By Chris Hardeman, VP of Sales, Act-On Software
Sales runs on high-octane fuel that consists of intelligence and time. When you know who to call, when to call them, what to listen for and what to say, you close more deals.
Marketing automation generates such highly qualified leads that you can identify them as ready for sales engagement — right now. Marketing automation tools let marketers track and measure a prospect’s activity, identify when a lead meets known buyer-readiness conditions, and pass that lead to sales as soon as a hot prospect is ready to be contacted. This eliminates the need for cold calling and wasting time on leads that aren’t ready. Additionally, marketing automation makes it feasible to nurture prospects at scale, which speeds up the sales cycle by warming prospects into hot leads — and then qualified sales opportunities.
To help decide whether your sales team can benefit from marketing automation, here are 10 points to consider. These are key ways marketing automation serves as a sales enabler to help you identify, nurture, approach and close new sales.
1. Eliminate cold calling. With marketing automation, the team has tools to nurture leads until they’re ready for sales or to be dismissed. This process generates well-qualified leads that have displayed buying intent — meaning you spend your time in front of prospects who are ready to buy instead of cold calling.
2. Remove the blindfold. Know who you’re calling and what to say. Customer intelligence dashboards show you what each lead cares about, what content they’ve viewed, and what actions they’ve taken, so you can talk to them about their specific needs.
3. Know when to call. Along with high-scoring leads getting passed to you as they become sales-qualified, web site visitor tracking alerts you whenever a particular person or company visits your web site. You know when they’re thinking about your company and solutions. You can even set alerts to be notified when someone is browsing a particular page on your web site. For example, you can get an alert that a buyer you’re working with is studying a page with in-depth information about a product other than the one you’ve been discussing. That could lead to a whole new sales opportunity.
4. Shorten the sales cycle. Research shows nurtured leads close faster and generate larger deals. Your marketing team feeds prospects content and information they need, guiding them through the buying cycle. When a lead exhibits strong buying signals, it gets passed to sales. Marketing automation gives marketing teams the muscle they need to more effectively nurture leads, drawing them through the funnel more quickly and delivering more highly qualified leads to sales. According to CSO Insights, companies that excel at lead nurturing have 9% more sales reps making quota.
5. Make the most of email. Sales reps can use marketing automation systems to automatically personalize messages, send them at the optimal times for prospects and format them appropriately for a particular customer. Trigger emails can be customized to inbound actions so buyers receive personalized communications. CRM integration ensures that all email communications — automated or otherwise — are captured in your activity history for each lead.
6. Help marketing qualify leads in a way that is most helpful to the sales team. Marketing automation provides a framework for your potential customers’ progress as they traverse the buyer’s journey, and makes it easy for marketers to manage leads. You define characteristics, such as title or industry, and behaviors, such as attending a webinar, that indicate when a prospect will likely become a buyer. Buyers that meet your pre-defined conditions are assigned to lead groups, such as “Marketing Qualified,” “Sales Accepted,” or “Sales Qualified,” taking the guesswork out of a lead’s status. Leads advance through classifications automatically as they engage in progressive buying behaviors, until ready for sales engagement.
7. Use scoring to prioritize your time and attention. By assigning a score to lead behaviors and demographic characteristics, marketing automation tracks a lead’s progress through the lead funnel with pre-defined scores. For example, if you know that looking at your pricing page is a buying signal, you assign that action a high score. Scores accumulate. When a buyer-ready lead score threshold is passed, a notification to the correct sales rep is triggered, letting them respond to that hot lead quickly. Some systems generate Hot Prospect list notification automatically, helping sales reps focus on the best leads and reach them at the right time.
8. Maximize customer lifetime value through cross-selling and up-selling opportunities. Marketing automation reports and dashboards enable analysis of customer data, such as purchase history and company size, which helps identify targets for cross-selling and up-selling. Behavior history profiles indicate likely follow-up sale products based on each lead’s pre-purchase and post-purchase content interactions.
9. Benefit from marketing automation without leaving your CRM. Many marketing automation systems integrate with Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, SugarCRM, and SalesLogix, and work with other systems as well. It's particularly convenient when salespeople can view and access powerful lead insights and opportunities right in their own CRM dashboard, saving time and effort.
10. Align sales and marketing. According to an Aberdeen study, 91% of top-performing companies marketing had a strong understanding of sales goals, as opposed to 63% of laggards. Successful companies align marketing and sales goals and collaborate on activities like developing buyer personas. This leverages sales’ insider knowledge of customers and buying stages to create content, programs, and campaigns that are better targeted and more effective for closing sales.
Chris Hardeman, Act-On’s VP of Sales, is responsible for the overall strategy, management and scaling of the company’s sales and pre-sales organizations. Since joining Act-On in 2011, Chris has grown the team from a handful of people to high-performing sales organization. In 2013, Chris was recognized by the AAISP as one of the top 25 most influential sales leaders after achieving revenue growth of over 300% year-over-year for Act-On. Hardeman came to Act-On armed with over 20 years of experience developing and leading sales teams, including WebEx and Cisco.