A sure sign of maturity is the habit of questioning ourselves to see if we could be doing things better. When we take the time to answer important questions we start to see problems and opportunities we didn’t even know we had. As custodian of your organization’s customer experience strategy, you should always be questioning how and why you orchestrate CRM.

It’s accepted today that CRM is so much more than technology – it’s the fabric connecting the entire organization, creating an information-rich landscape through which the customer moves. So as CRM professionals the questions we ask ourselves must probe well beyond technology.

If you’re not asking yourself some key questions about strategy, people and processes it’s a sign you’ve got work to do, to drive your CRM to the next level of maturity.

Let’s look at 10 questions to get you thinking!

1. What does CRM really mean to your organization?

CRM tends to mean different things to different people across an organization. How can everyone in the organization get behind the real idea of CRM – and your customer experience strategy – if there’s no shared vision?

So, you’ll need to define and communicate your vision for customer experience and why it’s important to the organization. This helps everyone using the CRM to understand what part they play in making your vision a reality.

Everyone using CRM will have their own preferences, agendas and points of view. It’s important to openly address these, and hold them up against the organization’s goals so that CRM decisions are inclusive, transparent and objective.

If everyone understands that offering a better customer experience is what shapes your brand and determines success, and also knows what’s valuable to customers and can deliver it, then your CRM is in full swing.

But, if people don’t have this unified understanding of CRM, we find the opposite: various departments and roles interact with customers differently. There’s no cohesive approach and organizational idiosyncrasies are exposed to the outside world. This leads to an inconsistent experience for customers who end up dealing with silo’d individuals and departments, not one unified organization.

2.   Does everyone agree what CRM success looks like?

In a football (soccer from my American readers) match, every player understands the team’s ultimate aim: to score goals. They have their individualized view and their own role to play, but they all work towards the same thing. Success is clear, measurable and shared.

CRM success is also about common goals. But, success also needs to be measured at various levels and in ways that are meaningful to various people and areas in your organization.

If you don’t create a shared definition of CRM success, you won’t be able to identify improvements and show ROI, so your CRM investment will start to look like a black hole with no clear view of the value it’s delivering.

To meaningfully measure CRM success, consider these three angles:

Commercial: Sales are an obvious measure. But it can be a long time between the start of a CRM initiative and its end result, so you can look at leading indicators along the way. For example, the number of subscription renewals allows you to estimate revenue. Or, you can look at the margins for one-off sales as a predictor for final profit impact.

Customer-centric: Using measures like Net Promoter Scores, you can take a look at customer satisfaction levels before and after your CRM initiatives.

Operational: You can look at day-to-day performance measures like time to answer, time to resolve, first contact resolution, number of calls made or received, call length and pipeline size. These are all inward facing, but if they’re improving, so will overall business performance.

3.   Are you thinking more about your customers or yourself?

Someone who goes to the hardware store isn’t just wanting to buy tools, they want an outcome – a hole in the wall, a new door or a more vibrant color in the living room. Your customers are also trying to get something done, and you should help them to do it. Focusing on customer needs and outcomes is the main characteristic of customer-focused organizations.

The Three Es of customer experience[i] tell us that engagement needs to be easy, effective and enjoyable. If it’s not clear to all departments and individuals what your strategy is and how it relates to their interaction with customers, they’ll be going in different directions and often working at cross purposes. This means discontinuity for the customer. Their experience won’t be easy, effective or enjoyable and they’ll go elsewhere.

So, your CRM strategy should be based on what your customers ultimately want and how your organization is going to help them get it. With this bigger picture in view, you can provide clarity and motivation to every customer-facing employee to get behind your strategy.

 4.   How do you talk about CRM internally?

“The biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” —George Bernard Shaw

A big part of successful CRM transformation is about communicating the CRM strategy and explaining changes and new processes. If communication isn’t clear or sufficient, or if leaders assume that everyone will “just get it,” people won’t buy into change and they’ll actively or passively resist it. This is why many CRM solutions don’t gain traction with users, and fail.

