Secrets to getting sales onboard with marketing automation

Despite the name, "marketing automation" tools are not just for marketers. It's the role of marketing to educate and qualify prospects to identify real, short-term sales opportunities to meet revenue targets, and marketing automation facilitates that. In essence, the byproduct of marketing automation is revenue, and nobody cares more about revenue performance than the sales function. Yet, nine times out of ten, marketing leaders will experience resistance to marketing automation initiatives from sales. That's because historically marketers lack credibility in the eyes of sales. That means extra scrutiny for investments in technology that could impact sales processes.

While marketing and sales both play integral roles in meeting revenue objectives, measuring success is black-and-white for sales, and somewhat nebulous when it comes to marketing. Historically, marketers are forced to infer their contribution to revenue.

In order to gain credibility with sales, marketers need to prove they are willing to take the same risks as sales by setting measurable metrics and accountability around upstream lead generation processes. Marketing automation is designed to align marketing and sales to cultivate revenue. Here are two ways marketing can prove to sales that they should actually be the biggest advocates of marketing automation.

Systematically measure marketing like you systematically measure sales. For sales, CRM makes successes and failures visible for all to see. It's only fair that we move accountability upstream and turn a watchful eye on marketing, but we need a system to track, monitor, and measure marketing success (and failures). That message should resonate with sales. Marketing automation aggregates customer engagement, automates rules for real-time interaction, and tightly integrates with sales processes and systems. No more questions about who contributed what to the pipeline; just tangible results, inside a system of record for marketing accountability.

Quantifiably prove that qualified leads from marketing are truly qualified based on sales accepted criteria. Sales has targets and measures; why shouldn't marketing? After all, sales pipeline is largely contingent on upstream marketing interactions with prospects. But it's very difficult to measure these contributions without marketing automation.

The first step is to identify the exact attributes that make up a qualified lead. This involves a sales-and-marketing joint analysis of the buyer's journey, the characteristics your best customers have in common, and lifetime customer value. Each stage in the qualification process: marketing-qualified, sales-accepted, sales-qualified, should be identifiable by markers. This creates clear agreement about when – and why – marketing hands a specific lead to sales. Once the qualifications are set, a lead's attributes and actions can be scored, applying values that sales and marketing determine together. Marketing technology then automates the process, systematically targeting and prioritizing leads based on the scored factors, and moving them to CRM for sales follow-up at just the right time.

In the end, marketing automation provides a platform for both cultural change and process change, as it creates new transparency and accountability in marketing, and a qualification process that delivers leads exactly when they are really ready to talk to sales.

Shawn Naggiar is the Chief Revenue Officer of Act-On Software. He joined Act-On in early 2008 as employee #7, and was a key architect in creating the company's go-to-market strategy. The Sales Lead Management Association (SLMA) counted Shawn as #4 on the list of "50 Most Influential People in Sales Lead Management" for 2012.

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