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Sales and marketing alignment strategies to avoid self-sabotage

Marketing automation and CRM systems can help, but proactive cohesion among sales and marketing teams is the main driver of better service offerings.

A company's ultimate goal is to create the best customer experience possible, with the hopes of boosting profits....

But corporate departments need to work together to maximize communication to get the best results from customer service initiatives.

Sales and marketing alignment involves a solid partnership to ensure seamless customer experience. But, curiously, these groups aren't always on the same page. In many companies, the teams aren't connected and have limited reporting infrastructures.

Technology -- such as marketing automation software, which automates interactions between a company and its customer base to minimize a marketer's workload, and customer relationship management (CRM) systems -- can bridge the gap by keeping teams updated on the status of customer-facing processes. But systems must be set up appropriately for enhanced communication and maximum efficiency.

The role of marketing automation

Marketing teams preside over various campaigns throughout an organization, including email, social media, tradeshows, special events and more. It is almost impossible for marketing to manually update sales on every current campaign. If sales is unaware of a marketing campaign, the department won't know where leads are coming from as they trickle in from a campaign. Nor will it know who these leads are and how likely they are to buy.

Marketing automation software can solve some of this problem by making it easier for marketers to move campaigns seamlessly to sales, but they should pay attention to how these campaigns will funnel customers to the sales department. Sales should have a window into the information it needs on leads, such as the content of the email the lead received or the tradeshow that he attended, without getting bogged down in distracting details of the marketing campaign itself.

The best way to get marketing and sales working in sync is to integrate the marketing automation and CRM systems and allow the sales teams to see the description of every campaign. Many marketing automation systems integrate with the big two CRM providers, Microsoft Dynamics and Salesforce, so it's fairly simple for most organizations.

The key to a seamless sales and marketing strategy is data integrity and good communication between groups on how information will be pulled. CRM contacts need to have updated email addresses entered in the system, and it's necessary that these emails are not duplicated (prospects and existing customers shouldn't receive the same email twice). On the marketing automation side, marketers are responsible for gaining the correct information from prospects to filter into the leads section of the CRM system and giving sales the proper amount of information to qualify it within the system. In addition, these leads need campaign information to help sales teams understand where the lead came from and how to respond. There is no need to show every detail of a campaign, budget report or other marketing-centric information, but excluding sales from this information is no longer necessary with customized security profiles native to these systems.

Every prospect lead should be attached to specific campaigns, which lets sales know of a lead's history of interactions with the company and explains how to speak with a potential customer. With this information linked, the first sales call sounds less like a cold call and can be more conversational based on the information the rep knows about a lead. In the end, this cohesion makes it easier for a sales rep to engage a client and ensures greater success for the marketing campaign and the company. The more marketing automation is used in conjunction with a CRM system, the more sales and marketing can learn about prospects and the company's customer base, what they like and how they respond to certain messaging.

Impact on workflows

An effective sales and marketing alignment can nurture potential prospects and alleviate some of the sales team's burden in reviewing a pile of unqualified leads looking for worthwhile ones. If emails, questionnaires and Web forms can automatically trigger new actions and follow-up campaigns, sales teams know that marketing is giving them high-quality leads. But technology cannot do this alone. Teams need to communicate closely with one another to define an "ideal" customer and what types of prospects typically buy something.

Once standards are agreed to, marketing can create nurturing campaigns to sort leads by criteria such as priority, company size, industry or annual revenue and handle them accordingly. Companies using this strategy can benefit from more than just increased communication and solidarity among departments. It also forces individual teams to analyze problem areas in their work habits and shows sales how jobs can be made easier by customer segmentation and prioritizing leads. Additionally, these practices can save companies time and money since it doesn't require much maintenance to filter the leads into the proper buckets for assignment.

Fostering collaboration between marketing, sales

Sales departments shouldn't depend on marketing automation to do their jobs for them, however. Sales teams should be proactive in identifying current customer needs and communicate that information to marketing departments to boost brand awareness and change campaigns on the fly. Sending out personalized birthday and holiday communications to customers is a start, but collaboration between the two teams could bring about more ideas on what to offer customers, such as enhancements, perks and other special incentives.

Both departments should have insight into the success of campaigns. Customer satisfaction surveys that can be sent through email campaign are a great way to check the health of customer relationships and the status of a product's success. CRM systems can track them and generate results that can be easily communicated to different departments.

Marketing and sales departments can blend all their knowledge on customers and cater to buyers' needs. Technology can help them achieve this, but it means nothing without proactive collaboration between departments.

Next Steps

A rundown of the key marketing automation players in the market

Why marketing automation tools deliver real sales intelligence

Multichannel marketing automation tools need to align with user expectations

This was last published in May 2015

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Has marketing automation helped enhance the customer experience for your enterprise?
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Marketing automation goes hand-in-hand with marketing coordination in our company. Now that it's become so much easier to gather information, our most important task is connecting all the pieces and determining how each impacts the overall consumer experience.

By knowing our customers better, by sharing their information across the enterprise, but seeking customer input AND by constantly letting customers know what we're planning, we've ended up with some very happy customers. And investors, too....

Automation has allowed us to eliminate surprises. And we've found that works best when it works both ways.
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I'm not sure why this would be much of a surprise to anyone. Good marketing has always led to better sales. And smart coordination between the marketing and sales departments has always meant an ongoing impact on the bottom line.

We try our best to coordinate between the two departments, even beyond the obvious. There are time when ongoing sales can inform which marketing thrusts are working best. Or where better marketing is needed. Smart, fast responses lead to better, continuing sales.
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I feel like I'm in NCBerns' cheering section. It's common sense. If sales and marketing always communicated well, nobody would need guides on better marketing or sales and all of us writers would be out of business. Coordinate, communicate, celebrate. That's the process!
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