A view from the top: Are marketing and sales aligned?

Sales alignment is the first step in your journey to introduce a new sales model, one that is a hybrid model combining the best of the digital journey of your buyer combined with the expertise and knowledge that a personal interaction with your sales team is able to provide. Thom Gruhler joins us here to show us how landing high quality customers have changed and that aligning sales and marketing teams must be the new reality.


As the saying goes…If I had a nickel for every time I heard a sales leader complain about the quality of the leads generated by marketing, or the marketing team complain about leads squandered by the sales organization, I would be a…well you know the rest. Sadly, too many of us have been there, and it seems to be happening far too frequently lately. A lead gen campaign appears to be successful when it produces a big number of “the right” leads, however, months later, when the impact on revenue ends up disappointing, the finger-pointing begins.

Who’s to blame?  Blame is in fact the culprit itself: silos and a lack of integrated process across sales and marketing that truly moves the needle. When sales leads fail to convert, too often the reaction by companies is to make siloed changes within sales or marketing, rather than focusing energy on what matters most – improving the customer experience and journey.

Today more than ever before, CMOs and marketing leaders must take increasing ownership of growing leads and opportunities. In tandem, the sales organization must have an expert, personalized discussion with prospects as part of a seamless buying experience. Without a tight connection between marketing and sales activities at the prospect and customer level, the debate on quality of leads versus sales effectiveness will continue to distract and confuse.

To truly differentiate, marketing and sales need to tap into real-time experience data to understand which customers to engage and when. There’s no one size fits all solution. Each customer expects a personalized experience. That’s why companies are turning to predictive analytics to unify their marketing and sales activities around finding the right leads and nurturing and building relationships that result in higher close rates.

Rather than routing all leads to the sales team, many of which ultimately won’t convert, organizations today have an opportunity instead to focus on lead quality through the use of predictive analytics, modeling and lead scoring. Consider the selling process of complex products or services, where the most effective sales resources are the most specialized, highly skilled and therefore the most expensive. By applying predictive analytics – the use of data, statistical algorithms, and machine learning techniques to identify the likelihood of future outcomes based on historical data – organizations can predict the size of deals and likelihood of them closing, funneling leads to the right sales resources and engaging in opportunities in the most effective and efficient way.

So what are the steps companies need to successfully align marketing and sales to shorten the sales cycle and increase win rates? Here are three key areas to focus on:

1. Generate high-quality leads that fit a common definition by marketing and sales

Creating high quality leads for your organization starts with aligning on a definition of target customers across your marketing and sales funnel. Who are your target customers? What are their needs? How do you model their experience and more effectively communicate with them across channels?

By creating a common definition of who the customer is and what their motivations, behaviors and activities are, you’re able to bring your marketing and sales teams together to outline what, specifically, qualifies a lead as an MQL and SQL and when they become a sales opportunity. Ultimately, your organization needs to have a single version of the truth around a shared set of metrics that represent the full marketing and sales funnel, enabling your leaders to quickly identify constraints and opportunities.

2. Shorten lead qualification time and effort with business process guidance and data-driven insights

As leads come into the funnel, predictive analytics can help your sales team prioritize efforts and determine which leads are most likely to convert. Are there untapped opportunities with a particular customer segment where you can generate better qualified leads? What can you learn from customer behavior insights and patterns? Who is most likely to buy, has recently bought or is currently looking?

By answering these questions and others, you’re able to get a real-time picture of how your customer is interacting across channels and define the flow of any lead from marketing to sales, including hand-offs.

With these critical elements in place, sales can engage to qualify leads with confidence. And you can create a feedback loop so sales can provide input to marketing about what’s working and what’s not to re-prioritize your efforts. The days of guessing or relying on gut feeling for what will work with customers is over.

In addition, there’s also an opportunity to apply data intelligence to improve business processes as well as the overall customer experience across touch points. Marketing needs to not only create and deliver the right content to customers across channels, but also provide personalized data and content for the sales team to use in their follow up discussions with that customer.

3. Ensure sales enablement is a continuation of marketing

Ultimately sales needs to pick up where marketing leaves off, so that it’s a continuous and seamless experience from online to nurture to sales.

Through predictive analytics, marketing and sales teams can more intelligently recommend the next best action, including content recommendations, upsell/cross-sell recommendations, and specific interactions with customers. The result is the ability to personalize each customer interaction in real time.

Predictive analytics and machine learning empower your company to contextually present the most effective message and content to the customer at the right time, on the channels that suit their unique communication preferences. And with a predictive feedback loop, tapping into the right data can also greatly improve how marketing first interacts with customers upstream.

Why this all matters

Companies are often faced with a fragmented customer experience with disparate data across their ecommerce and CRM platforms, point-of-sale systems, mobile applications, social media and IoT – just to name a few. With this deluge of information, one of the biggest challenges is maintaining data hygiene – using the right data and generating high quality insights to inform your decision making.

Inadequate lead flow and follow-through breaks down the entire revenue generation process. Without a defined and clear workflow that enables your organization to track the status and performance of the lead flow, your teams will be left guessing where to make marketing investments, optimize processes, and prioritize sales resources.

Predictive insights not only helps your marketing and sales identify new customers and go-to-market strategies, but also improves marketing performance. As a marketing or sales lead, you need to understand the shifts that are happening in real-time – by asking the right questions and tapping into the right data with your team to learn fast and act faster.

To learn how to put predictive analytics to work for your marketing and sales organization, explore Versium’s solution for Microsoft Dynamics 365. 


About Thom Gruhler

Thom is the CEO and founder of Fjuri, a marketing consultancy focused on helping clients to imagine the future of business, enhance marketing strategy and execution by tapping into big data in a more powerful way. Prior to founding Fjuri, Thom acted as the Global CMO of the apps & services group at Microsoft, and previously served as the President of McCann Erickson in New York. Find him on Twitter @FjuriGroup and LinkedIn.