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Supporting Marketing Influence Analysis

January 01, 2016

Instead of resisting marketing’s efforts to prove its influence on deals, sales operations should help make the case that tracking marketing influence is beneficial for sales

While it may seem that sales and marketing operations have very different responsibilities, their ability to work together is critical to both. For example, if sales operations fails to facilitate (or even resists) marketing’s efforts to prove its influence on closed deals, it is missing a significant opportunity to drive sales results. In this issue of SiriusPerspectives, we explain the ways that marketing influence analysis benefits sales, and describe how sales operations can help marketing track and measure it.

Marketing Influence

Marketing Influence: Benefits to Sales

In a B2B organization, marketing’s efforts to seed, create and accelerate demand are often justified when they help reps or partners close more deals and potentially expend less effort to do so. Accurate inputs from sales systems and processes are required for marketing influence measurement, as it is a significant challenge to maintain the trail of every touchpoint with every contact that occurs throughout a buying process. By helping marketing develop an accurate picture of its influence, sales leaders benefit in two major ways:

  • Improved demand creation. Consistent measurements and feedback from sales can help marketing improve its identification of high-potential prospects and the trigger events that result in qualified leads. With this insight, marketing can design and implement campaigns, programs and tactics that yield the best results, including faster lead movement through each stage of the Demand Waterfall® and sales pipeline.
  • Smarter opportunity management. Marketing’s influence analysis also helps sales reps’ own prospecting and nurturing activities, as a key focus of influence analysis is determining the seller actions and buyer behaviors that correlate with the outcomes of an opportunity (e.g. win/loss). By understanding how in-progress deals compare with successful deal patterns, sales reps can learn what actions to take next (e.g. tactic selection) and which members of the buying team should be engaged more deeply. Influence data may also indicate that certain deals are unlikely to happen, giving reps the chance to redirect their efforts toward more promising opportunities. 

Supporting Influence Analysis

To begin, sales operations and marketing operations must agree on the metrics that will be collected to track the influence of marketing activities. Then, assess the following areas and make improvements as needed to support accurate analysis:

  • Lead management. Marketing operations is primarily responsible for tracking marketing influence in the pre-sales qualified lead (SQL) stages of the Demand Waterfall, and for ensuring the quality and accuracy of information before leads are passed to sales. However, even for sales generated leads (SGLs), marketing often has created multiple touches such as advertising, social media, events and Web sites that have created awareness and consideration long before the rep creates an opportunity. Sales operations must establish a process that ensures each lead record added to the SFA platform is verified as new and alerts the sales rep when duplication occurs (e.g. when the sales rep creates a “new” SGL that already exists as an active lead within the marketing automation platform). In addition, sales must record the lead source, typically by selecting from a drop-down menu that includes digital, non-digital, direct and non-direct sources (e.g. cold call, referral, trade show, Web site, billboard, advertising). Sales operations must provide guidance to sales reps on each menu choice and the importance of accuracy, and then review the choices at least quarterly to ensure relevance and understanding.

  • Opportunity management. As a lead is converted to an opportunity and moves through the sales process, sales operations must ensure that a record of prior interactions remains associated with the contact and/or the opportunity. Marketing may deliver specific activities designed to help accelerate buyers through the sales process (e.g. pipeline acceleration); the SFA platform must provide the ability to associate specific marketing actions with an opportunity and a contact, such as responses to marketing programs or Web site activity. Sales operations also must work with marketing operations to establish timeframes within which a response to a marketing tactic can be deemed to have exerted influence and to associate a specific action with a selling opportunity. For example, evidence that a prospect interacted with a sales rep at a trade show several years ago isn’t enough to establish marketing influence, especially if no significant interaction has taken place since. Finally, sales operations must deliver metrics and insight into pipeline dynamics (e.g. cycle time by stage, stalled or inactive deals, win rates, number and type of touches) for opportunities that have been touched by marketing.

  • Data governance. The foundation of any effort to collect and analyze marketing influence is accurate and consistent data. When information moves from one system to another, or when it is entered or modified by users, there can be duplication and data errors. De-duplication mechanisms and streamlining data entry through automation can decrease the likelihood of error. Elements that can be auto-populated include industry codes, address information, phone numbers, email addresses, parent/child hierarchy relationships and current product/service portfolio for customers.

  • Communication and compliance. Sales operations must collaborate with marketing operations to communicate the value of tracking marketing influence and address any misperceptions, concerns or lack of compliance within the sales organization. It is essential to identify knowledge and skill gaps that may be preventing adherence with procedures or inaccurate data entry, and then address these through ongoing training and education. First-line sales managers are especially important and may require extra training to assume a leading role that ensures team and individual alignment. Sales operations must be prepared to monitor process adherence, then showcase successes and leverage lessons learned to continuously improve the accuracy of the data and the resulting impact on sales results. 

The Sirius Decision

Many sales leaders and sales reps remain skeptical about the value and impact of marketing influence or treat this as an “either/or” situation where it’s either sales or marketing that gets credit for winning the deal. Sales operations and marketing operations must acknowledge that all of their efforts to gain insight into the productivity of the organization’s revenue-producing functions are mutually beneficial, and they should collaborate on an ongoing, iterative process of improvement; the better the data provided by sales, the more effectively marketing can fine-tune its efforts, freeing up sales reps to spend more time working directly with customers and engaging prospects.