You should craft frequent and meaningful communication to help every employee connect their role with the CRM and organizational strategies. Clearly explain how people can personally create a better customer experience and why this is critical to the organization’s success.

5.   Is your CRM aligned with the mission and vision?

Your organization’s vision and mission statements clarify where it’s aiming in future and what it’s doing today, to get there. They’re designed to foster collaboration and reinforce the values every employee should work to. Your CRM goals and success criteria should map directly to the clear points of your mission and vision.

Without clarifying how your CRM goals support your mission and vision, you risk individual or departmental goals superseding them. This prevents collaboration and fosters a silo mentality which will end up creating a disjointed customer experience.

6.   Do your leaders share your CRM vision?

CRM is not software run by one department; it’s an organization-wide strategy for customer engagement. Those best positioned to lead something across all departments are senior executives. When your leaders share and advocate your CRM vision, it shows all employees that CRM is a critical part of the organization and its success.

If leaders don’t actively support customer-focussed initiatives, there’s little motivation for employees to do so. And if CRM is driven by one department, others usually feel marginalized or irritated.

7.   Do you understand the whole customer buying process?

It’s common to fixate on individual elements of the buying process, like what happens when customers buy, install or unpack a product. But unless you consider the entire buying process, each individual or department starts thinking of only their interaction with the customer and the organization ends up delivering a fragmented experience.

So you must also understand what happens before and after these individual moments.

Mapping out a customer buying process means connecting up all related touchpoints. You should highlight interactions that start long before direct contact and show how the customer journey extends well beyond that point.

8.   Does the way you sell match the way your customers buy?

Many organizations have some form of selling methodology, formal or informal. Often the CRM is configured to support this sales methodology, using industry terms like ‘marketing qualified lead’ and ‘prospect’ and ‘opportunity.’ However, this is inward-focussed and it causes us to lose touch with who our customers really are and what they’re thinking.

The underlying requirement for great CRM is personalization, which is really quite the opposite of objectifying customers in terms of internal sales language and methodology.

In truth, a customer is never a “qualified lead” – they’re actually “interested” or “researching.” Using real language that pertains to the customer will help you – and everyone else in your organization – understand them better.

9.   Do your people use CRM because they have to, or want to?

It takes honest introspection to get to the root of a question like this.

If people don’t understand why they should change, they’ll resist. Your CRM project will fail if the software and its processes aren’t adopted. Conversely, if the people interacting with customers see CRM as helpful and valuable they’ll use it, and your organization will perform better.

There are a few reasons why people resist change or don’t think using CRM is important. Perhaps they don’t understand the consequences of not changing. Maybe they don’t see how new processes can make a customer’s life easier or why this is even important. They might not understand how CRM can specifically help them. Or it’s possible that they just don’t have the right training to use the system.

When employees don’t adopt CRM there are two key risks: that you don’t get any data into the CRM at all, even with threats. Even worse is you get “garbage” data as people just plough through processes to appear compliant.

10. Do employees actively use CRM?

It’s easy to set up CRM as just software or just a data collection system, but this fails to provide meaning to its users – they won’t understand the benefit to them, to customers or to the organization. This means they’ll have little motivation to use CRM.

Well-constructed CRM enables you to shape behaviors and get people working together to support your organization’s mission and vision. It can prompt people in any department to ask the right questions, talk the right language and add value to customers at every stage. But this all depends on people buying into CRM and using it actively.

So what does CRM maturity look like?

The answers to all these questions center around the idea that well-designed CRM is much more than just technology run by one department.

CRM should gather and utilize customer information from multiple sources. It should streamline customer interactions based on employee roles, and it should drive the right behaviors to deliver excellent experience.

All customer touchpoints across the entire buying process need to be coordinated through CRM so the customer’s journey isn’t disjointed. Also, of course CRM needs to provide customer insight and recommendations back to the organization, based on data intelligence.

A mature approach covering strategy, people and processes will see you using CRM to create a truly customer-centric culture across your organization, enabling every employee to play their part in delivering excellent experience during every customer interaction.

