Technology has transformed the way companies do business, but it’s important for executives to recognize the role it plays in generating new leads through marketing and driving sales. Except in commoditized markets, technology doesn’t make the sale by itself. Marketing teams have to deliver leads, and good sales reps are still a crucial factor in closing deals.
However, the definition of what constitutes a qualified marketing lead and what makes a “good sales rep” is evolving along with technology. One factor driving this evolution is that customers now have unprecedented access to product and service information online and can peruse company reviews on social media.
This leads to situations where prospects might know more about the product than the rep tasked with selling it. Tech-savvy companies can counter that potential pitfall and implement strategies to future-proof their marketing and sales organizations. Here’s five ways how:
1. Field a team of experts. With customers now doing their homework on products, services and companies via the internet — largely using material generated by the marketing team — sales reps have to become subject matter experts, and marketing has to play a key role in educating them. However, that can be a challenge when working with a complex product mix and multiple sets of bundles. Marketing technology, such as a customer relationship management (CRM) solution, can help salespeople access relevant information more quickly. But remember: it’s critical to fully understand your products and content before setting up such a system.
2. Maximize selling time with greater marketing-sales team collaboration. The more time salespeople spend engaged in selling, the more revenue they’ll produce, but they can’t do it alone. To maximize selling time, the marketing team must step up and deliver qualified leads — and supply leads when prospects are most likely to buy. Sales and marketing must work together to define processes, identify ideal leads and delineate common goals. When marketing and sales collaborate effectively, salespeople spends less time prospecting and more time closing deals.
3. Integrate sales and marketing systems. In addition to working more closely together, marketing and sales teams should integrate the systems they use. The concept of breaking down data silos has gained currency in the business world for good reason: Silos are a barrier to true collaboration. Sales reps need access to marketing automation applications so they can monitor how leads are being collected, communicate with prospects and track responses. In this scenario, marketing can gain invaluable insights from having access to the data sales uses to identify and track leads.
4. Understand the customer journey. Marketing teams need to focus on where customers are in the buying process, which will help them build trust in the brand and gain better insights into what content prospects need to become educated about their options. Today, approximately 60 percent to 90 percent of the buyer journey is completed before the prospect contacts the seller. That means marketing has an obligation to build a solid foundation for the sale, using analytics and direct feedback from prospects.
5. Become more customer centric. In today’s highly competitive, digital-driven economy, the ability to consistently deliver an excellent customer experience is becoming a key differentiator. To respond effectively to this evolution, marketing and sales teams need to extend customer lifecycles and ensure customer satisfaction. Compensation plans must be built to reward behavior and performance that contributes to longer customer lifespans (rather than simple revenue generation).
There’s no question about it — technology has changed the way customers learn about the products and services they need, and transformed the methods companies use to engage customers. Yet the roles of salespeople and marketing professionals remain crucial. Marketing and sales teams need to work more closely together to identify where customers are in the buying journey and provide the information they need to make the right decisions.