:: By Scott Cramer, TinderBox ::
It's clear that accelerating the sales cycle is becoming a top focus for executives given the number of software solutions focused on sales productivity finding a wide audience among businesses of all sizes.
While the flurry of apps and new approaches to selling will continue to grow, various trends are expected to influence selling, primarily how data is shared inside an organization.
Data Will Influence the Customer Experience
At the center of the sales cycle sits the buyer. In a world filled with constant messages and distractions, crafting a satisfying and engaging customer experience is more important than ever. Buyers are experiencing greater awareness of their power in the process, which can lead to fewer opportunities for businesses to make a lasting impression. As a result, mastering the alignment between sales and marketing is imperative.
Sales and marketing teams have to work together to meet customer needs. The common denominator between the two functions needs to be data. By leveraging available data to derive valuable buyer insights, companies can better understand buyer needs to create and deliver the ideal customer experience. Methods to ensure greater synergies between sales and marketing include:
• Evaluating existing technology solutions regularly to ensure they’re delivering efficiencies for both sales and marketing while meeting customer expectations. According to a recent Forrester study, marketing automation software contributes 44 percent of the sales pipeline via marketing programs compared to 34 percent from companies without it.
• Investing in systems and processes that use information learned about prospects or customers to deliver value at every interaction. Marketing automation software does more than bridge the gap between lead generation and an introduction to sales; it offers valuable prospect data to help marketers guide buyers further into the sales process.
• Benchmarking performance across metrics to improve outcomes.
After understanding the role data plays for sales and marketing in influencing the customer experience, the next step is for sales team to use that data to unify the departments.
Data Will Become the Unifier Between Sales and Marketing
Implementation of sales technology is growing at a record rate, but gaps still exist between sales and marketing systems – a reality that often creates a disjointed buying experience and an unpredictable sales process.
Marketers are also increasingly being treated as though they’re the head of sales, finance or a chief information officer (CIO), rather than like marketers: creative, emotional and attached to trendy ideas. Marketers don’t want to be told how to think about or use marketing technology, according to Sean Brady, President of the Americas for marketing company Emarsys.
Instead, sales and marketing teams need to align their goals toward common metrics to ensure all opportunities in the pipeline are pursued aggressively. For sales leaders, leveraging marketing and sales data can help to broaden their view of the sales pipeline and gain insight to all facets of the process, from high-level progress to individual deals. Applying this knowledge can help shape marketing’s content and messaging efforts to attract the right buyers at the right time.
Data Will Provide Customer Intelligence to Help Guide Departments
Data-informed customer intelligence will help to bridge sales and marketing, but it can also supply the power to guide executives in allocating resources.
Brady believes customer intelligence will become the unifier between sales and marketing, as long as it’s part of the platform. "Technology should help you predict where you need to spend your revenue rather than customizing things over and over to fit certain industries," said Brady.
Working together, sales and marketing teams can deliver more focused efforts to personalize customer experiences, which in turn can increase engagement.
Buyers will continue to gain traction as the center of all activities. However, the biggest obstacle is building a holistic strategy that aligns sales and marketing efforts. Data is the key.
The challenges sales leaders face will evolve over time, but technology can offer answers to many of the problems their teams must address. By choosing the right technology and leveraging the right data to create actionable insights, organizations can align sales and marketing efforts to build better, more lasting, customer relationships.
Scott Cramer is the director of inside sales for TinderBox, a leader in sales productivity technologies. Cramer has spent more than 20 years in executive level sales management helping a number of technology companies formalize sales methodologies for aggressive growth.