marketing

Aligning Marketing and Sales

Geoff Webb, VP of Strategy at PROS.

It might surprise you to hear that in many financial services organisations, the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) often has the biggest IT budget. The reason is relatively straight-forward: in recent years there has been an immense investment in MarTech, and it’s made the discipline of marketing very tech-heavy. So much so in fact, that marketing departments now spend more time staring at dashboards, spreadsheets, and AI-fueled analytics than almost any other part of the business.

In fact, this trend is accelerating. Gartner research into CMO budget spend in 2018 revealed that as many as 57 percent of CEOs are prepared to invest more in marketing.

Yet, while this huge focus on technology has armed CMOs with an incredible level of insight (including where your mouse goes on their site, what kinds of content you read online, and so on), it has also resulted in a rather one-sided technology investment, especially for B2B financial services firms who are eager to demonstrate to their customers that they both understand and care about them as individuals.  

We think it’s time for perception surrounding ownership of the technology budget to change. While marketing departments may be happily sailing on an ocean of usable data, their colleagues in the sales department may be struggling to respond to an explosive change in buyer behavior and expectations.

The reality is that today’s CRO’s (Chief Revenue Officers) are facing extraordinary pressure to transform their departments – especially in the face of a growing shift towards digital commerce models. Once upon a time, a sales executive could rely on experience, insight, and interpersonal skills to close a deal and keep the customer buying – but today, that’s a much more difficult task.


Evolving with your sales team

An increasing number of buyers are now moving away from the traditional model of calling up their sales rep and asking for a quote. Instead, they’re seeking the convenience of being able to buy online, without needing to pick up the phone, send an email, or – heaven forbid – meet in person. Simply put, for the day-to-day business of buying, purchasers want the speed and convenience of e-commerce. Yet studies also show that buyers want to know there will be a well-informed sales executive available at the end of the phone, should they need one.

Managing this shift from meeting in person to being mostly offline/sometimes in person isn’t easy, and requires sales professionals to be fully informed about their customers, have visibility into transactions as they’re occurring (should the customer need help) and be ready to provide insight and guidance.

The solution to supporting this change for the sales team lies – just as it did for the marketing team – in the deployment of technology. In the same way that MarTech has transformed marketing teams, sales departments need to adopt highly specialised technology that can help them to be more personalised, faster, more efficient, and ultimately capitalise on the increased number of leads.

When we look at where much of the investment in sales automation technology is currently, we see it at the operational level. As is stands, sales professionals can spend as little as 36 percent of their time actually selling, meaning they are dwindling away precious time and productivity on administrative tasks. However, there is a deeper need to be met for sales leadership, a more fundamental question as we shift towards more complex, multi-channel digital selling – how do I make my sales people not only more productive, but more informed?


Getting personal

We’re now seeing the emergence of several next-generation sales technologies that are able to go beyond operational efficiency and provide the same degree of analytic-based insight to CROs that marketing technology provides to CMOs.

Top of the list are technologies that can enable more intelligent quoting for complex products (where configuration can be highly time-consuming and prone to expensive errors), and some good examples of this are products like heavy equipment or high-tech medical devices.

Arming sales executives with the tools they need in order to support these kinds of purchases, replete with information not only about the product, but about the specific needs of that customer, can slash the time needed to respond correctly to a request. Studies show that delivering highly personalised responses to buyers not only increases win rates, but also increases the value of the sale. Customers are much more likely to pay additional for something if they know that the product being offered is personalised to them and designed with their specific needs in mind. This includes the product itself, how it’s packaged, how it’s delivered and how it’s priced.

Driving the bottom line together

Yet, all these changes are indicative of a more profound change that looms on the horizon for financial services firms.

Aligning marketing and sales has long been a challenge that has vexed the c-suite. At their heart, misalignments often arise from a lack of common understanding regarding the nature of their customers and the market needs. And these misalignments are expensive and disruptive, wasting time, effort, and opening cracks in customer satisfaction that agile competitors can exploit to steal market share.

But what if sales and marketing had a common, clear, and consistent understanding of their customers and their needs? What if, instead of arguing about messaging and focus, sales and marketing teams were completely aligned?

One of the keys to achieving this will be sharing the same big data lake and analytic/AI engine to give rise to a unified and common sense of the who, where, what, and how of customer engagement. This changes everything – because now the entire business becomes a single, focused unified force to deliver precisely what the customer needs, every day, with every interaction.

It might seem ironic that technologies such as big data, cloud platforms and AI will serve to transform the most ‘human’ aspects of financial services sales and marketing, yet this is exactly what’s starting to happen. What’s more, freed of disruptive disagreements about what customers want, businesses can finally start to align all their energy into delivering a customer experience that sets them apart.

So, while the CMO might be getting the lion’s share of the tech budget today, we expect to see more sharing with other teams to happen in future. Of course, adopting this more hybrid sales model might bring cultural, organisational, and even revenue implications with it, but the rewards on offer couldn’t be clearer.

Posted by Susannah Griffin