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Like any automation process, the most basic expectation from salesforce automation (SFA) tools is to improve efficiency and effectiveness of sales operations. Yet when you look closely, salesforce automation is usually a feature within your CRM or ERP tools to track and manage selling activities and reports, which is just not enough because not all selling are equal.
Automation for the complex B2B sales force works best when it is enabling your sales teams with insights on the next steps for accounts assigned to them. While the sales numbers are not completely owned by marketing, the insights from marketing operations are a key component of sales force automation.
In fact, it is the marketing-ready leads that turn into sales-ready leads over time, which is why marketing needs to contribute in three core areas:
- Data strategy and stewardship
- Process and Integration
- Aligning and improving measurability
Let us look a little deeper in each of these three areas.
Data strategy and stewardship
At the outset, the marketing contact database may not be a part of the SFA. But, when you look closely, contact and account data are part of the overall master data plan. What this means is that marketing is at the edge of your IT ecosystem when it comes to capturing data.
According to a recent report from Dun & Bradstreet, only 16% of marketers felt that their data quality was excellent. Interpreting this data, we can say that regardless of how good your salespeople are, or how sophisticated your SFA is – it would be a huge challenge to tune into who your customers are, are they really interested in your products, and more.
Marketing and sales teams need to come together and agree upon what would be an acceptable quality of data. Putting together a data enrichment strategy in place would be critical because this data will flow into the SFA system sooner or later based on the marketing nurture cycle. Investing on an AI platform that captures the intent and fit of the inbound accounts, would help in lead scoring and the much-needed sales intelligence, to improve the productivity and effectiveness of SFA.
Image source: Gartner
Process and Integration
In some organizations, the primary role of marketing may be to manage stages prior to opportunities entering the sales funnel. In such situations, it is more so important for marketing teams play an important role in the planning for martech tools and the overall improvement of the processes concerned with salesforce automation. This typically also includes managing sales and marketing campaigns, ownership of leads and more. It is important to establish a closed-loop learning process to continuously improve the automation.
The current business ecosystem is such that no department can operate in silos. This need not necessarily mean martech consolidation with a single vendor, but to integrate processes between different tools such as CRM and marketing automation software with AI platforms to ensure a smooth insight to execution cycle.
Image source: Marketo
Aligning and improving measurability
Given the shared accountability of today’s marketing and sales, organizations can no more have separate sales-related reports or marketing-related reports. Marketers need to establish a reporting system within the SFA to be able to measure the impact of marketing campaigns and how it contributes to the sales pipeline. The measurability aspect needs to be a part of the vendor selection process itself.
For example, if you are planning to invest on AI with an expectation to improve your sales and marketing conversions, you need to ask a few basic questions such as:
- What kind of impact would it bring to the table in terms of sales and marketing?
- Is the tool more skewed towards marketing or sales or does it really give you the complete picture?
It all boils down to the consistency and quality of data and insights flowing between marketing and sales operations.
It is not a hundred meter dash, it is a marathon that needs continuous improvement.