Gap? What gap?
In a previous post (Mind the gap) I described the gap that exists between marketing and sales. You know, the one where marketing measures campaigns by direct engagement with materials and by customer actions on the web whereas sales measures activity of salespeople and the state of opportunities. Because these are two different units of measurement along the continuum from awareness to closed sale, it is difficult to accurately gauge a return on the marketing investment and to forecast.
You may also recall how this makes the sales manager’s job a critical one in terms of translating the sales measures into a reliable forecast. The marketing manager, meanwhile, must reconcile marketing measures in the context of forecast and revenue to demonstrate a return on the marketing investment. In other words, “mind the gap.”
Well, there is an opportunity here. An opportunity for social business solutions to close this gap so that the “minders” — sales and marketing leaders — can get on with more strategic pursuits that bring even more value to the business. Also, so that the measurements used to indicate the health of the business are more reliable and consistent. The opportunity, I would suggest, is to take many of the techniques that today’s most effective marketers are using and extend them into the selling process. Specifically, what I mean is to capture data from customer engagement with the materials and actions performed on the web as salespeople engage them.
Marketers are becoming adept at harnessing the conversation on social media channels to understand customer sentiment and to communicate with markets. Entering the conversation opens many opportunities to generate greater influence toward a purchase of your product or service. These same listening and engagement capabilities allow marketers to monitor, control and evolve their brand and messaging.
Then there’s the big data advantage many marketers are capitalizing on. They are analyzing big data and using the findings to inform decisions that increase the return on the marketing spend. Targeting, tuning and individualizing the message is now taking place on a massive scale. This whole area is maturing into a new era of marketing where technology is a key ingredient in transforming the marketing function into a highly measurable, repeatable and data-driven discipline that has become orders of magnitude more efficient as compared to previous practices. In some of the most effective cases, web-marketing tactics are replacing traditional selling.
The gap between marketing and sales
Why, then, are sales teams still operating the way they always have? Maintaining focus on activity and moving opportunities through stages as quickly as possible will drive some improvements but not the kind of success that marketing is achieving. Equally bewildering is the fact that sales, by and large, continues to work with marketing in a tactical fashion. By this I mean that there continues to be a very definite line drawn where marketing content production stops and sales consumption of that material starts. Sales teams take specification sheets, brochures, presentations, case studies and other marketing assets, either in print or electronic form, and apply them in varied ways in the process of selling. How customers are consuming these materials and the effectiveness of them continues to be measured through the lens of the salesperson. In fact, there is no way of measuring if a particular item or message contributed to the final sale. This is precluding the kind of benefits in sales that marketers are enjoying by employing the social and content marketing technologies discussed earlier.
Closing the gap
What if the marketing automation or content management and delivery systems were further optimized for personal selling scenarios and extended into the selling process? The delivery efficiencies, messaging/brand control and strategic benefits garnered through analytics would then be an aid in driving orders of magnitude improvement on productivity in selling, wouldn’t they? This would be in addition to making measurements consistent throughout marketing and selling on the path to closing deals.
Controlling the message
In spite of how this sounds, it is not a remedial tactic simply designed to keep everyone “on message.” Yes, this is one benefit. But gaining insight into how salespeople, prospects and customers use the various materials, and garnering measurements on how they engage with the messaging contained in the materials, will contribute to significant improvements. Marketers will have data to drive further improvements in messaging, particularly to evolve the message and brand to effect more and more consistent outcomes through critical phases in the selling process. Additionally, gaps in the story may begin to become apparent. There is an opportunity to identify how top performers are using, adjusting, or timing the use of materials and messages so that this may be shared across the organization to aid in better performance.
Minding the gap
Now, back to those who were “minding the gap.” Marketers may now approach content and messaging strategy from initial awareness through the purchase decision and have a consistent way to measure how these materials are performing in the field. In other words, by breaking the purchaser’s journey into many smaller decisions building up to a purchase, marketers may optimize materials and messages to support each of the various “wins” that are required to effect the correct outcomes that contribute to a purchase decision. This starts to reduce the burden on salespeople to adapt or create messaging that is translated to align with individual customer interests and will contribute to greater productivity overall.
Sales managers will now have a set of data to use when determining how to coach each salesperson to achieve peak performance. The analytics may inform use patterns that can be improved; these include volume of use, time of day, types of materials being used and how they are targeted. In other words, the sales manager now has data that is indicative of how much, how often and how effectively the team is engaging the prospects and customers in the pipeline as indicators of propensity to close, timing and team productivity.
Likely the most refreshing benefit is the fact that there is a more consistent set of measurements along the customer’s entire journey from awareness to close. The marketers can now point to how various investments will affect outcomes along the way. Sales leaders will have a new data set to use to determine team effectiveness. This is a key and strategic benefit in that sales leaders will be better equipped to immediately (and efficiently) identify how to increase the productivity and yield of the team and to provide specific coaching to individuals.
It is perhaps most important for the sales reps themselves who will now be armed with information that helps them plan and prepare for each sales call. For example, knowing that a customer has not read a particular set of materials or has skipped over a critical part in one document will be important for understanding what messages need to be understood and how they must be explained in a sales call. Now if the content management and delivery tool also provided the communication channel to deliver this message efficiently, you can see how productivity and yield would be positively impacted.