Tuesday, February 7, 2012

5 Key Features that Enable CRM Solutions to Bridge the Gap Between Marketing and Sales Teams

Marketing & Sales - Two sides of the same coin
Traditionally, the two most important functions to drive revenue in any business organization are marketing and sales. In simple words, marketing is responsible for reaching out to prospects through effective branding and communication, sales teams are responsible for converting prospects to customers. These two functions are equally important and often feed on each other. This means operationally they often tend to trespass on each other’s territory. In a perfect world the synergy between these two functions can positively influence an organization’s future. However, does it happen in the real world?  
   
Functional intersections & conflicts
During my consulting stints with customers, I’ve heard some interesting perspectives in the executive corridors about these two functions. The marketing team often accuses the sales team of not doing enough to convert prospects from the pipelines created through their latest successful campaign. Sales guys complain about the quality of the pipeline and counter-accuse marketing for creating incorrect customer perception about their product or services. But the fact is they do depend on each other for meeting their individual goals, as well as the organization’s revenue target. There are several functional intersection points between them.
  • Product positioning - This is one of the major deliverables of the marketing team and a critical input for the sales strategy. Marketing management is responsible for the market research, competition analysis and takes input from their product design and engineering teams before deciding their target markets and customer demographics. Sales teams devise their strategy and allocate their budget and resources based on this.
  • Campaigns - Campaigns are organized by marketing teams to create positive perceptions about specific products and services, or short term special deals linked to seasons or festivals. Campaigns may be organized through audio visual adverts, special events or emerging platforms like social networking sites. The irony is, though campaigns are designed and executed by the marketing teams, their success is determined by the sales numbers in the target geography or demographics.
  • Market intelligence - Marketing teams often used modern age marketing management solutions for surveys and sophisticated statistical techniques to determine the performance of their current products or gather intelligence to accurately position their future products. However, they often ignore the internal 360 degree feedback loop aided by their last mile sales representatives. It is critical to listen to your customers, marketing teams need to collaborate with sales and establish processes to collect feedback from real customers.  
CRM features that can enable fruitful collaborations
How do organizations facilitate effective collaboration between their marketing and sales teams? There are no easy answers to this question. However, it surely needs finely tuned enterprise wide policies, processes and success metrics to avoid any conflict of interest between the teams. Some commonly available features of marketing management in a CRM solution can be of help to make this work at the tactical level while meeting the strategic objectives.
  • Marketing Campaign Management - The success of a campaign can be measured by its effect on the pipeline. This can easily be accomplished in a CRM solution by establishing a parent-child relationship between a campaign and the opportunities created as a result of that.
  • Opportunity Management – Similarly, the sales teams can become more effective in managing new opportunities by using the opportunity management feature found in most CRM solutions. This can help them optimize their resources by focusing on opportunities that are more likely to mature into sales.
  • Sales Process Management - Within the quote-to-cash cycle there are several service touch points that define the buying experience of customers. Looking up customer preferences like billing mode, shipping agents, etc. while serving them will enhance the customer experience manifold. On the flip side, this is also an opportunity to update the changes in customer preferences proactively after each buying cycle. Continuous fine tuning of the sales process can make the customers feel special - this improves loyalty. 
  • Collateral and Brand Management - Collateral like product brochures, web content, data sheets and white papers are generally driven by the marketing teams. It is imperative for the sales team to collaborate effectively during the collateral design process. This can be achieved by including representatives from the sales team as active contributors in the process. Co-owning the collateral will help the sales team’s members to connect with their customers better and improve chances of winning new customers. 
  • Activity Management - Any interaction with a customer outside the sales process is generally managed by a CRM solution - activity management. This can involve a customer complaint or a query about a new product. The sales team generally participates as users in these activities. The reports and analytics of activities linked to a specific customer or prospect can be effectively used by the marketing teams for analyzing the market response to their products and services.
Final thoughts
A carefully chosen CRM solution with smart marketing management features can enhance the exchange of useful information between marketing and sales teams and help bridge the gap. Involving representatives from both teams in intersecting processes will improve collaborations. With the right policies and strategies in place and effective CRM solutions, sales and marketing teams can present a unified view of the organization to their customers.


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