The State of Sales and Marketing: Is Technology to Blame?
There’s never been a time when sales and marketing have had more tools at their disposal. And, if you believe the people who responded to our annual Sales and Marketing Sentiment Study, there’s never been a time when sales and marketing have been unhappier with those tools and the results they are getting from them. Today, we’ve released our study, which asks sales and marketing pros the same sets of questions. We compiled the answers, then split them out between sales and marketing. The differences and similarities between the two sides can be striking. This year, we have the advantage of comparing the results against past results, which allows us to see trends. And boy – did those trends ever surprise us. In nearly every case, satisfaction with technology had dropped. The most straightforward questions put it quite plainly: “How satisfied are you with your current solution?” In 2015, 36.5 percent of the respondents replied in a positive way (i.e., they were satisfied or very satisfied), while 28.7 percent replied negatively (they were dissatisfied or somewhat dissatisfied). This year, things took a turn for the worse: only 30.4 percent responded positively, while 31.7 percent responded negatively. The downward shift in sentiment was more pronounced for sales than for marketing. That shift was echoed throughout the study. Sales/marketing alignment became worse (respondents reporting they were fully aligned or somewhat aligned dropped from 71.9 percent to 67.1 percent), sales automation went backward (companies reporting fully-manual processes leapt from 11.9 percent to 15.7 percent), the percentage of companies saying 75 percent or more of their sales and marketing processes were fully automated fell by half (from 12.9 percent to 6.5 percent). Data became more siloed, and analytics has less impact. Perhaps the biggest indicator of misalignment was the question about goal attainment. We asked, “How effective is your sales and marketing team at achieving sales goals?” The aggregate positive number actually ticked up, from 74.5 percent to 77.5 percent in 2016. But the split told the real story: Sales’ assessment was much lower, and trended down in 2016, while marketing’s view was much more optimistic and ballooned by almost eight percentage points on 2016. What the heck is going on here? In part, the study reveals some of the common issues driving sales and marketing farther apart: differing goals, separate technology, and a tendency to point fingers at each other when things go amiss rather than working together as a unified team. Demographically, the respondents were slightly more likely to come from larger companies than the previous year, which suggests that these issues, many of which involve communication, can be compounded within larger organizations with more complex hierarchies. And there’s little doubt that part of the issue here is that sales and marketing organizations are under greater pressure than ever, and the ways they did things in 2016 aren’t working as well as they did in 2015. But there’s something else at work here: we are living in an era where the sheer preponderance of technology may be causing us to sell and market worse even as it’s leading us to believe we’re equipped to sell better. According to the most recent study by cloud security vendor Netskope, the average enterprise-level company used 935 cloud applications in June of this year. Certainly, not all of these are sales or marketing applications. But since that number has spiked in recent years – ballooning from just 397 in January of 2014 – in many organizations there is no time for sales and marketing leaders to identify the best of these tools and the best ways of using them together. Pity the poor IT organization, which has to come in and clean up the mess wrought by this proliferation of applications and the resulting re-silo’ing of data. This has led to what Node founder and CEO Falon Fatemi described as “the Rise of the Sales and Marketing Franken-Stack” in a dead-on-target Forbes article. Organizations are trying to improve productivity and solve communications problems with a volley of point solutions, one after another, that are only complicating the lives of sales and marketing and forcing them to deal with data integration and other issues on the fly. Drop this rapidly emerging technical problem into the already volatile sales and marketing mix, and the result can only be bad. No wonder sales and marketers’ satisfaction with each other has fallen. Our study showed the number of sales people who were “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with marketing performance fell from 35.3 percent in 2015 to 23.5 percent in 2016, while the percentage of marketers said they were “very satisfied” or “satisfied” toppled from 41.5 percent to 31.1 percent. That’s over a 10-point drop in just a year. What can you do to beat these trends? First, take an accurate look at what you’re using for sales and marketing, and simplify. Burying people under technology – even technology that they may have brought in themselves – becomes counterproductive. Next back up and try to understand the strategic needs of your sales and marketing teams, and try to map the ways data must flow from function to function. Does your technology permit that flow, or does it impede it? Does it force important data into cul de sacs or into systems that require manual intervention to share it? And do the sales and marketing applications you use include features to make that flow from application to application and from team member to team member happen automatically? If the answer is no, you should look into some alternatives (we could suggest you start here, for example). We all know that sales and marketing need to work toward the same objectives, and they should work with tools that help them work together. If businesses can take the steps that would improve the numbers in next year’s study, they’ll find their sales numbers will change for the better, too.