How to improve sales performance with marketing automation?

Marketing automation platforms can significantly boost sales performance, but how can you tell if your team is really improving their performance? Even with an advanced online marketing system, leads could still be slipping through the cracks, reducing your company’s effectiveness. The right approach to selling may be leveraging sales technology to boost efficiency so representatives can focus on their relationships with clients.

Some organizations are prioritizing solutions over relationships or vice versa, but both are still equally important and relevant, according to a blog post for Salesforce written by Mike Schultz. Technology can’t compensate for a lack of personalized human interaction, and relationship-based selling won’t make up for a lack of critical prospect data. Your sales team needs to rely on both your marketing automation platform and making personal connections with prospects to drive results.

Changing nature of the sales cycle requires updates to approaches

The B2B industry has undergone significant changes in the past few years. Both buyers and organizations have greater access to information than ever before. Customers are able to make more informed decisions, but they often take longer to weigh their choices and the risks and rewards of each product or solution. However, B2B companies may not be making the best use of data to improve their sales approaches.

In the past, sales organizations measured results based on revenue alone, Dave Kurlan wrote in a separate article for Salesforce. Some companies took it a step further and accounted for activity, such as attempts, contacts, conversations, appointments scheduled, new business meetings and closed deals. Kurlan noted that many sales dashboards do not analyze these key sales tasks until contracts are won. This can make it more difficult for reps to improve their performance. However, there are other variables in the sales cycle that your can study with your marketing automation platform. The article suggested measuring the following concepts to gauge performance levels:

  • Call effectiveness: It’s no longer enough to maintain a high volume of outbound calls every day. Sales reps need to have the right kinds of conversations with warm prospects. Cold calling was once the way many sales professionals made contacts, but this technique is rapidly losing effectiveness, particularly because the research process now starts online for most buyers. In addition, several studies have indicated that customers are already well on their way to their final decisions before they ever initiate contact with a sales rep. Managers can measure the effectiveness of these phone conversations to ensure salespeople are saying the right things to trigger further action on the part of prospects.
  • Quality of leads: There are often discrepancies when it comes to Internet lead generation. Some teams focus on quantity rather than quality, but this leaves sales reps following up with cold or uninterested contacts instead of individuals who are a better fit for your organization. Kurlan suggested identifying critical points in the sales cycle that can be used as opportunities to qualify prospects. You may find that your sales employees frequently skip some of these milestones.
  • Speed of the sales cycle: How long does it typically take a new lead to move through the sales pipeline and become a customer? Are there points where movement is sluggish? Is this slowdown the result of your internal processes or sales rep behavior? A slow-moving pipeline can be problematic for revenue growth. Marketing automation can help you keep a closer eye on velocity and refine your team’s approach. If leads aren’t moving through the revenue funnel in the expected timeline, it may be a good idea to ask what sales behaviors are contributing to this issue.

Focus on relationships and technology simultaneously

A marketing automation platform shouldn’t be seen as an instant fix for all sales performance problems, but it can boost efficiency and inform your team’s approach. These solutions allow reps to devote more attention to building relationships with prospects to advance the sales process. Marketing automation not only delivers actionable data about where leads are in the pipeline, but it also eliminates many repetitive tasks that can slow your employees down. For example, the platform can trigger an email message when a lead takes a specific action. Sales reps may be occupied with other tasks and miss this opportunity for lead nurturing. Reducing manual tasks like emailing and pulling reports enables your sales employees to spend their time more productively and focus on creating lasting personal relationships with prospects.

In fact, the most effective salespeople are those who collaborate with buyers and provide information about topics prospects are interested in, according to Schultz. Customers felt like sales reps were genuinely invested in meeting mutual goals, which increased the power of the relationship. Marketing automation can provide an indication of the type of education prospects would like to receive, and this can help sales professionals send more relevant communications.