Why Should Sales Care About Marketing Automation?

“Why should sales care about marketing automation?”  

As the Director of Institutional Sales Operations at The Princeton Review and with 7+ years in the sales and marketing operations industry, this is a question I’ve been asked time and time again.

I usually answer this question with a question: “Do you have large amounts of unqualified leads being assigned to your sales team, forcing them to waste time qualifying them?” 

If the answer is yes, my recommendation is simple — the sales team should be working with the marketing team to develop a lead nurturing program, so that incoming prospects will be more qualified and in a buyers frame of mind prior to being turned over to the sales team.

Improve Lead Quality

“Why are my sales reps getting so many unqualified leads from marketing?” 

This is a question no marketing team wants to answer.  

Sales teams love receiving leads, but they hate working unqualified ones, as it’s a huge waste of time. They would much prefer to have all prospects who are sent to the sales team be ready to buy immediately. Preferably, they’re the perfect customer with lots of money, too.

While that’s a great dream, let’s come back down to reality.

If the sales team is only getting 100% qualified leads, then the criteria for what should be sent from marketing to sales is a bit too strict and should be relaxed. On the other hand, if the sales team is receiving a huge amount of completely unqualified leads that don’t want to have a sales conversation, we have a lead nurturing problem.

So what can we do about this?  

Let’s take a closer look at the marketing funnel, and what it should accomplish.

Move Prospects Through the Marketing and Sales Funnel

A basic marketing funnel has three parts.

  • Visitor: A prospect has interacted with our company, but we don’t yet have any other personally identifiable information on them except for IP address.
  • Marketing Lead (ML): We have been provided with some personally identifiable information, like an email, about the prospect. However, they are not ready to engage in a conversation with the sales team, or they don’t yet meet the criteria for passing a lead to sales.
  • Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL): We’ve obtained enough information about the prospect to meet our criteria for passing a lead to the sales team, and the prospect is potentially ready to engage in a sales conversation.

Various methods will introduce prospects to different parts of the marketing funnel. For example, you may have a section on your website where people can sign up to receive notifications when new blog content is posted. They’re only signing up using an email address, so they enter the marketing funnel as a Marketing Lead (ML). However, in some of your blogs, you reference a piece of content that includes a feature comparison tool for your product. The feature comparison tool is a gated piece of content, so on the form, the prospect provides some additional information about themselves, like their name.

In general, those seeking information about different product features may be exhibiting buying signals, and it may be close to the right time to put those prospects in touch with the sales team. However, if you send those prospects immediately to sales, they might not be ready to have that conversation yet.  

Create a Personalized Experience

Nurturing leads will help move the prospect smoothly through the marketing funnel, allowing the prospect to learn more information about your company, and warming them up to be open to having a conversation with the sales team about your product. 

It also allows your company to slowly gather more information about the prospect via progressive profiling, and allows the company to build a more complete picture about the prospect so that the sales team can have a personalized conversation with them.

The Moment My Sales Team Started Caring About Marketing Automation

My sales team is now completely bought in on the value of marketing automation, but it wasn’t always that way. It took some time to show them how automated lead nurturing could actually help them.

To get their buy in on this new process, the marketing team started by meeting with the sales team to discuss the goals for a new nurture plan, and what they were looking to accomplish after the prospects had completed the nurture program. This alignment help us us identify the criteria required for sales to have a productive conversation with the prospect, and allowed marketing to map out a logical customer journey that we could support with various pieces of collateral. 

Once the plan was approved by both sides, the marketing team got to work building this in our marketing automation platform, Salesforce Pardot.

How to nurture leads in Pardot

Engagement Studio is the perfect tool for nurturing leads. What process did the marketing team take to create an Engagement Studio program for nurturing these leads?

  1. We started by creating a segmentation list in Pardot that was used for enrolling prospects into the Engagement Studio nurture program.
  2. From there, we created and identified lists in Pardot that contained prospects that should not be receiving this Engagement Studio program. We used this list as a suppression list.
  3. Next, we used completion actions on each Top of Funnel (ToFu) or Middle of Funnel (MoFu) form that we decided should be included to enroll prospects in this nurture program, which added the prospects to your newly created segmentation list.
  4. We then created the email templates that would be sent to prospects at specific stages during the nurture process.
  5. Create a new Engagement Studio program. Add your lists, both enrollment and suppression. 
  6. Identify the business days and hours that you wish to send the emails from Engagement Studio, select the time zone, and determine whether you’d like prospects to enter the program more than once.
  7. Then it was time to start building out the Engagement Studio program, using our enrollment and suppression lists, email templates, and email sending criteria (this is the fun part).  
  8. Finally, once we completed the Engagement Studio Program, we made sure to test the program in the Test tab to ensure the program worked as we envisioned.

In this Engagement Studio program, the marketing team nurtured leads via a series of emails which contained calls to action (CTA) that asked the prospect to download additional content. The marketing team utilized progressive profiling to gather additional information about the prospect during this journey, and if the prospect completed the entire program, they were assigned to the sales team for further follow up.  

The sales team was extremely pleased with the prospects being assigned to them, as these prospects already had a good understanding about the company and what it could do for their business, and were interested in hearing about what those next steps in the buying process looked like. The sales team also could spend more time on the qualification calls speaking to the prospects about their specific pain points, rather than wasting time gathering basic information like their company name, as that information was already gathered during the nurture process.   

Increase Productivity and Close More Deals

Nurturing leads with Engagement Studio will help marketing provide sales with qualified, highly engaged prospects who are ready to have a sales conversation. By nurturing the leads, the marketing team can ensure that prospects have received appropriate information prior to a sales conversation and have taken actions which demonstrate buying signals. The sales team will spend less time trying to gather basic information in order to qualify prospects, and instead can spend their time having quality conversations with prospects instead.

So, why should sales care about marketing automation? It will help improve their lead quality, accelerate the marketing and sales funnel, drive personalized experiences, and ultimately, help them close more deals.

To learn more about how to build Engagement Studio programs in Pardot to qualify leads, visit Trailhead and check out the Pardot Lead Nurturing for Pardot Lightning App module.