The Dynamic Duo: Best Practices for Remote Marketing and Sales Teams Working Together

By Martin Schneider, Chief Evangelist, SugarCRM

Imagine that you have just worked for months on the perfect marketing campaign. Everything is absolutely flawless — the creative is beautiful, the messaging is clear, and the lists are clean. Your campaign is launched, leads come flooding in, and sales … well, sales does nothing. Aside from complaining about not having the “right” leads — the kind that generate prospects that are primed and ready to buy. This is frustrating both for marketers and for sales.   

All too often this dynamic exists in organizations: marketing and sales pushing back at each other when really, they are on the same team. And nothing exasperated the disconnect between sales and marketing greater than today’s remote work reality. Poor marketing-sales alignment leads to both wasted effort and poor performance. The crux of the issue is a low-fidelity customer view that forces sales and marketing to adopt a “fly blind/best guess” approach – astoundingly archaic in today’s data-driven enterprise. Is it any wonder then — if you can’t formulate a picture of what your customers need and want — that you’ll fail to properly position your goods and services to meet those needs and desires?

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Worse, these low-quality, siloed experiences leave customers with lackluster impressions, and with customer experience (CX) more important than ever in the post-pandemic era, it’s imperative to close the experience gap. 

New normal best practices are being forged to help sales and marketing teams align and collaborate more successfully digitally; not surprisingly, technology can be the great enabler via the combination of marketing automation and AI-infused CRM to support a high-definition CX (HD-CX) — what we are seeing as the new standard in CX that is helping companies achieve a crystal-clear view of their customers. Just as HD was introduced as the new standard for televisions, HD-CX aims to be something similar to the next frontier in CX — so companies can “see” the future.

Where the Silos Started

For years, companies have relied on their CRM systems to provide insights on customers and prospects to enable organizations to hone their CX strategies. However, the reality is traditional CRM systems — which should be the lynchpin of any CX strategy — aren’t fit-for-purpose and are holding companies back.

Our own survey reveals the difficulties that arise when companies are unable to extract the full value from traditional CRM systems. One-third reported that incomplete data was a major source of frustration, and one-half reported being unable to access customer data, in a single view, across all functions or parts of the business. Without access to a single and complete source of truth, companies cannot optimize CX.

Breaking Down the Silos by Creating a Continuous Feedback Loop

In the era of remote working, (over) communicating is key to support necessary pivots and agility. What landing pages and email nurtures are having the most significant impact? Which sales scripts work best? Where are sales and marketing efforts resulting in upward returns on investment, and where do you need to make adjustments? These are the kinds of questions marketing and sales teams need to answer together. The key is for both teams to understand how they can meet each other’s needs. Rather than tasking the other team with providing one-off content and campaigns, marketing and sales should be in a continual collaboration loop based on the latest interactions and real-time customer data.

The best way to support this environment is to unify your data. Most modern marketing teams rely on marketing automation platforms (MAP), while sales teams engage with CRM platforms. Often, this can lead to customer insights that are differentiated and critical information that is stored in separate systems. By combining them into a single integrated CX platform, everyone benefits from quick access, real-time insights, and 360-degree views.

In a work-from-home scenario where employees are logging in more work hours than ever before, it’s time to let the technology do the heavy lifting. The human element is much more fundamental to building trust and long-term relationships with customers. By embracing workflow automations, marketing and sales can focus on what they do best: understanding their customers and creating a better experience for them, helping to cultivate customers for life rather than pushing products and creating buying cultures.

Context is King 

In the remote workplace, adding context to collaboration is critical. For sales to do their jobs effectively, they need to know as much as possible about the leads marketing is passing on, such as where they work, what they do, and what content they’ve engaged with. A proper workflow automation between your MAP and CRM system is the key to gaining this high-definition customer view so everyone is tracking to the same customer journey. As a result, engagement insights, rich in context, are pushed in minutes from your MAP to your CRM, to accelerate the sales process and forge a more responsive, authentic and relevant CX.

Equally important is understanding how the leads from marketing are scored. Without good data and powerful means to analyze that data, lead scoring is a “black art,” involving much trial-and-error. Leveraging machine learning for AI-driven model selection takes the black art out of developing effective scoring models. AI can continuously improve the scoring model based on actual performance. This provides an objective, measurable, and agreed-upon qualification standard for passing leads from marketing to sales, as well as the means to prioritize them, to ensure the right sales and marketing resources are focused on opportunities that hold the greatest promise.

A lack of lead clarity may be why most respondents in our study (88%) said they expect to increase their use of AI to augment more of their existing CRM processes within the next 24 months. Companies that significantly improve the accuracy and completeness of their customer data stand to gain better business outcomes. Marketers should no longer hide the math behind lead scoring and lead routing because the results will be more focused and quality interactions between the sales rep and the prospective buyer.

Predictive Analytics Powered by AI

Companies rely on rich data to provide critical information related to marketing initiatives, sales efforts, and customer interactions. But it’s what companies do with all that data that matters, because numbers on a page can only go so far in telling a story. Most of the time, those numbers, percentages, and forecasts need intelligent interpretation, to guide what to do next month, next year, and tomorrow. This is where technology can work to your advantage.

AI-powered predictive capabilities give organizations a crystal ball to see previously unseen correlations in customer behavior and attributes that can surface up sell opportunities and also align sales prospects to an organization’s Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). This enables organizations to predict the customer lifetime value of that prospect at the very start of the customer lifecycle (as opposed to 10 years down the road), enabling lead prioritization based on similar closed sales’ historical track records.

This also helps marketers focus their efforts on the best opportunities and improve performance. For example, does this customer have the promise of lifetime value that would make it worth the cost and effort to serve? What is the velocity of this lead (i.e., how fast are they consuming content) indicating their level of intent?, and more.

This new approach is being fortified by fueling existing CRM data with supplemental external data sources to uncover traits and trends previously unattainable leveraging the mere merits of CRM data. AI-powered predictions help to bring a new data-backed discipline (versus gut feel) to marketing and sales pros to guide more strategic and tactical sales, marketing and customer care resource investments

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Cultivating Sales-Marketing Collaboration Success

The relationship between marketing and sales may be a highly complicated one, and dismantling decades-old silos further exasperated by today’s remote work won’t happen overnight. But now that companies are competing in the experience economy, it’s more critical than ever to tear down the virtual walls that separate these teams. 

When sales and marketing work together, the result is a well-oiled demand-generation and renewal machine. By leaning into technology and letting your platform do the work, organizations can achieve the ultimate level of marketing and sales automation that will help deliver an effortless customer experience.

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