In his post, David suggested that the recent trend of marketing playing a larger role deeper into the sales funnel may have peaked, and that technology solutions now exist that enable salespeople to take a more active role earlier in the buying process. As one example, David pointed to a solution offered by MDCDOT, which gives marketing automation functions to sales reps.
Shortly after David's post was published, Direct Marketing News reported that Salesforce.com is enhancing its Sales Cloud offering to put marketing capabilities into the hands of sales reps. Salesforce has already released a tool that combines sales-stage data from the CRM system with behavioral marketing data. This will enable sales reps to better understand how a lead is progressing through the buying cycle. In the second half of 2015, Salesforce will release an offering that will enable sales reps to execute e-mail campaigns using marketing-approved templates, with no additional marketing involvement or approval needed.
David Raab speculated that these types of technology tools could enable salespeople to nurture leads themselves and eventually push marketing back to its more traditional role. He doesn't argue that this change should happen, but rather that it could happen, especially given the tension that still exists between marketing and sales in some organizations. Given the market reach of Salesforce, its recent product moves makes this kind of change more likely.
On a deeper level, these developments raise the sometimes contentious issue of how B2B companies should organize demand generation efforts and allocate responsibilities between marketing and sales. As I wrote in an earlier post, there are now two distinct paradigms of B2B demand generation. Advocates of the marketing-centric paradigm contend that the optimal approach is to expand the role of marketing in lead acquisition and lead nurturing. According to its proponents, this approach has two main advantages:
- It fits better with how most business buyers now prefer to learn about business issues and possible solutions.
- It enables companies to use their demand generation resources more efficiently.
In contrast, the sales methodology paradigm emphasizes the role of sales reps in the demand generation process. Advocates of this approach contend that salespeople should engage with early-stage buyers and use disruptive insights to "shape" how they are thinking about business issues and challenges.
The reality is that B2B demand generation is more varied, complex, and "messy" than it is often portrayed, and therefore neither of these approaches is right for all companies. We now know, for example, that the most effective lead nurturing programs include both content-based communications and person-to-person communications. Many companies rely on marketing to handle most of the content-based communications and on sales reps to handle the person-to-person communications. So, most highly-effective lead nurturing programs involve both marketing and sales.
Market structure and dynamics also play an important role in determining the optimal way to structure demand generation efforts. For example, if your company has a relatively small universe of target prospects, it may be appropriate to have your salespeople take the lead in lead acquisition and lead nurturing. On the other hand, if your company has a large universe of potential customers, you will probably find that marketing should play the dominant role in lead generation.
The important point here is that an optimized demand generation system requires a closely coordinated effort by both marketers and salespeople. In fact, marketing activities and sales activities are interdependent components of a single demand generation process, and in many companies the lines between some marketing responsibilities and some sales responsibilities are becoming less and less clear. The increasing interdependence of marketing and sales constitutes a strong argument for integrating the two functions at the leadership level.