Marketing Automation for Sales Development: An Essential for Revenue Success



Marketing automation isn’t just for marketing. As a sales leader or rep, marketing automation is fundamental to understanding your prospects’ behaviors, leveraging them in your follow-ups, and making the right connections.

In my experience as the Director of Enterprise Sales Development at Marketo, I’ve seen firsthand how marketing automation generates more quality leads and contacts that turn into great sales opportunities. In this blog, I’ll share three key areas in which sales uses marketing automation for success:

1. Lead Scoring and Collaboration

Sales and marketing alignment is critical on many levels, but ultimately, it’s essential to have the same vision for what classifies a “hot” prospect and what activities qualify a sales-ready lead, otherwise known as a marketing qualified lead (MQL).  This is a critical piece of the puzzle that allows the sales team to focus on the more qualified contacts while your marketing team works on nurturing the rest of the leads.

Lead scoring, which is set up in your marketing automation platform, gives you a view of all the different activities that prospects have completed and how they have engaged with you across different channels. It enables you to personalize and customize each engagement with these leads during your follow-up.

Lead scoring should be agreed upon by both sales and marketing and can help you determine a prospect’s sales-readiness. Prospects can be scored based on their demographics, firmographics, content engagement, behavior, and interest. Once a specific score has been reached, it triggers a new MQL and an email alert is sent to sales. This ensures that all of the stakeholders for leads or contacts are notified when they become new MQLs and can take action in a timely manner.

As a sales rep, what you do with this information and how you leverage it in your follow-up can really make the difference in building relationships with your leads. It can provide you with a leg up on your competition as well as give you a deeper understanding of which leads meet the qualifications of your highest converters. Communicating with them increases both ongoing engagement and saves you and your team time chasing down inopportune leads.

2. Establish SLAs and a Complete Follow-Up Cadence

Leads are expensive for marketing to generate and therefore should be treated like gold. Having an agreed upon timeframe for follow-up can ensure that each lead that marketing is driving is being followed up on quickly and thoroughly. This is where service-level agreements, or SLAs, come into play.  Having SLAs in place along with the aforementioned lead scoring can accelerate and increase your lead-to-opportunity ratio and provide a systematic and repeatable process for follow up.

At Marketo, our current agreed-upon SLA for any MQL is 24hrs. If there is no action in this time frame from sales, a follow-up email alert sent to the SDR to remind them of the important lead that needs attention. If there is still no response, the SDR’s manager is also alerted to ensure that no leads get left behind. The exact timing and stakeholders notified will vary based on your market segment, but the idea of having a process in place is paramount to your success.

Having a repeatable follow-up cadence in place is also important to ensure persistent and consistent lead follow-up. These prospects should also be engaged with valuable content, calls, and emails for at least 15 days after they become an MQL to continue to build the relationship. And with lead nurturing streams created by marketing in your marketing automation solution, you can keep your solution top of mind for your prospects. At Marketo, we use our own platform to do just that. Putting a lead into a nurture stream after we have made our follow-up attempts allows us to continue to drive our messaging and keeps our prospects informed and educated on topics that our solution addresses.

A good best practice is to make sure you follow-up again (whether asked to or not) 30, 60, and even 90 days later. Chances are, the priorities and requirements were not 100% baked when the lead first became an MQL, but many times you may find gold again later on in the cycle. You can start the conversation by mentioning the recent follow-up attempts and remind them of their initial interest. Many leads or contacts simply forget these interactions, so this step serves as a good reinforcement.

3. Account-Based Marketing for Outbound Prospecting

Contrary to what you might have thought, B2B sales isn’t all about working with incoming leads. There also needs to be a focus on driving outbound opportunities as well.

Using account-based marketing (ABM) allows your sales team to identify and target accounts with the greatest revenue potential, engage them so they move more quickly through the sales funnel, and easily measure the success in terms of revenue won. This account-centric strategy has become a staple for my team at Marketo. We’re able to view any and all incoming leads and their relative account scores, allowing us to prioritize follow-up based on higher account scores.

As noted in the SLA section above, consistently following up for least 15 days, but no more than 30, is critical to ensuring that each outbound target prospect is approached with valuable messages and emails, but not completely oversaturated either. Research from memoryBlue shows that prospects are more likely to respond to your efforts after the 7th or 9th try and not during your 2nd or 3rd try, which is what most salespeople tend to do. Another best practice is to make sure you’re following your prospects on their respective social channels for a complete view of what is important to them, what they are responsible for in their job roles, and other triggers that you can leverage in your follow-up.

There’s more to marketing automation than just benefitting marketers, and much more than I can cover in this blog. However, I hope these three key benefits help you understand how to drive collaboration and success for your sales team with marketing automation.

Is your sales team currently using a marketing automation platform? I’d love to hear your success stories in the comments below.