The relationship between sales and marketing within many organisations can be difficult. These two key branches of any business generally have different core objectives and different ways of achieving them. They frequently work in silos and when they do speak to one another, there is often discord.

Marketers become irritated when salespeople pick up the phone to call leads when they are not yet ready. Yet no sales person in their right mind would ever sit on a lead – it’s against their culture. They get angry when the marketing department fails to provide them with the information.

On the other hand, neglecting the marketing side can mean missed opportunities to maximise sales. Prospects must be nurtured and not approached too soon.

This unhappy situation can result in an ever-widening communications gap and a mutual lack of understanding. It can even damage the organisation’s business, harming its return on investment and overall growth. But, it’s important to remember both teams are, in reality, working towards an identical goal – so how can a business get them singing from the same song sheet?

For the past few years, the words ‘marketing automation’ have been music to the ears of companies suffering from this rivalry. The technology, for example in the case of Salesforce’s Pardot and Salesforce, integrates with a CRM system and the bi-directional synchronisation between the two systems means that both platforms talk to one another and update information accordingly.

In this way, marketing automation bridges the gap, allowing marketers to nurture leads and send messages and then when they decide, they can pass them over to sales.  If necessary, they can do this with certain prequalification processes in place or thresholds.

Marketing automation can record key data about a target audience such as how a visitor reached a website, which emails they opened, what links they clicked on within that email and what files they accessed. By synchronising this data with a CRM system, the sales team will get comprehensive insights into a prospect’s interest so they can be more targeted in their communications and content strategy.

Big data also has a role in uniting the two disciplines. In the past, marketing automation was often described as a way to reach prospective customers more easily, now with big data it has become more about reaching them more intelligently. However, the technology is only smart if used smartly. Sales and marketing must work together to make sure this is the case, defining target buyer personas, setting up a lead scoring and grading system for example.

Businesses still need a clear definition of who is buying their products or services. It will help to integrate all web forms with marketing automation to enable the collection of enough data to segment the database. But it’s also essential to remember that a prospect can be easily put off if they have to fill in too many forms just to see something on a website.

However, highly segmented, tailored and personalised an approach, it won’t work if the recipient is not interested – we now all get hundreds of emails in our inbox that we don’t act upon, after all.  Now, it’s all about looking at the patterns, analysing what a prospect has done and customising the message accordingly. At the moment, this analysis will require further software, but marketing automation is evolving all the time and no doubt this is the direction it’s going.

However, knowing that the technologies talk together is a real start. All being well, the sales and marketing teams will follow on and take up the conversation.