It’s one of the most highly discussed and universally lauded endeavors among leading brands among every industry. Deliver a consistent, frictionless customer experience from online discovery through digital or guided purchase and post-sales, or risk your competitive foothold. Yet, it’s not clear just how to execute on the goal of seamlessly connecting marketing and sales.
With so many differing opinions and competing departmental mandates, it’s no surprise sales and marketing leaders struggle with where to start. Of course, there are other considerations too, including legacy systems, ineffective processes and workflows that can quickly take your CX from mediocre to unacceptable. I recently met with Kayleigh Halko, CX Product Strategist at Oracle. We had the opportunity to talk about this in detail during an informal interview.
1. Why is connecting sales and marketing so important for an effective CX strategy?
Today, so much of the buying process takes place before a customer ever connects with a person at your organization. Customers now have endless options to find information and self-educate before they engage on a “channel” that puts the buyer on the radar of sales or marketing. That’s all before they become part of an official sales strategy or marketing campaign. It means that when a customer finally reaches out and asks for support in the buying journey, whoever gets to the buyer first – whether that’s a marketing professional or a sales representative – must be prepared to help. Connected sales and marketing becomes incredibly important in that context. Outside of technical considerations, bridging the gap between these two organizations with common goals and external messages is the most important aspect to get correct.
2. What are some of the disconnects across sales and marketing? How do they contribute to friction in terms of overall CX?
Historically, sales and marketing organizations have operated with different goals, processes and cultures. Marketing would focus on acquisition activities such as leads, MQLs etc. Sales would focus heavily on opportunities and contacts and other selling activities. These respective professionals developed industry-standard sales stages and progression models with clearly defined hand-offs; such as how a MQL becomes a sales accepted lead (SAL). You may get clearly defined goals for either sales or marketing, and possibly even high-performing teams on both sides with a deceptively “seamless” experience for the customer. But, that overall CX will break the moment a customer needs help if marketing and sales aren’t co-owners of the complete customer experience – not just their own piece in it.
3. What are the new opportunities to influence brand perceptions?
Since so much of the buyer’s journey today is self-guided, this creates the first opportunity where marketing and sale teams can unite around go-to-marketing planning. The goal should be to deliver a unified message to the market that creates enough value for a buyer to raise their hand and express interest. Then, it’s up to the collective group to decide which new channels, whether mobile commerce, messaging apps, service or maintenance calls, deserve the most proactive attention.
The second opportunity is to empower every brand representative on every channel to deliver the same value message, and also, to answer any question. This includes standard channels like a company’s website or the sales rep making the first call to a new lead.
This also includes new channels. For example, perhaps the mobile commerce storefront allows a buyer to start a shopping basket online. Then, she calls a rep to help complete that order when it gets tricky to navigate the right SKU. Or, within their favorite messaging app, a customer asks for support, requests a link to an FAQ, and reorders a commonly purchased item. Or when a field technician is onsite, he can replace a part on a broken machine. But, he can also use his tablet to pull up a web catalogue to show the customer a retrofit upgrade to the machine that enables IoT parts ordering. This opens an opportunity that allows him and his sales counterpart to split the commission.
4. If a company doesn’t typically upsell to existing customers, why care about CX?
Our world is shifting to subscription-based models across every industry. While many businesses won’t upsell or cross sell in the traditional course of doing business, customers want things on demand with the ability to re-evaluate their options as they go. This means that even when a sale is closed– it’s never really finished. That’s why you need to think about CX throughout the customer lifecycle. In the traditional linear view, marketing is concerned with the discovery phase. Sales would focus during the acquisition phase. Service or field service only care after the sale was made. But, because the buyer journey is now less linear, we’re seeing marketing and sales collaborating both with each other and also with the rest of the organization to play a larger role in customer success and ongoing engagement, even after the sale is made. In the Experience Economy, churn is no longer just for cable and telecom companies.
5. Should a company start with sales, or with marketing?
This is an important question and the answer will be different for every organization. Sales and marketing are both driving a buying experience, which is now part of a continuous process. The initial point of becoming a customer is a small moment of the buyer’s journey. What we really need to think about is how sales and marketing can work together to guide a buyer through a continuous journey while adding value in new ways at every touch point.
The place to start is with a shared set of goals and a common strategy. That will determine where you’ll need to emphasize points of customer engagement. This may lead to a clear answer of whether sales or marketing will need to set the tone and take the lead when it comes to defining processes and choosing technology.
6. How should CX leaders merge the human and technology effort into a cohesive set of activities?
When you think about how people and technology work together, first look at current processes. Ask why they exist. Then quickly assess whether those processes work or require an update.
Once you’re properly focused on the correct processes and behavior, the opportunity is for new technology to improve shortcomings or knowledge gaps. Another place to look is where technology can help to automate cumbersome data entry or manual processes so your talented sales and marketing professionals can focus on creative sales and marketing. Rather than view technology as a driver for behavioral change, why not use it as a way to support what you’ve already defined as the desired behavior? If you’re clear on this, start by searching for the right technology that works perfectly for your strategy, rather than adapting technology to fit bad habits. Forget about trying to force behavior to fit technology. One customer recently told me that she’s very focused on selecting the technology that she feels supports the commercial goals of her business. From there, her main priority is driving adoption for that technology and ensuring it’s used for the purpose it was intended. That is the fastest path to success.
Check out some recent analyst reports describing Oracle's CX products.
The Forrester Wave™: CRM Suites, Q4 2018 gave Oracle the highest score of any vendor in the current offering category.