You Have a System of Record, but How Good Is Your System of Action?

September 8, 2015 Appirio

By Chris Bucholtz


Specialization is a good thing — it’s helped us evolve from our primitive beginnings to the modern society we have today. The industrial revolution, the information revolution, and the emerging energy revolution are all due in part to people becoming more and more specialized in their job roles.

This specialization is not limited to people in manufacturing, R&D, or high-tech. It has also taken place in the world of sales and marketing. The generic salesman has evolved into a set of distinct sales roles, each with its own specific duties, target audience, and sales objectives. Marketing has become similarly specialized, splitting between communications and lead generation, and splitting further along PR, AR, and inbound and outbound marketing roles.

While this leads to massive gains in productivity, it can also create a somewhat disjointed view of the organization as a whole. Just as specialized workers on the Ford assembly line had little visibility into the business’s overall strategy, sales and marketing teams focusing on their specialized roles can lose sight of the bigger picture. That’s what leads to what’s generically called sales and marketing misalignment, but what is in reality, a set of broken processes — broken by the pressures of specialization.

Ironically, the technology intended to help these specialized roles tends to reinforce the divisions between the various parts of the sales and marketing team. Although CRM is often sold as something for sales, marketing, and support, the reality is that it often becomes the “property” of sales. Meanwhile, marketing automation tools that far outstrip the capabilities of what’s in CRM are commanding the attention of marketers. Other, more niche applications are also available for managing, measuring, and manipulating data for various roles in sales and marketing. The SaaS era has lowered the barrier to entry, meaning that these can be purchased and deployed with little upfront cost — and often, little upfront planning. The result can be a set of applications that hard-wires misalignment into your sales and marketing organization.

How do you overcome that? By rationalizing your sales and marketing organization around 2 basic technology systems — a system of record and a system of action — and making sure they are as tightly integrated as possible. Then, make sure that the sales and marketing organization understands that any additional technologies added to this mix must integrate and allow every participant in the sales and marketing organization to use its data.

CRM is that system of record, and it has been for many years. Capturing data about customers in one place is critical, and the recent trend toward social CRM is merely the latest manifestation of the need to create as complete a history of each customer as possible.

But what do you then do with that data? CRM is not the solution by itself; just having the information doesn’t mean you know what to do with it. The system of action should take you from lead to money (which, uncoincidentally, is the name of CallidusCloud’s suite of applications designed to accelerate the sales and marketing process). These are systems that not only help in the sales process (as sales enablement, CPQ, and CLM do), but provide an infrastructure for understanding sales performance (like compensation management) and include marketing automation tools that are useful for salespeople as well as marketers.

It’s hard to piece these systems together without falling into the trap that so many companies have fallen victim to in the past. While it can be done, it can also be expensive and time-consuming. The best approach is to find a system of record, a system of action, and a trusted advisor who can help you verify your choices and work with you to ensure that your sales and marketing teams are equipped with an infrastructure that encourages alignment rather than just reinforcing it.

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