Should Marketing Adapt to Sales or Sales Adapt to Marketing?

Marketing automation offers marketers a myriad of tools to make their lives easier and improve their effectiveness, but it also offers significant value to sales as well. When correctly implemented, it can greatly improve the efficiency of the sales cycle and drive higher lead conversion.

The question that seems to come up fairly often is, when implemented, how do you get marketing and sales on the same page around this new technology? Well, this answer isn’t always straightforward since how sales and marketing work together will vary in each organization. However, there are some basics that should be considered prior to marketing automation.

Aside from addressing the cultural barriers to team collaboration that may exist in your organization, you’ll want to map your existing processes as a group, consider some of the key areas to focus on and/or track, and come to a consensus on the execution.

Here are some of the things you’ll want to discuss as a group and build consensus around:

  • Lead Sources: There will likely be some form of lead source tracking in your current CRM deployment that pre-dates your marketing automation. Consider how the marketing automation system functionally creates, tracks, and reports on lead sources.
  • Two-Tiered Lead Sources: This can create complexity that needs to be addressed. Oftentimes companies will have a two-tiered lead source model wherein there is a categorical source (trade show) with a pick list lead source sub category (Spring ABC Trade Show). You may need to either adapt the marketing system and process to the existing lead source configuration in deferment to historical data in CRM. Be very cautious about this one, especially if you plan to make fundamental changes to the lead source tracking model. I think marketing should be the driver on this one since the MAP will have a specific methodology for ROI reporting that is likely different that the current model you may have in CRM. Be sure to pull some historical reports out of your CRM as a snapshot in time before making changes that will eradicate data.
  • Lead Statuses: They play a very important role in nurture programs and in lead score reporting. Oftentimes when marketing sets up a nurture program in the MAP, it can key in on changes to a lead status. For example, if sales is calling on a prospect and getting nowhere, marketing may have a rule set up so that sales can change the lead status to something like “Remarket,” which can then trigger the lead into a program and take them away from sales (from a responsibility point of view). Obviously, in this case marketing will work with sales to establish the appropriate status keys and rules form when sales can transition a lead that has been passed back to marketing. In this case, sales will adapt to policy and process changes resulting from the implementation of lead nurture programs. Important note: If you plan on implementing these types of programs and processes, be certain you vet your MAP vendor to ensure good CRM integration and the ability to read lead and contact fields form within the nurture designer.
  • ROI Reporting: This topic will likely be the most challenging to deal with. Any good MAP worth its salt will have the ability to track and report on opportunities generated from campaigns originating in the MAP. Lead to revenue reporting is a driving force behind the investment in marketing automation. Getting it right will require some give and take between marketing and sales. Firstly, the lead source issue must be solved and agreed upon on both sides. Once this is accomplished, the CRM must be adapted to account for how lead sources “follow” the lead from creation to conversion to opportunity closure. It’s imperative that the originating lead source, normally associated with the lead created by the MAP in CRM is transitioned to a lead source field on the contact and finally, opportunity record. Sales may not be directly responsible for this as most CRM workflow engines can easily handle this. But ensuring that the originating lead is associated with the opportunity will be crucial and this may require that sales associate the original lead/person as the opportunity owner. In this case, sales and the CRM workflow, will need to adapt to the rules of the MAP.

As you can see from the few examples (and there are many more) listed above, more often than not, sales and the CRM system will need to adapt and change somewhat to accommodate the rules, reports, and lead flow that marketing automation systems bring to bear. Sales can sometimes be resistant to change, so be sure to collaborate, communicate, and get executive buy in to help drive positive change. Sales should clearly understand that they are the ultimate beneficiary of marketing automation.

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