[i] Forrester’s “Three E’s of Customer Experience” are Effectiveness, Ease and Emotion

Today, SugarCRM is pleased to announce it has signed a deal with TrustSphere to bring its relationship analytics technology into the Sugar Platform. With relationship analytics, every customer-facing professional can easily tap into their colleague’s knowledge and interactions with their prospects and customers before reaching out to them. Relationship analytics is typically most effective in large organizations with long sales cycles that involved multiple handoffs between employees. Having said that, here’s a very simple (SuperBowl week) scenario about how it works:

Let’s say I work in the sales department for the New England Patriots and have just been assigned a batch of renewal opportunities. My goal is to reach out to corporate customers to engage with them about renewing their luxury box contracts for next season. What better time to reach out than Super Week right? I send an enthusiastic email to the first contact on my list to establish a relationship, only to have him sternly tell me he’d already emailed with my colleague Vijay about his list of preferences multiple times during the season.

None of this information was in my CRM. Wouldn’t it have been nice to know Vijay had already established a relationship with the contact before reaching out? I could have used Vijay’s knowledge to become more efficient and would have saved myself some embarrassment. Not to mention the experience would have been much better for the customer.

Relationship analytics allows CRM users to leverage their most valuable asset – the “Collective Relationship Network.” Relationship Analytics for Sugar solution will dig out the relationships between your employees in the entire organization and your customers. The solution scans email headers to find previously hidden and untapped insights (see the example above), which are seamlessly integrated into Sugar. These customer insights improve sales performance, reduce customer churn and accelerate the new employee onboarding process.

This partnership makes TrustSphere’s Relationship Analytics a complementary solution designed to work seamlessly within Sugar. The user will gain valuable insight without ever having to leave the CRM. Relationship Analytics for Sugar is priced at $20 per user per month. It integrates with popular email systems like Microsoft Exchange and Office 365, Lotus Domino and Gmail for business. It is available with all Sugar editions and supports both SaaS and on premise deployments.

In the first part of this series, the focus was on People. In Part 2 of the series we shed some light on process; what those people should do and how they should do it. For those of you who know me have an inkling for what is coming next <drumroll please> technology. The guiding principle is simple, technology should always be to support people and process

Customer interaction design or is it customer management?

How can and should organizations map the buying process to the selling process in such a way that both personalizes the customer journey and allows the sales organization to scale? At one end of the spectrum, there is the selling methodology that require specific actions and statuses, and at the other end is your best sales person who want nothing to do with your new sales methodology. What is the balance? The future promises artificial intelligence, but that is going to take some time.

Neither the marketing nor sales organization should be dependent upon specific individuals who like to hoard knowledge. What is needed is for implicit knowledge to become institutional, explicit and procedural, so that everyone has the benefit of the expertise of the few.

You pay good money for the tools your organization uses, so the temptation is always there is to rely on technology, sometimes, a bit too much. Organizations often fall into the trap of trying to manage everything from journey design, marketing resources and campaign design to leads, sales tools, and revenue performance all in one tool. Yes, technology has an important role to play in each of these aspects of the lead to revenue engine, but technology cannot take the place of carefully thought, designed and execution.

It is easier said than done

As hard as we wish it to be true, customers simply do not stay inside the prescribed lines. Customers are making their own choices, designing their own journeys, following their own path. These self-designed paths are particularly complex where customers jump from digital to old school (phone or in-person interactions) channels. Sales executives need technology to support their efforts, but technology cannot do all of the work. All too often marketers underestimate the importance of cross-channel marketing content and message delivery.

During the course of this discussion, we have been staying away from pure technology solutions, but at some point, the rubber needs to hit the road. We need the right technology, people need help to get things done. Any and all modern CRM platforms should allow marketing, sales and sales operations to visualize and choreograph both interactions and touchpoints within the customer decision cycle. The benefit of putting this capability within the CRM system is that key stakeholders within your organization will be able to track an individual customer’s progress through the steps of a journey in order to:

  • Understand and remove customer points of friction
  • Understand and remove operational inefficiencies
  • Provide visual cues to Sales team, showing the steps within the customer journey

