We’d all like to think our company has one team responsible for generating revenue, but in most organizations, sales and marketing teams do not work in concert to achieve the company’s objectives. They exist separately, communication between the two teams is usually informal and irregular, and their data is siloed in ways which make it impossible to share.

I suggest that you can integrate your sales and marketing teams effectively, by using inbound marketing and marketing automation, especially when combined into one approach which we call an Inbound Marketing and Automation system.

Lets begin by defining some terms:

Inbound Marketing: The phrase was invented by the company HubSpot and refers to the technique of “getting found” on the Internet. It relies on search engine optimization, social media marketing and pay-per-click advertising. In this paradigm, one spends – according to a HubSpot study – about 60% less to acquire a lead than one purchased via more traditional, “outbound” approaches like trade shows, published ads, or cold-calling.

Marketing Automation: Marketing automation uses technology to automate the oft-repeated, drudge-like tasks involved in many campaigns: email responses, answering requests for information, and sorting and sifting prospects to qualify them. Many potential technology solutions exist today, but caveat emptor: a fool with a tool is simply a person capable of making the same or greater errors, more quickly. (In case you need some help with the terminology, here’s a good glossary.)

Centralized Decision-Making Technologies: In its simplest form, this is a database designed to hold the sets of information which are to be shared across the organization. I read a blog post a while ago about “Centralized Decisioning Technology”. Halfway through the article, and manfully ignoring the author’s brutal treatment of English, I realized he had simply invented a new buzzword to describe the problem with which I began this post. A problem which has existed ever since we invented separate teams of marketers and salespeople, gave them jobs which rely on each other to be effective, and then didn’t give them a formal means of co-operating.

The author defined centralized decision-making technology as, “that which coordinates outbound and inbound marketing through a single system maintaining a comprehensive contact and response history”. The author thus considers the technology to be useful only when bridging a gap which exists only within the same department. I think the most exciting aspect of a centralized database is its ability to bring together different groups of people across disparate departments.

But I didn’t include the article here just to levy criticism. Indeed, the post cited a Unica study with some interesting statistics about centralized database adoption rates. If you’re going to adopt Inbound Marketing and Automation to help integrate your sales and marketing teams, this information will help you prepare for the project.

According to this study, “only 25% of marketers currently use centralized decision-making technology, while about 40% plan to.” I think we all know this is true. Not many companies share their data in this way; whether it’s intra- or inter-team, it tends to be siloed.

The study further says:

The top barriers preventing marketers from adopting centralized decision-making technology are:

  1. Not being internally ready (e.g., organizational structure, corporate culture, internal processes)


  • Financial (lack of budget)
  • IT-related issues only popped-up third with issues such as existing systems and data being too disparate
  • The difficulty of working with internal IT


Two other finance-related barriers, cost is too high and uncertain ROI, trailed difficulty in working with internal IT by two and seven percentage points, respectively.

To help you prepare for your project, let’s delve into the being, or not being, ready part.

Using tools, no matter how sophisticated, is more about the person and process using them than the tool. Give an idiot a high-powered circular-saw, and he’s going to do some damage to the workpiece and/or himself. But in the hands of a master craftsman, you get impressive results. Organizations which look at technology purely as a device, seldom derive real benefits from its deployment.

The technology does help – having a single shared database of leads, prospects and clients, and sharing access to that information across sales and marketing teams helps promote the whole concept and enable it. But it doesn’t work at all unless the whole organization is set up to use it properly.

How do you evaluate your company’s readiness to implement an inbound marketing automation system? You’re ready when…

  • The company’s executive team is committed to the concept of bringing the two teams together at a fundamental level. The top people in each team are openly in favour of the merger; publicly praise initiatives which bring the teams closer together and condemn derisive statements hurled by one group at the other.


  • The teams are attempting to work together without technology, where and when and how they can. Do the two teams talk to each other at all? Do the sales people, for example, provide feedback to the marketers regarding the quality of the leads in a constructive way, as opposed to the more usual, “the leads you give us are all useless.”
  • The company understands that tools are nice, but that the process by which the tool is used is more important. This means that tools can only be used well by people who (a) have been trained on their use, (b) have had their jobs revised to allow them to use the tool properly, and (c) have had their career path adjusted to show them how far they can go within the company if they succeed in mastering both the tool and the process which drives it.


The first thing to do to begin this process is to pin down the objectives the executive team has in mind behind the desire to integrate sales and marketing. If the goal is a realistic one, you can and should continue on. We’ve had teams tell us they want to integrate sales and marketing because they need a 300% improvement in sales and they must have it tomorrow. And it’s not the 300% that would scare us off; it’s the tomorrow part.

Your next step is to define your online marketing strategy. The subject is beyond the scope of this article, but suffice it to say that while most companies do have a comprehensive marketing strategy in place today; most of these do not cover the online aspects that well.

You then want to learn enough about the technology and techniques involved in Inbound Marketing and Marketing Automation, to select your toolset, design the system and then operate it. I recommend getting some help from experts in all of this.

Lastly, one of the benefits of using Inbound Marketing Automation is that it makes it possible to calculate the Return on Marketing Investment of every marketing campaign your company runs. Knowing the real ROI of marketing’s efforts is valuable because:

  1. You can finally stop spending money on campaigns which aren’t working and focus instead on the ones which are.


  • Marketing can be made to justify its existence in the same way that sales departments do – by making it prove it earned its budget.


Integrating sales and marketing teams can be made to work well. But you do have to make it an official goal and know what you want to achieve. And it has to be a top-down and bottom-up approach to get the right focus of effort and buy-in.

Image via Shutterstock

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