How to Drive Sales Effectiveness with Automation
This content originally appeared on Act-On's Marketing Automation Blog.
Salespeople often complain about the quality of leads they get from marketing. Likewise, marketing departments tend to complain that salespeople don’t follow up on the leads they work so hard to produce. You know the drill. It’s a double-edged sword and a source of significant friction inside many companies.
A successful sales consultant recently told me a story about an organization that held a webinar that attracted 400 participants. It was an enormous success for the marketing folks, who handed all 400 leads directly to the sales department. The sales department then took the list, stashed it in a drawer, and went back to what they were doing.
What a waste!
The sales department claimed that they didn’t know which of the 400 leads were worth following up on, and that it was too time-consuming to figure it out. They had higher priorities. Needless to say, the marketing department was not happy.
This shouldn’t happen. And, in an ideal scenario, sales and marketing would work in tandem, smoothly handing the baton off on each new highly qualified lead. When the two departments are well-aligned in this manner, marketing can substantially support sales effectiveness. Here’s what that looks like, and how to achieve it.
What is sales effectiveness?
Let’s start by defining what sales effectiveness actually means. Sales effectiveness refers to much more than simply efficiency or performance. An efficient team completes tasks with little waste, but they may not be the right tasks or in the right order to achieve great results. A high-performing individual may sell a lot, but if the factors that lead to that success are not systematized, the person’s fine performance won’t contribute to a highly effective sales team.
Instead, an effective sales team operates like a well-oiled machine, doing the right activities at the right times to achieve prime and predictable sales results. Effectiveness demands a formal, dynamic, optimized sales process, quality training and coaching, the right technology, good leadership, and the right people in the right places at the right times. When such a system is connected to an effective marketing system, the result is an extremely high performance that continues to improve over time.
Sales Effectiveness Begins with Using the Right Tools, The Right Way
Many sales organizations invest in customer relationship managerment (CRM) tools hoping that it will all of their sales effectiveness problems. Most are sorely disappointed. Some CRMs are designed as information repositories, not as tools to help salespeople achieve greater effectiveness. Some CRMS have all of the right features, but are used incorrectly. The truth is, CRM can drive sales effectiveness – but it’s important that you choose the right platform, and that you implement it as part of an overall sales enablement program.
At its heart, a CRM is simply a database with a user interface and some tools attached. Those tools are designed for a variety of purposes, but generally center around reporting and tracking customer interactions. The user interface and tools can be more or less helpful to salespeople, and are rarely designed to support sales effectiveness.
Too often CRM platforms are chosen for the wrong reasons, which results in the salespeople receiving the wrong tools. When choosing a CRM platform, purchasers need to be looking at the type of sales process they’re engaged in. At minimum, they should ask:
- Is this CRM made for B2B or B2C?
- Is it designed for transactional or complex sales?
- Does it support proactive or reactive selling?
- Does it come packaged with the tools we need, or will we need multiple add-ons?
- Is the interface visually pleasing and easy to use?
- Does it provide salespeople with the tools and enablement they need to achieve higher performance?
- Will it help sales managers to know who to coach about what and when?
Finally, your CRM needs to effectively facilitate the “passing of the baton” between marketing and sales. In the “put the lead information away in a drawer” example cited above, for instance, the marketing department simply gave the sales department a spreadsheet and expected them to input the data into their CRM. This data included very little actionable information about the “leads,” thus setting the sales department up for failure.
Choosing the right platform is much more than filling out a checklist of features and functionalities. Your own business processes, resources, goals, and budget should inform your selection of a marketing automation system that integrates with, and complements, your use of your CRM while meeting the needs of your business.
How the right tech stack supports sales effectiveness
When the CRM is part of a well-designed system, it can be a powerful tool for driving sales effectiveness. Such a system facilitates hand-off between marketing and sales, equipping salespeople with everything they need to quickly understand which leads to prioritize. Simultaneously, other leads are fed back into marketing automation to be nurtured. Your marketing and sales tech stack should be chosen by which platforms best meet your needs, but they also should have the ability to talk to each other.
Sales and Marketing Communication is Key
Successful CRM and Marketing Automation integrations provide a smooth hand-off and feedback loop for both sales and marketing teams. Instead of leads going to the sales department to be stashed in a drawer, they can be passed along automatically according to rules that determine whether they’re worth a salesperson’s time. The hand-off includes behavior information on the lead, so that salespeople can see where the prospect is in the buying process, what materials they’ve already interacted with, and what they’re most interested in. This allows the salesperson to have a meaningful, personalized conversation with each of their prospects.
Pre-qualification increases pipeline quality
It’s important that leads be prequalified before they’re fed into the sales pipeline, to ensure they’re ready for the sales team. Make sure that your marketing automation/CRM combination provides tools to systematize this pre-qualification process. Once a lead has reached a qualification point based on fit and behavioral information, the sales team can further enrich each account with information they gain from their interactions. The team can then progress qualified leads through the sales process — and feed the ones that need further nurturing back into the marketing automation system, along with all the information they’ve gathered. This creates the closed-loop reporting needed to measure the joint effectiveness of sales and marketing, from converting a lead to winning the business.
The nexus of connected marketing automation and CRM is the central command center for managing and tracking campaigns across multiple channels through the entire lead lifecycle, from lead capture to revenue booked. The connection yields intelligence that can be gathered no other way.
This intelligence enables marketing, customer success, and sales teams to work together to make smarter decisions about where to invest precious time, validate the activities that lift the company’s bottom line, and have meaningful interactions that focus on the customer.