Extending CRM with the right capabilities, that aids in design and execution, is extremely beneficial to bring people and process together with technology.  Reducing friction will facilitate customer progression through the decision cycle, which in turn will increase sales velocity in a natural way. The improved satisfaction enables your employees to stay on top of their game. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Working towards continuous improvement

When the topic of tools and technology come up in the context of the lead to revenue discussion, marketing automation vendors are typically the first vendors to enter the discussion. Frankly, marketing automation vendors are working hard to claim a leadership position, but they lack the human element. Optimizing processes is NOT the same thing as automating processes. But there is still work to be done. Giving users a guided path and flexibility to adapt to the customers’ changes is paramount to a successful lead to revenue strategy, driven by CRM.

Successful CRM requires an organization to learn and accept new business processes and supporting technologies, which is never easy. Often the greatest difficulty is changing the culture of users. Use quick wins to gain support for the new CRM system and continuous improvement to keep interest high. Users will not adopt new CRM processes and technologies that do not have a clear benefit for them. Nor will they accept a new CRM that is not properly socialized. End user adoption is always difficult, without proper change management and governance practices put in place. There is nothing more beneficial to users than a visualization of the path to success.

Designing and delivering a system for sustained, systematic improvement for the lead to revenue processes requires a more comprehensive approach than simply measuring the results of marketing spend by the metric of revenue contribution. To truly optimize performance, marketing and sales executives need to optimize the drivers of performance, guide the users down that path and focus on making users and customers alike to be successful!

 

If you follow SugarCRM, you may remember we like to tout that Sugar is designed for the individual user, not just the management team.  We take immense pride in offering a CRM that helps the users do their jobs better. What is even more heartening is when our customers and partners carry over that spirit and deliver a user-focused approach using our products.

Sugar MACS

Last fall, we announced the availability of Sugar MACS which allows companies to customize the look and feel of our mobile app with a simple UI – a CRM industry first!

With Sugar MACS, our customers can deliver a unique brand-building experience to their users. Customers can leverage the power of the Sugar Mobile app and at the same time customize it so it feels like an extension of their company.  Best of all, there is no coding required.

Symphony Mobile CRM App

One of our OEM partners, Symphony, showcased the simplicity and power of Sugar MACS recently.

Symphony provides software and consultative services for accounting professionals. Symphony’s CRM offering is a central aspect of their business.

Symphony used Sugar MACS to re-skin the Sugar mobile app to give a look and feel that their accounting professional user base can relate to. After all, it is more intuitive for a Symphony CRM user to search and find the Symphony CRM mobile app on a Google Play or iTunes store than for a Sugar mobile app.

symphony-crm-1      sympony-crm-2

 

Sugar MACS makes it that much more easy for Symphony to deliver on their user-centric CRM promise. Here is the promise in their own words – the whole point of CRM is to make it so completely useable and useful that your people embrace it enthusiastically.

Industry game-changer

Every company has its own unique ways of using technology. Extending that premise, every company has a unique way of engaging with their customers as well. Custom mobile CRM apps are beneficial for the productivity of the mobile workforce. So, shouldn’t companies have the flexibility to easily customize their mobile CRM user experience as well?

The mobile CRM use cases of a telco offering white labeled SFA functionality will be vastly different from that of a CRM services company serving accounting professionals in a specific market. The affinity and needs of a mobile CRM user working for a large global financial company will be different from those of a customer facing employee in the shipping industry.

With Sugar MACS and Sugar mobile app, any company of any size can easily create a custom look and feel through a simple UI. Sales and customer operations leaders don’t have to worry about a learning curve for their mobile CRM users. On the contrary, a branded look and feel will increase mobile CRM adoption.

One of the primary reasons, SugarCRM customers choose us over our competitors is because of our application design (customers LOVE our user experience and our focus on building for the individual end-user first and the manager second). Sugar MACS embodies that spirit.

Learn more about Sugar mobile app and Sugar MACS. Contact your SugarCRM representative or SugarCRM partner for more information.

