The line between marketing and sales is getting blurrier by the minute. Sales reps are leveraging new sales acceleration tools like Tout, Yesware, Sidekick, and Outreach, and it feels like a new one comes out every quarter.
These specialized apps have become so sophisticated that they’re enabling sales to run their own campaigns and sidestep marketing automation. They help teams increase response rates through more personalization and control, a 1:1 touch, simple plain text messages, and more follow up vs. blanket general marketing blasts.
As the go-to-market (GTM) technology stack expands, sales is taking marketing into its own hands, and marketers are being asked to give up some turf at the top of funnel.
Sales acceleration vs. marketing automation
There are two main camps of emerging sales apps: email tracking and triggered workflows. Both typically come as Google Chrome extensions that override your Gmail experience. Most tools fall into the tracking category: They tell reps when people click on their emails, attachments, and links. However, many apps, like Outreach, are moving more towards the workflow camp and are chipping away at the territory of marketing automation. They help reps set up their own templates and drip schedules to plan sequences of sales touches – like call, LinkedIn, email, Twitter, etc.
These tools can even automate email sends or designate a custom touch by the rep. They define what action should take place at each step, which is great for establishing processes and training reps.
As a result, we’re seeing more personalized emails coming from sales reps. Text-based emails receive much higher engagement than beautifully-designed blast emails with banners and images because people take comfort in talking to a person vs. a mail bot. In its own A/B tests, HubSpot found that using HTML actually reduced open rates by 25-37%.
5 lessons for the next-gen GTM stack
Will these developments just deepen the sales and marketing divide? Does it really make sense to have so many GTM tools? And which team should own and manage them – sales or marketing? As your sales stack inches toward marketing automation, here are some tips for getting sales and marketing in lock-step:
1. Nail down marketing and sales goals. At the end of the day, all of this technology change should lead to shared goals around driving revenue for the business. More and more companies are closely aligning their sales and marketing objectives, and I’ve even seen several cases where marketing co-owns the revenue number with sales. If both groups care about driving more responses to meeting requests, for example, and if sales-driven personalized messaging gets higher response rates than marketing blasts, then marketing should encourage this shift.
2. Clarify marketing’s swim lane. It’s critical to define specific jurisdictions for sales and marketing, and smart companies are refining responsibilities so that marketing is focused on creating messaging and content, while sales reps are the voice of the company. Reps should test out marketing assets with their accounts and provide feedback that informs future content. Marketers will need to give up responsibility for delivery and correspondence and instead work on better enabling sales. If your GTM teams can get behind this role adjustment, you’ll improve message governance and achieve more holistic communications with less risk of reps going off message.
3. Adopt hyper-segmentation techniques. Marketers should focus on carving up the prospect world for reps, which they’ve been doing for decades and are expert at. It makes sense for marketing to own and deliver these insights to reps. They can do this by developing personas and segmenting accounts using firmographic, technographic, and behavioral signals for advanced market planning and prospect management. This approach will improve targeting, increase engagement, and boost conversion rates – as opposed to relying on the gut instinct and blunt instruments common among many sales teams.
4. Up your nurture game. Of course, when leads get stale, marketing should nurture them with thoughtful drip schedules that deliver personalization at scale. Unlike the sales team, which has to focus on an immediate number and tends to hone in on shiny new objects and the warmest accounts, marketing can take a more strategic, long-term approach to nurture programs. Marketing also has better visibility into clicks and web behavioral data and is closest to the content that will hopefully resurrect old leads from the nurture pile. They should monitor for leads that heat up and send them back to sales while managing the larger group of cold leads.
5. Establish a centralized hub for lead data. I would contend that the value of CRM and MAP systems comes not just from automation or workflows anymore but from centralizing data. In today’s environment, customer data is often spread across Salesforce, Marketo, a content management system, Google Analytics, and new sales acceleration tools. While it’s key to get all of a user’s clicks housed in one place, that is increasingly difficult because a lot of the data resides in other apps’ servers. A good best practice is to pull all relevant data points into your CRM and use that as the source of truth for both sales and marketing whenever possible. Be aware of closed sales development platforms that trap your data. Rather, consider tools that write richly to Salesforce, so you can maintain one primary system of record for business reporting.
Companies should give marketing as much control over this data as possible. It’s helpful for nurturing, segmenting, and knowing where to invest marketing dollars. When your marketing team manages the full spectrum of information across the stack, it can learn everything there is to know about contacts and accounts, define ideal customer profiles, and pass the relevant insights to sales.
Getting a step ahead
It’s also important to keep in mind that these sales acceleration tools are still early – there will be winners and losers, consolidation, and even more new platforms will emerge. Things are going to get hairy, especially given the fragmentation of tools and different servers that are housing data about your customers and prospects in this new world. If you work to solidify your goals, unify your stack, and establish which departments own which data and workflows, your GTM culture and targets will stay intact regardless of which new tools come and go. That’s the best way to stay ahead of the curve as market dynamics evolve.
Vik Singh is CEO of Infer. Prior to founding Infer, he was an Entrepreneur in Residence at Sutter Hill Ventures, and prior to that, he helped create and architect Yahoo BOSS, an open search platform that runs over 1 billion queries a month. In 2009, MIT’s Technology Review listed him as one of the Top 35 under 35 Innovators for his contributions to search.