You’ve got sales and revenue goals to hit. Should you invest your resources in sales or marketing? That’s a bit like asking whether you should breathe or drink water.
Once upon a time, sales and marketing operated in different silos. Marketing worked to attract leads, while sales took the leads marketing handed off. Neither side had much insight into the other’s methods or processes.
Until relatively recently, that’s also been the case for the software that powers sales and marketing. Marketers used marketing automation software platforms like HubSpot or Marketo to post content and capture lead information. Sales, in turn, used customer relationship management (CRM) software to keep a database of prospects and customers, as well as to log interactions with those prospects.
The problem was that these platforms, like their human counterparts, weren’t cooperating with one another. This situation wasn’t good for customers and it wasn’t good for revenue.
To quote every infomercial ever, there had to be a better way.
The Advent Of Inbound Sales
In today’s world, buyers don’t want to be interrupted or sold to. They want to be educated about the products and services that help them address their pains. This is the core principle behind inbound marketing. Unfortunately, many prospects that had been carefully cultivated through inbound marketing tactics such as SEO and content marketing would then get handed off to sales teams that would revert to old-school, hard-sell tactics in an attempt to close deals. Worse, in many cases, the sales teams would ignore the information already gathered on the prospects and compiled in the marketing automation software.
That’s when inbound evangelists started talking about inbound sales and sales enablement. This new sales philosophy applies the ideas behind inbound marketing (education, nurturing, strategy) to the sales process. Rather than relying on aggressive salespeople attempting to foist their products on prospects with hard-sell techniques, inbound sales professionals really listen to buyers, offer the information they need and nurture them through their buyer journey.
Inbound sales professionals really listen to buyers, offer helpful information and nurture them through their buyer journey.
Ideally, they would also have extensive knowledge about the prospect’s needs and behavior before even having a conversation with them. The problem was siloed software. Marketers looked at the information in their marketing automation software, while salespeople looked at contact lists through the CRM. This caused a gap that resulted in a lot of unhappy customers and a lot of revenue left on the table.
The Rise Of CRM-Marketing Automation Integration
Several of the leading companies in CRM and marketing automation realized there was room for improvement and started nudging their way into each other’s space. In 2013, Salesforce, the most popular CRM platform in the world, acquired marketing automation company ExactTarget and re-branded its products as the Salesforce Marketing Cloud. In response, HubSpot, the leading inbound marketing automation software company, launched HubSpot CRM in 2015, and made it free to use.
What these integrated platforms offer marketers and salespeople is a 360-degree perspective from a prospect’s first interaction with the company to the time they become a full-fledged customer and beyond.
Marketing automation offers a 360-degree perspective from the prospect’s first interaction to the time they become and customer and beyond.
CRM: Continued Evolution In 2017 And Beyond
CRM platforms, along with their associated apps and add-ons, are continuing to evolve to give sales and marketing professionals extra firepower for prospect cultivation. Industry experts are predicting continued developments in the following areas:
- Social CRM: Social CRM integrates prospects’ and customers’ social media behavior, as well as tracking of a company’s social media mentions, into CRM. These capabilities make social selling, a key aspect of inbound sales, much easier. A report from WhaTech predicts the social CRM market to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 38.1% through 2019.
- Mobile CRM: Writing for Diginomica, Salesforce VP for Strategic Research Peter Coffee predicts mobile CRM tools will continue to evolve, giving sales reps deeper, real-time insights into the customers they’re about to contact.
- Apps And Add-Ons: CRM providers and their partners are going to continue to expand the targeted tools they offer users to meet unique sales and marketing needs. The Salesforce AppExchange already has thousands of apps and add-ons customers can integrate with their Salesforce CRM. Expect more tools that merge the face-to-face and digital customer experience, such as Journey Sales’ Smart Rooms.
Leveraging CRM And Marketing Automation For Mutual Success
Your sales team benefits in many ways from an integrated approach to marketing and CRM. For instance, salespeople have the ability to execute a thoroughly planned sales process as outlined and managed through CRM.
They also gain rich insights into each buyer’s behavior and pains from the information pulled from the marketing automation software, such as: the buyer’s first point of contact with the company, how many times the buyer visited the company website and what pieces of marketing content the buyer previously downloaded. These insights help the sales team separate good leads from bad ones, as well as shape the sales process to each buyer’s pains and behavior. When your sales team knows what content the buyer has already read, they have a better idea of what additional content to send them at strategic points in the sales process. This integrated approach not only reshapes the sales process to make it more buyer-centric, but it also helps the sales team save valuable time.
The integration of marketing automation and CRM helps the marketing team as well. Historically, marketers were primarily concerned with which tactics attracted the most traffic and converted the highest number of prospects into leads. With CRM-marketing integration, marketers now have insights into which leads actually convert into customers, and how valuable those customers become over time. For instance, marketers may realize a piece of content that generated 100 leads wasn’t as valuable as a piece of content that only attracted 20 leads but resulted in two high-value customers. With this insight, marketers are able to reorient their strategy to focus on the tactics that lead to the most revenue.
Integrating Marketing And Sales Puts Your Company Ahead Of The Curve
Is your company integrating CRM and marketing automation software? If so, that puts you ahead of many businesses. According to research conducted by Capterra, only “44% of CRM users have integrated with a marketing automation solution” and “only 14% of marketers had adopted a marketing automation solution as of early 2015.”
However, the real question isn’t whether you have the tools, but whether your teams are using them effectively. As TechTarget points out, “without the proper management, a CRM system can become little more than a glorified database where customer information is stored.”
Integrated marketing automation and CRM tools give your sales and marketing departments the power to close more customers and generate more revenue. The key to your success is using these tools to create a buyer-centric sales experience that adheres to the principles of inbound sales and marketing.
If you’re looking to put your company ahead of the curve, make this the year you integrate your sales and marketing into one cohesive, inbound-driven process, leveraging marketing automation and CRM to put buyers first while boosting revenue.