What sales can learn from marketing
The goal of sales process mapping isn’t to make sales look just like the marketing team. Instead, it’s to use technology and data to bring sales into maturity.
By Zen Newman, Marketing Analyst at PipelineDeals
Although both sales and marketing focus on growing the business, they are regarded as two very different beasts. Both teams collaborate to move prospects from the first contact to purchasing. In spite of this collaboration, sales and marketing come at the challenge of business growth from very different perspectives bringing with them unique skills and approaches. The reality is that both views are necessary to make a business grow. Creating a sales and marketing culture around more closely aligned skills and experience can create a more efficient demand generation engine with powerful implications for business performance.
Traditionally, marketing has been tasked with the upper funnel and sales with the lower funnel. While sales often talks about the sales pipeline as a concept, marketing is more adept at applying a consistent structure to the process of moving prospects forward towards the sale. Part of this is because the process of negotiating a sale is inherently more variable than driving traffic to marketing assets. The second, and more controllable, reason is that marketing is increasingly dominated by a data-centric approach to building process. This approach means that marketing teams tend to look at what steps clients take as they move through the process and how optimizing each step effects the outcome.
The sales profession is becoming exposed increasingly to automation technology and a greater focus on sales enablement. These added resources are creating fantastic opportunities to bring a similar data and process-oriented approach to the lower sections of a company’s sales funnel. There’s a number of benefits to a process-oriented sales strategy and, unsurprisingly, a few challenges as well.
Sales teams that rely on sales automation tools and a well-mapped customer journey have a lot of the guesswork removed from the process. They can efficiently target more leads and drill down on the ones that respond with regulated follow-up and relevant messaging. By standardizing the sales process, sales teams can gain a clear picture of what actions customers are engaging with the most and how many drop off at each step of the pipeline. Armed with data like this, salespeople and managers have the information they need to create rigorous forecasts. Reliable quantitative data is the bread and butter of marketing and should be the basis for optimizing each step of the sales process.
Taking this approach to the sales team is not without its challenges. Many sales organizations are rooted in a lone-wolf, dead-reckoning approach to the sales process. Sales people are turned loose to find what works for them with minimal outside interference. Salespeople in this sort of environment will frequently resist what they see as outside interference in their sales process, and with reason. The process of mapping the customer experience should be a collaborative effort drawing equally from the on the ground experience of top performing reps and the structural experience of the marketing team.
In addition to cultural challenges to sales process mapping, a significant difference between marketing and sales is the volume passing through the sales funnel. In marketing, when you’re trying to test the difference between two versions of a landing page, reaching a statistically significant sample size can be relatively straight-forward. In sales, by contrast, it might never be possible to achieve a significant sample within a realistic time frame. For that reason, it becomes necessary to take more qualitative data into account. Because of the difference in volume, sales managers need to stay in tune with how sales people are engaging customers to use every available piece of information about how changes to the sales process are impacting the customer experience.
The goal of sales process mapping isn’t to make sales look just like the marketing team. Instead, it’s to use technology and data to bring sales into maturity. For sales, growing up means developing a well-defined process that meshes together human and technological assets to engage customers. By utilizing technology across the entire sales pipeline, data can be aggregated to forecast sales results and optimize the sales process. The ultimate goal is that if your team changes X, to have a realistic expectation of what Y will be, where X is your sales process, and Y is the acquisition of customers. With a mature sales pipeline, sales teams can reach the level of precision demanded by the modern market.