy. Many companies now have the basics in place – an automation tool and a little bit of content -- to find, connect with and engage those prospects digitally until their digital behavior indicates readiness to buy. And company CEOs are impatiently waiting for the ROI.

So what’s next? Leading-edge B2B sales and marketing organizations are moving toward true “integration.” That is, tying together all the parts of a cross-functional sales and marketing process. The need for integration between the two, in both tools and execution, has never been greater. However, most companies have not yet clearly identified and fixed the failure points.

CEOs and sales and marketing executives are learning that marketing automation is not a solution in and of itself. It’s a hungry machine that requires constant feeding with an ongoing supply of meaningful content targeted to thinly sliced market segments, and relentless execution. That’s a lot of work. And it’s all happening in real-time.

Sales and marketing must truly integrate their efforts in order to maximize the power of automation and function like a well-oiled machine. They can no longer simply work well side-by-side, they must now learn to function as a cohesive team.

Borrowing analogies from sports, the two functions cannot operate like a football team: one group take the field for offense and another for defense. They must function more like a soccer team: a single group of players on the field -- some primarily play offense, some primarily play defense, and some (midfielders) play both, helping their team score and preventing the opponent from scoring. Sometimes, the ball gets booted all the way down field, but generally a soccer team moves the ball forward from one line to the next, sometimes passing the ball laterally or back a line for “support” until there is a clear opening to move forward. The whole team works toward keeping the ball in the scoring end of the field and preventing opponents from taking the lead.

Integration takes alignment to the next level, with additional functions including real time workflows and alerts, lead routing and scoring, lead intelligence and activity tracking. It also involves equipping sales with the skills required to follow up on campaigns, basically playbooks that reps can draw upon to make sure they are using the correct situational fluency when they contact a lead from a particular campaign.

Sales and marketing teams that learn to function as an integrated unit will be ideally positioned to harness the full potential of marketing automation and maintain a clear advantage over their competitors who cling to their old ways of maintaining clear lines between the functions.