Sharing is caring: why we need to align marketing and sales

By Geoff Webb, VP of Product Marketing at PROS

Did you know that in many financial services organisations, the Chief Marketing Officer will often have the biggest IT budget? It might surprise you, but 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 virtually any other part of the business.

It might also surprise you to hear that this trend is actually 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 investment in technology has armed CMOs with an incredible level of insight (including what kinds of content you read online, where your mouse goes on their site, and so on), it has 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. It’s clear that the perception surrounding ownership of the technology budget needs to change.

Today, CRO’s (Chief Revenue Officers) face extraordinary pressure to transform their departments – especially in the face of a growing shift towards digital commerce models. A sales executive used to be able to rely on experience, insight, and interpersonal skills to close a deal and keep the customer buying. Today, that task is much more difficult. So, 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.

As your sales team evolves, so must your organisation

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, many want 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 eCommerce. Yet, contrarily, studies also show that buyers want to know that there will be a helpful and well-informed sales executive available at the end of the phone, should the need arise.

Managing this shift from ‘all in-person’ to ‘mostly offline/sometimes in- person isn’t easy, and it requires sales professionals to be fully informed about their customers, have visibility into transactions as they are occurring (should the customer need help) and also 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 occurring at the operational level. As is stands, sales professionals can spend as little as 36 percent of their time actually selling, meaning that 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 also more informed? 

Time to get personal

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

Top of the list are technologies that enable more intelligent quoting for complex products (where configuration can be highly time-consuming and prone to expensive errors). 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, it increases the value of the sale. Think about it, you would be much more likely to pay more for something if you knew that the product being offered was personalised to you, designed with your specific needs in mind. While such personalisation includes the product itself, it also encompasses how it’s packaged, how it’s delivered, and how it’s priced.

Marketing and sales – driving the bottom line together

Yet, all these changes are indicative of something more profound 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 between the two often arise from a lack of common understanding regarding the nature of their customers and the market needs. Not least at the expense of time, money, effort, disruption and the opening of 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?

An ability to share the same big data lake and same analytic/AI engine gives rise to a unified and common sense of the who, where, what, and how of customer engagement. And that 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 seems 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 that is exactly what is starting to happen. And freed of disruptive disagreements about what customers want, businesses can align all their energy into delivering the 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 a little more sharing with other teams to happen in future. Of course, there are cultural, organisational, and even revenue implications for this more hybrid sales model, but the rewards on offer couldn’t be clearer.