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Why data means salespeople need to be more like movie directors

Let’s face it - your sales team is statistically likely to be lagging behind in terms of their use of technology. They’re most likely to be applying more relationship driven sales methods than data-driven - especially if your hiring pool includes salespeople with more than 10 years experience in sales. The reason for this is that digital technology has been available to Sales for years, but the systems and processes to use the technology in your sales process has been difficult to apply. Altify claim there’s a 13% retention rate on sales training - that means, essentially, that even if you were to train the sales team to follow your own unique sales system or methodology the likelihood is that after training is complete, most of your salespeople will put the manuals on the shelf and do what they were doing before. The same is true of your CRM - statistically salespeople spending too much time on data entry and not enough on sales. From 'The State of Inbound', a report commissioned by Hubspot:

  • 18% of salespeople don't know what a CRM is. (HubSpot, 2017)
  • 23% of salespeople cite manual data entry as the biggest challenge using their existing CRM. (HubSpot, 2017)
  • 17% of salespeople cite lack of integration with other tools as the biggest challenge using their existing CRM. (HubSpot, 2017)
  • 40% of salespeople still use informal means such as Microsoft Excel or Outlook to store its lead and customer data. (HubSpot, 2016)
  • 32% of salespeople are spending an hour or more on data entry each and every day. (HubSpot, 2017)
  • Nearly half (45%) of companies are using some form of CRM to store lead data, and 84% of those companies have a standard in place for scoring lead quality. (DMN News, 2014) (Source:

A lot of salespeople are just leaving the CRM to take care of itself and they’re relying on their own tracking systems - in most cases, people are still using Excel spreadsheets, some are using the likes of Evernote, and many are still using notebooks and a pen. Just like there are born marketers, there are born salespeople. Equally, marketers are excelling these days in ways that couldn’t have been imagined 10 years ago. The main difference between sales and marketing today is that one is using data in a way that far exceeds the other. There are thousands of technologies to choose from to add to your sales and marketing stacks, but the trend over the past 5 years has been for marketers to avail fully of this technology, while sales remain a little cautious to move beyond the common CRM and a traditional sales approach - especially in B2B sales. This is creating an imbalance in most sales organisations. Don’t think the customer hasn’t noticed! Being handed off to sales sometimes feels like starting all over to a customer - explaining the same problems and getting the same lines they’ve heard before from marketing. It’s the sales people who are lagging behind marketing in their use of technology. The lack of digital data to improve the customer experience on the sales side means customers are suffering the consequences, and many businesses are losing out to competitors who can demonstrate even a little coherence between marketing and sales when it comes to the customer experience.

Storytelling and data

The marketer’s advantage today is in their technical ability to tie together a story or narrative for a customer, providing a user experience that reduces friction in the buyer journey. The marketers ‘not-so-secret-weapon' is data. Marketers have begun to master the use of data in marketing and they're learning by using an analytical approach to improve - iteratively. For better or worse, marketers are using our data to effectively influence our behaviour over time.

Mount Arbor was created to help sales organisations bridge the knowledge gap between sales and marketing when it comes to the use of data, and to find creative and practical ways to design and optimise unique sales systems that positively affect revenue and profit in measurable, predictable ways. Mount Arbor acts as a bridge between marketing and sales for optimal return on investment (ROI). Contact us for a free consultation on how to optimise your sales system.

When someone asks the challenging question “Are you saying technology can do what I do in sales?”, we know there’s another question behind that one - “Are you trying to replace salespeople with digital technology?”. The answer is that this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Just like marketers are now equipped with the tools they need to create more efficient and valuable systems for their business, we are trying to create sales systems that augment what salespeople do every day - which is to build relationships and offer value to a customer at every step, so those relationships last a long time and are commercially and economically valuable for your business. Business owners and experienced sales leaders often challenge us with the human question:

"How do you digitise what I do as a salesperson? You can’t digitise sales, or replace the relationships I build with technology."

If you’ll cast your minds back a bit, if you're over 40 you’ll remember that digital marketing was considered little more than a fancy new toy by ‘real marketers' 10 years ago. When we started out in digital marketing, our first challenge was to convince a business owner to invest in data and a digital experience for their customers. Digital marketers operated in their own little corner, while the real marketers spent millions on branding and PR campaigns. Look how that’s changed. At Mount Arbor we’ve seen the changes that have occurred in the past 5 years in Sales. A similar shift is taking place in the way businesses are transforming their sales systems to be more data-driven. Early adopters are showing the way and getting the most benefits - meaning their older, slower competitors are losing out. The biggest change for the customer has been a blurring of the boundary between sales and marketing. While typically sales and marketing teams remain separate, there’s a crossover and common ground in the digital domain that means it is perfectly natural for a marketing person to end up in sales, and vice versa. That wasn’t always true - and some would say it’s still not a good idea! Many salespeople are still convinced that there’s a big difference between actually speaking to the customer and the efforts that Marketing put in to get the same person’s attention in the first place. But again, the customer experiences the buyer journey without knowledge of whether they’re speaking to a salesperson or a marketing person - it’s all the same to them at the end of the day. The problem many businesses face is that the bridge between the two disciplines of sales and marketing is poorly defined and it’s difficult to figure out exactly how to transition a customer smoothly from department to department without disrupting the customer’s journey and losing some leads along the way.

