Salesforce pioneered the industry of sales tech and later marketing tech, but the future of the company is no longer about either. Instead, it’s about analytics. This was the topic of conversation from nearly every vendor, employee, and attendee at Salesforce’s giant Dreamforce conference last week.

More importantly, the unwritten headline that will ultimately define this year’s event is the application of analytics to optimize the buyer journey. Once relegated to marketing tech, the concept of a data-informed and analytics-optimized buyer journey now spans conversations and messaging in all facets of the organization.

While the unveiling of SalesforceIQ last week was one of the announcements that put data and analytics at the center of Dreamforce, it was the business leaders attending the conference who made it the prevailing topic of conversation. Walking through the expo halls, I heard dozens of conversations about how to actually transform the insights collected via Salesforce and the thousands of apps in its ecosystem to improve the buyer journey.

These conversations remind us of the fundamental shift in how companies are approaching the utility of data and analytics, and it’s never been more clear. Just a few years ago, marketing was the epicenter of innovation in enterprise tech – applying data, analytics, and automation to transform one-to-many marketing into a scalable series of data-driven one-to-one digital interactions. Now, sales is emerging as the frontier of innovation, as companies turn to lessons learned in marketing to apply automation, analytics, and data science to better inform and equip sales teams to accelerate the transition from prospect to customer. This evolution isn’t just blurring the lines between sales and marketing, it’s erasing them.

Data culled from buyer interactions with marketing materials can now provide valuable insight to sales; and the relationships built by sales teams with prospects can help marketing improve its content. Further, insights collected along the way provide opportunity for data science to deeply understand the interactions that dot the path to purchase, giving companies new ability to transform the buyer’s journey – all while improving execution and dramatically increasing sales forecast accuracy.

As these new buyer insights emerge, companies will need a new era of leadership to spearhead the evolution – one driven by an executive who intimately understands the path to purchase through every interaction. For decades, this function has existed in the organizational whitespace between marketing and sales, fueling the oft-cited angst between the two. However, companies can no longer afford to leave this function to the loose connections between the two teams. It’s time for a new executive. It’s time for a Chief Pipeline Officer – one responsible for building, managing, and continuously optimizing a pipeline of buyers from the first interaction to securing a signed contract.

In many organizations, chief marketing officers have taken on this responsibility, but buyers no longer follow the traditional sales funnel, and their journey is rarely linear. Flexibility and a holistic approach to the buyer experience is the best way to predictably create, grow, and win business consistently.

The future of business will change as companies turn to data-informed interactions to give customers exactly what they want, when they want it, and via their preferred choice of media (including interaction with sales teams directly). Dreamforce has always been about providing a view into the future, and now that future is here.

Mitch Frazier is VP of Marketing at sales productivity technology pioneer TinderBox.


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