In the first post in this series, we made the case for better alignment between two organizational teams, in other words, we focused on the people. Your feedback suggests that we are onto something here, which should be no surprise. The fun part about alignment is that people actually need to agree (be aligned) on something, right? The smart thing to do is to be aligned around the processes required to make money (too direct?) so that everyone is clear on who is doing what (and where the customer fits as well).

Starting with Vision

(Considering CRM like a Corporate Mission)

Unfortunately, very few organizations spend the required time to define a clear CRM program. When asked, most executives admit that a well-crafted CRM program must start with a vision and a roadmap. Even still, these efforts often stall and much needed organizational synergy does not have a chance to take shape. This is, in part, is about technology. But, it is really more about defining how technology should (or should not) be used. It’s also about data (as it should be), but it is more than data. It is really about data combined with process. One without the other is like lyrics without a melody. A well-considered CRM platform will support the company vision and will play a pivotal role in determining how teams can and should work together toward engaging customers across their lifecycle.

By supporting customers through their end-to-end journey with you will increase satisfaction and long-term loyalty. This requires a focus on process. The common thread is customer experience and the customer’s perception of their own experiences (not what you think they are). In a business-to-business context, the decision cycle is a series of interactions between individuals. Each interaction results in an experience; good and bad. Good customer experiences correlate to customer loyalty. Which, of course, is the goal because loyal customers are more willing to consider another purchase from a company, are less likely to switch to a competitor, and are more likely to recommend.

Designing the Process to Support the Journey

(Thinking through the journey one interaction at a time)

Lead-to-revenue success is dependent upon well designed and executed internal processes that support the customer’s journey. Process optimization is about using technology to define efficient, nearly procedural, processes for everything from resources and campaigns to generate leads, sales methodology, and sales performance. Managing the plethora of interactions and touchpoints with customers who jump from channel-to-channel requires extra attention. Especially hard is when a customer moves from a digital channel to non-digital. This is where the salesperson needs guidance.

The front-end of the journey is the purchase decision cycle. During a business purchase decision cycle, buyers control the steps of their journey far more than the seller. This is a sea-change from times past that companies (sellers) need to carefully consider. Buyers are engaging with sellers through a multitude of digital, social, and mobile touchpoints. This dynamic changes the role of each player within your organization in a fundamental way. It alters what they must do in order to meet the needs of each buyer. To be clear, this is more than just a journey mapping exercise, this is about diving in one or two levels deeper.

Think big, Start small in Designing the Journey within your CRM Platform

When building your CRM program and considering the vision, it is important to balance two forces: 1) top line revenue growth and 2) bottom line efficiency gains. Both are critical, and the common denominators between them is business process; efficiency and effectiveness. Yes, it is possible to spend time on process improvement that will lead to both cost reduction as well as top line revenue growth, but this is hard. The secret is to design processes that mirror the customer journey and their decision cycle. If your team is able to anticipate the needs of the customer and help them along on their journey, then you can save time along the way while increasing sales velocity and reducing costs.

Benefits of Process Alignment:

Strategic (Company Focused)

  • Grow Revenue
  • Increase Market Share
  • Increase Sales Velocity
  • Campaign Optimization

Operational (Departmental Focus)

  • Increase Efficiency
  • Execution Clarity, Lead Quality
  • Decrease Cost per Sale
  • Capacity for more Campaigns

Your job in 2017 is to articulate, communicate, and evangelize the CRM vision – focus on the process, not just the data. Make a list, prioritize that list and consider the rate of change while trying not to do too much in too short a period of time. With respect to process efficiency, introduce change and transformation properly with input from other teams. Finally, keep an eye on your communications, vertically and horizontally (do more than simply manage up), doing your very best to facilitate the change.

As a founder of SugarCRM, I am often asked the question, “how do you compete against Salesforce?”  After all, they have great buzz in the marketplace.  And because of their position in the CRM space, we must beat them at some stage of the evaluation process every time we sign up a new customer.  How do we do it?

I usually answer this question by talking to the strengths of our product and our company.  SugarCRM customers choose us over Salesforce because of 1) our application design (customers LOVE our user experience and our focus on building for the individual end-user first and the manager second), 2) our technology flexibility (we integrate with EVERYTHING and deploy EVERYWHERE), and 3) our best-in-class customer loyalty (winning the PC Magazine Business Choice award for CRM two years in row says it all).

