Automation Fosters Marketing-Sales Collaboration

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I’ve been having a lot of conversations recently about sales and marketing alignment (well, honestly, who working in B2B marketing hasn’t?). In Forrester’s most recent “Marketing Organization and Investment” survey, we asked marketing execs about the state of collaboration between sales and marketing. Fifty-four reported “weak” or “mixed” collaboration on several core lead-to-revenue activities. Those numbers illustrate the much-storied rift between marketing and our colleagues in sales.

For a while I have been saying that a managed lead-to-revenue (L2R) process will catalyze a new collaborative relationship between sales and marketing. It makes sense to the point of being obvious; calibrating sales and marketing around a shared revenue goal is a strong basis for alignment. But, until there was proof, it was just a hypothesis.  And now there is proof. In our study, companies that have implemented a L2R automation solution reported significantly higher levels of collaboration.

The marketing automation adopters had a 13% collaboration advantage (54% to 41%) in defining and executing field programs. The ability to track the revenue impact of marketing programs can finally put an end to spirited debates over the relative merits of a tradeshow versus teleprospecting, or whitepaper syndication versus the sales VP’s annual Pebble Beach golf outing. Now we can make a bias-free decision to euthanize under-performing pet programs, and double down on investments that actually deliver revenue results.

Fifty-seven percent of the marketing automation adopters reported strong collaboration in capturing insight from customers and prospects, compared to 41% of those who are not automated. With insight into the prospects’ behavior and experience across all channels (website, campaigns and social), your sales force can have better conversations, engage in a meaningful way, and close more deals, faster.  

Administering leads and lead pipelines posted a positive collaborative advantage of 12%. Just as you suspected, there is a better tool than Excel to distribute and manage the follow-up on tradeshow leads!

The smallest differential (at 3%) in our survey was for the ‘blocking and tackling’ activity of defining lead qualification criteria. This activity was also the most problematic, overall, for those companies with L2R automation software, with only 46% citing strong collaboration (the only dimension that scored below 50%). Marketing automation requires definition of a fairly robust lead taxonomy, which has to be implemented through the somewhat inflexible mechanism of lead scoring.  

In our research, we found some significant differences in the characteristics used to define a sales-ready lead. Fifty percent of the top performers (those who exceeded their revenue goals) required a defined time frame for purchase, compared with only 37% of the worst performers (those who missed). Top performers were also more likely to require a recognized need or pain (at 29% versus 14%). Marketing needs to hold its ground on what defines a sales-ready lead. The more fully nurtured are our leads, the more impact on sales pipelines and outcomes. Sometimes that’s a difficult discussion, with a sales force that is clamoring for “more leads, please”, but stand firm. Of course, collaboration is a matter of iterative give and take, so be prepared to flex a little as well.

It’s not surprising that sales and marketing collaboration is still a challenge, as the two organizations have been operating with different goals, metrics and timescales for several decades. But, it is heartening that automation of the end-to-end lead to revenue process is improving things so markedly.

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