Customer Experience: Marketing Automation's Impact on Sales
Sales is a world of measurement, efficiencies and processes. Business environments are all about innovation and improvement: doing more better, faster and smarter. We need to demystify and measure the art of closing a deal.

So, how does a technology like marketing automation -- managed and advocated by marketers -- impact a sales-driven business environment?

Marketing automation helps marketers efficiently segment, automate to and track engagement for prospects throughout the customer lifecycle. Business technology has now moved on to address another glaring gap: there’s still little known about what actually happens with one-to-one interactions between prospects and sales representatives in the final stages of the sale.

If marketing automation gives us the ability to better manage and measure the digital relationship of a prospect with our brand, what can we do to master and refine the process that makes a prospect become a customer? The more we know about a prospect, especially in the final stages of sales cycle, the more likely we are to convert them with timely and relevant content.

The World of the Sales Rep

Let’s take a step into the world of the sales representative.

Logging activity into CRM databases, like Salesforce.com, helps sales teams manage relationships with prospects: Have I sent the sales material requested? Did I follow up after not hearing from the prospect? Did I log their response to the material and track edits?

Sales reps are told that these types of actions must be logged constantly. Without this data, organizations have no visibility into what is happening with one-to-one communications in the sales cycle and the sales rep risks losing touch and forgetting where they are in that relationship.

Sales organizations today know what happens leading up to initial contact with a prospect, have visibility to activity logged by sales reps and know whether the deal closes or not. But after initial contact is made what really happens next? How is the prospect engaging with sales?

Organizations have little visibility to this part of the cycle from the prospect’s point of view. From a sales rep’s perspective, how do you continue to interact with that prospect and provide the correct material when needed? What’s more, how do you create a process out of it -- tried and true, with measurements showing success?

Despite follow-ups and attempts to close business with a prospect, sales and marketing teams are still missing one crucial element -- visibility. Many organizations are establishing Directors of Sales Operations to measure and streamline the sales process based on the effectiveness of each touch point. There is a growing need for tools that bring better visibility to the engagement of the one-to-one communication between a sales rep and their prospect.

Sales Operations Managers should look at what has worked for marketing automation and implement similar concepts into their sales process for better visibility to prospect engagement. Here’s how:

Digital Body Language

Marketing automation helps sales teams track dialogue between the prospect and the sales rep. After a phone call or an email, reps enter the information into their CRM database. Sales operations tools can take that interaction one step further. With technology available today, sales reps can gain visibility to how prospects interact with the sales documents they send out. Reps can track if the prospect opened the document, which pages or slides they viewed, how long the prospect read the document and if they sent it to anyone else.

The “black hole” that exists after sales documents are sent to prospects can be eliminated by implementing tracking on those documents. This type of insight sheds light onto the prospect’s digital body language. Reps shouldn't have to guess if the information they sent over was reviewed, and they can begin to identify what material is most useful in the sales process by measuring the prospect’s interaction with that material. Marketing automation teaches us to read and track the prospects digital engagement, while sales automation technology can allow us to view the prospect’s digital body language in the final stages of the sale.

Time Better Spent

Reps often spend time nurturing a relationship by following up with a prospect weeks or even months after silence. The hope is that the prospect will remember what was once interesting and reengage with the sales rep.

Marketing automation helped streamline that process for reps, making it easier to track when contact was made and what information was provided to various prospects. Now that the early stages of a prospect relationship can be tracked and prioritized, the final stages of that relationship also needs to be nurtured and tracked. Instead of over-inundating prospects with emails and follow up calls after periods of silence, sales tools can show reps if prospects are still interacting with documents and when. It makes following up easier and helps reps better focus their attention on prospects who are actually interested in a contract or sale, as opposed to a prospect that lost interest long ago.

The Right Content at the Right Time

Marketing automation shows reps how easy it is to keep track of actions. Reps can more easily locate, identify and evaluate valuable prospect relationships in their CRM database. Sales operations tools can similarly streamline stages of the sales process. From quicker proposal creation to enhanced collaboration with internal teams, sales operations can streamline the contract and proposal process, allowing reps to close deals faster. By leveraging CRM data to build a contract or proposal, you can remove the burden of creating a new proposal from scratch every time. Furthermore, keeping marketing and sales collateral in one location ensures that documents are correctly branded and easily accessible.

It’s obvious why marketing automation has had such an impact for sales and marketing teams -- all businesses and companies can benefit from implementing an automated system that helps them keep track of prospects.

Now, with the paralleled convenience and innovative technology of sales communications software, sales and marketing teams are armed with the tools needed to close deals faster. Effective sales communication as a result of visibility to what matters most to the prospect is often the only thing that stands between prospects becoming customers.

Title image courtesy of carlos castilla (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: For another take on the relationship between sales and marketing, see Christine Crandell's 6 Best Practices for Sales + Marketing Alignment: A Bridge over Troubled Waters