But there is a lot more to building a successful company than just a killer product and an avid customer following.  How we engage with our prospects and customers is critical to how we beat our competition.  Yeah, that’s called CRM and we live it everyday.

Our own CRM strategy at SugarCRM is the result of some very thoughtful planning.  This blog post will point you to the resources we used to build our brand and define the programs that educate our prospects to choosing Sugar and becoming successful SugarCRM customers.

Let’s be clear.  I am opening the kimono.  This is the secret sauce.  You’re getting a very real view into how we operate behind the scenes.  If you are the up-and-comer in your market and challenging your industry’s status quo, pay close attention.  This is our formula for challenging the status quo in the CRM industry.  You can follow this exact same formula and become the next challenger in your industry.

To begin with, competing against the big boys takes more than just inspiration and guts.  It takes a focused strategy on building a brand that your potential customers will pay attention to and that your existing customers will love.  Every next market leader starts off with no brand recognition and must compete against a category leader that dominates their market’s awareness.  How to do that?

In 2009, Adam Morgan wrote the book “Eating the Big Fish: How Challenger Brands Can Compete Against Brand Leaders” which describes how small companies can effectively compete against the brand of large companies.  This is good stuff.  Marketing jujitsu at its best.  Building a brand takes a lot of work and this book details your roadmap to disrupting your industry.

Quick Start #1:  I thank Adam profusely for recognizing that most business leaders like me appreciate the Cliff Notes version of business books.  He published an excellent 9-page summary of his book that I recommend to every CEO and CMO.  Read it.  It will change your worldview on how to approach culture, innovation and brand development within your company.

Now to the next step.  You must turn this brand strategy into how your employees engage with your customers.  Creating a sales and marketing execution based on the Challenger Brand requires a different perspective than what is outlined in “Eating the Big Fish.”

In 2011, a consulting firm called the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) wrote a book called “The Challenger Sale:  Taking Control of Customer Conversation.”  Building off of the Challenger Brand idea, but focused much more on how to engage with potential customers rather than the market as a whole, The Challenger Sale has become a “must read” book for start-ups across Silicon Valley.

Quick Start #2:  Here is an excellent blog post summarizing the Challenger Sale book into a short 10 minute read.  This is good stuff.  If you have worked with a SugarCRM sales rep, you will immediately recognize how we turn this theory into practice.

But isn’t there a missing piece?  Some smart guys wrote about building a Challenger Brand and executing on the Challenger Sale.  However, a bridge was needed between the brand and the sale.  That’s called marketing.  Translating brand strategies into marketing tactics that support sales execution requires a unified framework for your product marketing, demand generation, field marketing and all other components of your marketing execution. Most importantly, you need a crisp “challenger” message.

The Customer Executive Board created a very thoughtful Challenger Marketing framework that does just that.  It enables your marketing team to tell a disruption story to the market built around the storyline of “the world is changing, old is bad, new is good, we deliver new.”  Challenger Marketing is a rich framework with several key concepts and approaches for building a multi-faceted challenger marketing program within your company.  It takes some time to digest all of the concepts and build them into your content and delivery.  This is where you have to buckle down, pay attention and really think through how to implement these ideas.

Quick Start #3:  Our friends at CEB created an excellent 55 minute overview of Challenger Marketing  in this YouTube video.  Presented by Brent Adamson, customer brainiac, co-author of the Challenger Sales book and co-creator of the Challenger Marketing methodology, this gives your marketing team the details they need to turn concept into reality.  I have to tell you.  Wow.  Mind.  Blown.

Now that you’ve decided you want to “challenge the status quo”, what’s the status quo you want to challenge?  This is where my company, SugarCRM, comes in.

SugarCRM customers have chosen to differentiate themselves in their marketplace by embracing digital transformation to build a killer customer experience.  Don’t you want to win the PC Magazine Business Choice Award for your industry?  I bet you do.  This is where we help you map out your company’s customer journey and translate that into an easy-to-deploy set of business processes built in a killer app called Sugar.  Gotta love that name.  Puts a smile on my face every time.