What's the story?


At Mount Arbor what we’ve discovered is that in order for a sales system to be optimal, two things must be carried over from the marketing side to the sales side for every customer.

  1. The Story
  2. The Data

The best way to create a consistent experience for the customer is to effectively avail of CRM technology (and integrated applications) with standard processes and systems that everyone follows. Using your CRM to seamlessly pass your customer from marketing to sales - at scale - can only be done if you have systems and processes in place to harness data. You also need to be able to apply your knowledge in a way that creates a coherent story for your customer throughout their journey with you.

Current thinking in marketing is focused on data and storytelling - for good reason. It is the most holistic way to anticipate and plan the buyer journey...

The Inbound Methodology

Inbound methodology focuses heavily on content, but not only that, it focuses on content in context. For example, good digital marketing will ensure that a prospect moving through the marketing funnel will see content appropriate to the stage the customer is at in the funnel. A browsing, uninterested prospect might have their head turned with an industry-focused ebook, while a candidate ready for handover to sales (an MQL) might be more inclined to download a feature comparison chart that shows where your product sits against competitors. So that’s marketing in context.



The easy way to create a winning strategy in marketing is to use content in context - that is, to use data and storytelling to create continuous, enjoyable storylines for the customer to follow as they become educated about your product and the value it offers. Today, Marketers are obsessed with data, and they’re increasingly aware that they must be aware of the overall story they are trying to tell a customer - the context of the customer they’re telling will inform them what part of the story to tell. In order to remain relevant and valuable to the buyer, salespeople must now learn how to incorporate data into their own interactions with customers, and not only that, they’ve got to pick up the story where marketing left off. There’s nothing worse than a change of pace in a story when it’s handed off to a bad storyteller halfway through. It would be like watching a movie where the first half is directed by Steven Spielberg, and the second half is directed by your 12-year-old sister.

Your customer is the star of their own movie

Think of the customer journey and your interactions with the customer like a movie made up of lots of different scenes. Your customer is the hero in this movie. Your sales and marketing team are guides along the way as the customer overcomes obstacles while they try to reach their destination. Your salespeople, in particular, are the critical characters who appear when the hero is most committed and there’s no turning back - they’re Yoda to your customer’s Luke Skywalker. When you’re imagining your movie, break down the scenes to get a better picture of what your hero experiences along the way. For example, in one early scene, our hero, the customer, downloads an ebook, and learns about ‘Trends in Sales Optimisation’. Next they’re ready to talk to a business development representative (BDR) about the challenges and goals they have - this is the part of the movie where the BDR fleshes out the character of your customer and makes it clear there’s a challenge ahead and our hero is going to need some help. At this point, our hero knows they can’t go ahead alone, so they enlist the help of some trusty sidekicks - maybe some technical advisors hop on a call and instruct our hero on some of the applications your technology offers to their particular challenge. Perhaps it’s time for the wise, elder salesperson, the Yoda of the group, to step in and offer the customer an assuring hand and a map to their success that they can rely upon in their journey to success. If this all sounds fanciful… good! At least it doesn’t sound complex or boring - because what we’re actually talking about here is equipping your sales team with data so they can weave a good yarn and make sure the customer remains engaged and interested for the entire buyer journey. Easier said than done! In our experience, with so many moving parts in a complex sales system, it helps to conceptualise the whole thing from the perspective of your customer, the hero - as if it’s a movie - with clever analytics in the background to tell you what’s working, and what’s not. Using a customer’s data, a marketer can tell when a prospect has moved from one stage in the funnel to another by analysing their downloads and behaviour patterns. At each stage, for example moving a customer from ‘attracted’ to ‘interested’, it’s possible to present the parts of the story most relevant to the customer at that stage. Each part of the story that you present is a scene in the movie.

The climax of your story

A buyer journey is the whole movie. Sales need to tell the second half of the story so there’s no drop off in experience for the customer. This is why Data and Story are the most important things to carry across from marketing to sales - they’re the thread that binds the whole experience. On their own the scenes are interesting enough. A download of an ebook is great - but left there the lead has no value - they’ve just downloaded an ebook and you might never see them again while they take up space in your CRM. A good sales system optimises the buyer journey so scenes are threaded together. Done right, everyone get’s a happy ending - and you get a sale! It pays to view all of your interactions over time, whether it’s sales or marketing having the conversation with your customer.  Try to think of your customer’s journey with you as a sequence, or a complete movie. When the data from sales and marketing are aligned, and the overall story that you tell is well understood by the entire team, Sales can help complete a compelling movie. The story you tell together brings the hero, your customer, through to the end of the buyer journey so your prospect feels like buying from you. It will help solve their problems, cure their pain and bring them success. For your sales team, using data and coherent storytelling in a well-designed sales system means you can measure, learn and improve every time you meet a new lead looking for you to guide them towards a purchase.