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How Strong is Your Sales Connection?

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How Strong is Your Sales Connection?

Techedge | May 23, 2016

This is the second in the series of Blogs discussing how to implement Marketing Automation for optimum performance capability.

In the first post of our series we addressed the first point in our Implementation methodology – the need to have the Top of Funnel performing across multiple Social and other Channels prior to the implementation of Marketing Automation. 

8 Key Challenges in Implementing Marketing Automation

In this blog we will discuss the importance of Points 2 and 8 in the Methodology: Why a clearly defined and monitored set of sales and marketing processes and KPIs, in addition to cohesive alignment of the organization through a cross business LOB team is essential in ensuring great Marketing Automation Planning - leading to strong results in it’s implementation.

When organization’s usually engage Techedge in supporting the development of Marketing Automation Capability it is usually through one of two channels.  Either Marketing or IT.  And, the conversation usually goes along the lines of trying to get the software solution of choice set up as quickly as possible or a discussion around why their marketing automation investment has not brought the returns they had hoped.

In the B2B space the momentum and urgency for implementing Marketing Automation is nearly always the same.  The quality, and or quantity of Marketing generated leads is considered to be less than optimum and the perceived contribution of Marketing within the Field Sales organization is often highly variable.

The consequence of this is that the leads generated by Marketing are often neglected by Sales and they sit aging in the CRM systems or worse - excel spreadsheets, becoming less and less likely to convert.  This creates a direct impact on the conversion rates of Marketing Generated Leads and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Marketing Automation technology enables companies to be able to do two fundamental things:

  1. Industrialize a one to one communication journey which nurtures customers, educating them and keeping them warm, in the most appropriate way for them as individuals, based on their behaviour.
  2. Score each customer based on their actions in a way that helps ensure that only those customers who have a high probability of really being interested in the product or service will be passed to sales.

This approach represents a departure from traditional Marketing and this is where we begin to be able to frame one of the key problems in creating a Marketing Automation capability that fulfills the promise.

Traditional Marketing is generally campaign based whereas Marketing Automation is Journey Based.  And, traditional marketing is generally focused on the initial steps of the Purchasing Cycle (i.e. Awareness and Interest) whereas Marketing Automation’s role extends Marketing’s responsibility into what would traditionally be a Sales responsibility: the consideration and qualification stages. Instead of handling these phases with human interaction, we are able to use the Nurturing capability offered by Marketing Automation technology combined with relevant content to provide customers with the information they need to enable the Evaluation stage of the purchasing cycle. All of this is able to be completed, or at least progressed, without Sales intervention.

And so, ultimately, Marketing needs to develop new kinds of content and really understand the customer deeply to be able to optimize the use of Marketing Automation.

Since most Marketers do not have the level of customer insight available to the average Sales rep, they need to work directly with Sales to translate the Sales knowledge and experience into content which can be used in the Marketing Automation process.

Nine times out of ten, they don’t.  In most engagements with our Clients they organize the first meeting with a good percentage of the Marketing and Digital team present, along with potentially the Brand owners, but rarely do they involve Direct Sales. 

If you want to leverage Marketing Automation and really make a difference to your results, you need to involve Sales. You need to involve Sales & ideally also Customers in order to truly and deeply understand their needs, purchasing behaviors, informational requirements and communication preferences. For every Customer Persona you develop, you need to have at least interviewed a couple of Customers and Sales Reps in order to develop that Persona in a meaningful way.

Another big advantage to this approach is that it enables you to get buy in from Sales during the planning process & Marketing Automation investment.  The effort and actions Marketing undertakes in this process are generally recognised by Sales as something considerably different from previous modus operandi and therefore more likely to provide considerably different results.  Involving them throughout the Planning Process will significantly increase the probability that on launch of the new Marketing Automation Capability the Sales team will recieve the leads generated with more reverence and more priority, creating a knock-on effect on the likelihood that your investment in Marketing Automation will drive the results you are looking for.

So, you’ve engaged Sales, you’ve got Digital, Marketing, IT etc involved and you’ve established your Customer Personas and Customer Journeys. As a result, you’ve increased your chances of success. But collaboration and joint planning aren’t only useful in the initial stages of capability development,  you must ensure collaboration continues.  The best way to do this is to develop a Process and a set of metrics which engage both Sales and Marketing and provide them measures which reflect a continued joint ownership. This will be achieved by creating set of KPIs which measure not only the traditional measures of Campaign Marketing (open, click-through, bounce, etc) but also measures the key points of interaction and handover of Sales and Marketing - Marketing Qualified Leads, Sales Accepted Leads, etc.


Sirius Decisions suggests that developing tight processes between the Sales and Marketing function throughout the Sales Process produces nearly 4 times the results achievable when Marketing Automation technology is implemented without this integration.

 Creating a set of KPIs and benchmarks which measure

  • Interest/EnquiriesMarketing Qualified Leads (MQL)– in other words Leads that have been nurtured based on the customer’s behaviour and thanks to the automatic scoring provided by Marketing Automation, they are seen to be ready for Sales.
  • Sales Accepted Leads (SAL)– This is the % of MQL which are accepted by Sales and which they commit to follow up.
  • Sales Qualified Leads (SQL)- These are the % of SAL which the Sales team has contacted and agrees are really opportunities
  • And, finally Closed Deals

 Will be far more meaningful to the business than open rates and click-throughs.

To be able to continually track these KPIs in a manageable way it is important that there is integration between the Marketing Automation System and the CRM.  And, an agreement between Marketing and Sales on SLAs, reaction times, follow up and pipeline management.  Because most Marketing Automation Solutions are cloud based, the integration with standard CRM packages should be relatively easy with many solutions already having out of the box APIs.  The latter point is likely to be more challenging, however by including CRM and Sales throughout the planning process you are far more likely to get buy-in than you would by excluding them.