Quick Start #4:  Learn how to look at your business through the lens of your customer, by reading this short ebook on how digital leaders use customer journey maps to guide business transformation.

There you go.  A four-step recipe for success. And I do wish you the best of success.  I believe there is no better satisfaction that taking on the big boys and beating them.

Want to carry on the conversation we started here? Connect with me on LinkedIn.  I look forward to meeting you.

Visionary marketers are quickly progressing beyond simple process automation for demand generation and nurturing programs. The reason is that the buying process is no longer simple. The selling/buying cycle is complex, with many players and personas. Both sales and marketing are about revenue and performance, make no mistake.  In order to accomplish sales and marketing targets (artificial or not), the marketing and sales teams need to work in concert; beyond simple (aka fluffy) collaboration. It is time to focus on people.

To be successful, your organizational selling processes need align with the customer decision cycle. The marketing team needs to transition from pure demand generation to becoming masters of customer engagement, helping the sales folks along the way. The selling process should focus on shepherding buyers through their buying journey. The strategy should not be to move a mass of buyers through a process optimized for management reporting. Instead, the strategy needs to design an efficient process optimized to take a qualified lead and make that lead an engaged, profitable customer. And, once the process is perfected…rinse and repeat.

Taking Stock of the Current State

The proliferation of customers’ digital touchpoints has accelerated requests for and the flow of information, especially in complex business-to-business decision cycles. Furthermore, organizations continue to struggle to predict where prospects will go to look for information. This unknown is causing marketers to do a bit of hair pulling. The idea of determining the right “marketing mix”’ feels a bit too much like a finger in the air strategy when trying to keep up with the vast array of possible touchpoints, along the customer journey.

Marketing and sales need to align their strategies and coordinate communications; both content and timing of message. In many organizations, the most apt descriptor for the relationship between marketing and sales is “frenemies”. Further, being in marketing is often like being an athletic trainer and never knowing if your athlete won the race. The marketing team has limited visibility into leads after they became “sales qualified” and are handed off to the sales team. This lack of insight prevents marketing decision-makers from testing campaign effectiveness or determining why something did or did not work.

Overcoming a Few (relationship) Obstacles

The relationship, at all levels, between sales and marketing is one of the most important relationships within any organization. This bond is personally critical to both the CMO and VP of Sales. The key point of friction is that marketers are focused campaigns and nurturing, while sales folks are focused on the deal and the only metric that matters is revenue. One team is looking at something built for the masses, while another is focused on an individual.

Sales and marketing processes are built with an eye on internal efficiency. However, sales processes need to be reshaped, and should also include an external focus towards the customer buying journey. This is most evident in how success is currently measured in many organizations; monthly and quarterly goals, such as: lead conversion, number of sales qualified leads and likelihood to close (by some artificial percentage).

The Path Forward

It is time to focus on positive customer outcomes and define organizational goals that support and even reshape marketing practices to drive effective customer engagement. This is about customers, not products, features or solutions. Work hard to balance pushing customers towards the next step and make sure you understand where they are in their buying journey. Once you understand where they are in the process, the right information can easily be shared. Context is a critical element within the buying journey. Customers need care and feeding – the right information, at the right time, on the right device.

We are no longer in the information age, we are in the age of customer centricity, customer focus and customer engagement. In order to succeed, the sales and marketing organizations need to match the selling process with the buyer’s journey. Yes, this is about customer acquisition and revenue generation, but it is also about lifetime value and establishing lasting company/customer relationships. Many factors have come together that extend marketing’s role much further into the selling process; even through the very end. Marketing is accountable for content creation, but they cannot do it alone, the sales team needs to come along for the ride! Marketeers and marketing leadership need to collaborate with sales folk and sales leadership to design and build a lead management process that makes sense to all players. Organizational alignment around the buyer journey is critical to success – hard stop.

After aligning goals and objectives within the team, the next logical step is to be do aligned on the processes required to support the customer journey. In the next post within the series, the focus will be on process improvement and efficiency.