It is certainly no secret that Sales and Marketing frequently find themselves in some amount of conflict. This conflict is likely as old as business itself. Sales blames Marketing for a lack of relevant customer-facing resources or qualified leads, and Marketing often points an accusing finger at Sales as the reason for lack of revenue, a dearth of new customers or a warehouse full of unsold product.
Other than perhaps saving face in some business review meeting, these blame games really serve no useful purpose.
Sales and Marketing actually depend upon one another to accomplish the business development work of the enterprise. In a less technically oriented era, that dependency would most likely be influenced by personalities and sometimes, personal agendas. That doesn’t have to be the case when the two programs are bound together within the context of a digitally enabled business development process.
Technology keeps both disciplines oriented and aligned toward achieving the same goals and promulgating the same message. Here are four ways this happens.
1. Campaign Development and Execution
What goes into a campaign? The elements include a product, a message and an audience. The audience should be definable in terms of some demographic data such as market vertical, company size, location or perhaps installed product.
CRM applications are ideal for identifying the specific prospects that match the criteria for inclusion into the campaign, and Marketing and Sales can easily work together to establish that particular criteria. Data maintained within the CPQ system can help isolate specific products to offer, or it can produce attributes, or even deficits, that are relevant to the campaign.
Special campaign pricing can be set up within CPQ to limit pricing to specific products, geographies or other rules. When the sales rep engages with a prospect, that pricing will automatically be invoked. This prevents pricing discounts from being arbitrarily extended under the guise of the campaign without approvals from Sales Management.
2. Product Development
When the sales team takes a product into the marketplace, they receive all manner of feedback about the product as it exists. In most cases, this will include the identification of desired features or perceived weaknesses in the existing product.
Within the CPQ system, the sales rep will engage with the customer through a guided selling process driven by an interactive interview. The questions asked and the customer-provided answers within the interview trigger additional questions or specific choices and options related to the product being configured.
In some cases, those answers may disqualify the product from being an appropriate part of any solution offered. That information is valuable in terms of product development. Those disqualification questions can identify potential markets, possible product improvements and even whole new product lines.
With CPQ, the product development process seeks expert inputs in the development phase to guide the direction of the product evolution and to populate the interview script for the buying cycle with useful questions and appropriate responses. It is critical that Sales be included in that expert data collection and that they share what they’ve learned in the field with the product development team.
Within CRM—perhaps in some form of a win/loss report—there exists a means to digitally record the disqualifying conditions that might impact future product development. Other valuable information should be collected and stored, as well, including critical features leading to a win, areas of concern and certainly any implied suggestions regarding the future direction of the product.
Establishing this feedback loop is perhaps the most critical step in keeping Sales, Marketing and Product Development in alignment.
3. Market and Audience Definition
We touched earlier on the role CRM may play in defining campaign targets. That role should be extended into defining the greater set of potential prospects for the enterprise as a whole.
These two elements are the basis for everything Sales and Marketing does. Products are developed to address specific needs, and those needs are typically associated with a type of enterprise. That “type” may involve any number of factors including location, vertical segment, annual revenue, business model or a hundred other things. The commonality that joins members together in this set is the likelihood of having the particular need addressed by the product.
Within that market (think companies) set, is an audience (think contacts) that is directly affected by or understands the pains associated with the specific need. That audience is who Marketing and Sales should be talking to in terms of collateral developed and in actual sales engagements initiated.
CRM is the vehicle that makes this possible. The high-level data maintained within a CRM system includes geographic location, annual revenue or SIC and NAICS codes that identify vertical business segments and other factors that are useful in determining market qualification. Additionally, contact names, along with titles, business units, influence levels and other specifics, facilitate the isolation of the audience members from the other contact names within the database.
It is critical for both of these data sets to be maintained and kept current.
The message is frequently overlooked when it comes down to actually talking to the prospect. CPQ helps to ensure that critical messaging elements are included in the presentation by building it into the proposal generation facilities.
Marketing can include higher-level messaging in collateral, website content and other artifacts, but once engaged with the prospect, it is up to Sales to carry that message forward as they see fit.
When a quotation is prepared or when the proposal is generated, CPQ will help to ensure that this is done. Messaging at the high level is important to the development of the brand itself and the overall image of the enterprise. Leaving it out of the discussion may seem expeditious on occasion, but doing so comes with a price.
CPQ makes sure the last word includes the important words associated with your high-level message.
These four elements bring Marketing and Sales together by providing digital functionality that both are responsible for maintaining. Both obtain great benefit from CPQ, CRM and other digital facilities, and this mutual benefit and purpose naturally helps Sales and Marketing achieve beneficial alignment within the enterprise.