In many business to business organizations, all roads lead to the sales organization. Sales typically generates the majority of the revenue for the organization and wields enormous political power and clout. In this environment, nicknames spring up to describe the sales force - prima donnas, little darlings or The Untouchables. Most sales forces feel that selling is an art (albeit maybe formed around a methodology) and that tools of any sort are a drain on already precious time.Consequently, sales force automation and lead management tools are expensively discarded due to complaints regarding extensive data entry, fear of management monitoring and unknown value to the sales force.

However, innovative organizations know that their sales force can be more efficient and effective with the right help. Successful organizations have fused marketing and sales processes in order to increase close rates and decrease acquisition costs.

Start with Analytics

Most sales executives will tell you that they are on the pulse of their customers' needs and behavior. However, common sense tells us that this is completely impossible if someone has more than 10 accounts. Not only does sales probably not thoroughly understand their accounts' activity, they are definitely not in tune to any overall trends across accounts. Is this a failing of our sales force?

Not really. The sales force cannot be expected to huddle at their computers running reports and analytics to understand the impact that their customers have on sales and profits. The sales force needs to be on the phone or in front of customers ensuring customer satisfaction, mining for new business and cementing relationships.

Marketing, on the other hand, is skilled in analytics and is in a position to perform these tasks on behalf of the sales force. Marketing can help the sales force understand and detect:

  • The value or profitability of the account. Revenue or units may not always equate to profits.
  • Pricing deviations across accounts and the impact on customer retention and repeat purchases.
  • Macro trends across accounts, such as the increase in interest in a specific product or specific complaints regarding service or products.
  • Trends within accounts specifically regarding accounts that have positive momentum or accounts that are decreasing their relationships with the organization.

In this capacity, marketing can off-load deep dive analytics to help sales understand their performance and account performance, and optimize sales and marketing investments.

End with Execution

Once marketing proves its skills in unearthing valuable insight regarding customer opportunities, marketing and sales can move to the next phase of the partnership: collaboration. Though marketing will never dictate how to sell, through their understanding of customer and sales trends, marketing can be a valuable advisor to sales.

Through segmentation and value analysis, marketing can help sales understand:

  • What type of messaging may be well received by a client.
  • What best practices are currently successful across the sales force.
  • What will be the financial impact of specific a set of sales and marketing actions such as a campaign, an event, a sales call or a pricing decision.

Uber-aligned sales and marketing organizations have figured out how to combine marketing's capabilities in analytics to understand performance and identify trends with sales' knowledge of their customers and tactics to decrease the cost to sell and serve, increase close ratios, optimize pricing proposals and decrease time to close.

Winners

Consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies are discovering analytics and in many ways discovering marketing. Though CPG organizations typically have a wealth of knowledge in brand experience and messaging, leveraging information to direct a sales campaign is new territory. However, through account profitability applications, point of sales analytics and trade promotion analysis, the walls between sales and marketing are breaking down to gain share one retailer at a time.

Losers

Software organizations have just not progressed to the level of sophistication of other mature business to business models such as pharmaceuticals. Marketing is typically looked at as an event planner at best and a drain on operations at worst. The potential to optimize account profitability and penetration can be high at software companies with a breadth of offerings.

Best Friends?

At a CPG organization, the sales team is provided with workbooks that show different pricing scenarios and the impact of those scenarios on account profitability, account retention and sales commission. Based on certain pricing scenarios, sales signs up for a specific pricing strategy per account. These types of initiatives have a direct impact on bottom-line numbers.

Sales and marketing may never become best friends, but the financial potential if they are aligned is enormous. Successful companies have improved sales efficiency and effectiveness, and made marketing a competitive weapon.

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