David Kirkpatrick

Sales and Marketing: The technology behind CRM

Customer relationship management (CRM) is defined a number of different ways. However, the most expansive definition takes a total end-to-end look at every interaction a person has with a company from simply becoming aware of the company at the very top of the sales funnel, all the way through customer service contact after the final conversion to a closed deal.

With a complex sale, many personal touch points in customer relationship management are present – such as directly answering a question posted on social media or an online forum. At the same time, the real engine driving CRM and keeping prospects moving through the sales funnel is technology.

The first technology that comes to mind is CRM software, such as Salesforce.com or Microsoft Dynamics. However, CRM technology potentially includes multiple pieces including email software and marketing automation (MA) solutions.

Paul Greenberg, Managing Principle, The 56 Group, LLC, and author of CRM at the Speed of Light, said although there are some technology suites that attempt to provide these solutions through the entire sales cycle, it is much more common for companies to integrate CRM technology from more than one vendor.

A common example is utilizing marketing automation software on the Marketing side of the funnel from one vendor and integrating that piece with CRM software from another vendor for the Sales side of the funnel, with a common database providing records on each prospect or customer for both pieces of software.

Paul said this creates something of a challenge because a number of different areas in the company are involved in implementing, and utilizing, CRM technology.

Marketing, Sales (and IT) alignment

Marketing and Sales alignment should be a goal for any company to improve the efficiency of the entire complex sale process Bringing multiple pieces of technology into the sales funnel adds another element within the company – the information technology department.

“Who owns [CRM technology] is a matter of the internal culture of a company,” Paul explained. “Could it be joint ownership between two departments? It could be, as we’re seeing increasingly.”

He added, “But, we’re seeing the CMOs are starting to own a lot of IT budgets, so it could be the CMO that owns that [technology].”

At the same time, the IT department traditionally has controlled technology pieces, so the CIO could possibly own the CRM technology, allocate usage, and make functional decisions based on the business outcomes Marketing and Sales are looking for in using CRM tech.

The role of marketing automation

Linda Athans, Marketing Manager, Tribridge, stated the size of the company might dictate how many pieces of CRM technology are deployed.

“Ideally, your CRM can ‘do it all,’” she said, “but depending on your organization’s size and how it uses its CRM application, additional MA integration may be necessary to handle specific tasks.”

She mentioned a few areas where MA software can help Marketing:

  • Automatically sending  large quantities of emails
  • Performing split testing on campaigns, such as email subject lines or copy
  • Providing performance tracking and analytics on campaigns

Heidi Melin, CMO, Eloqua, obviously has a certain amount of vested interest as a MA software vendor, and she pointed out the value of MA for marketers.

“By integrating marketing automation with CRM [software], companies are able to get a better picture of their buyers and a better picture of how their marketing investments impact their revenue,” Heidi said. “That’s an area where companies are understanding that they can get a competitive advantage in tying a marketing automation solution into their existing CRM implementation to get more out of their investments.”

Brian Vellmure, Principal and Founder, Initium LLC/Innovantage International, added another advantage of bringing more than just CRM software into the customer relationship management technology picture: The nature of B2B sales has changed in recent years. Before, the sales team had a great deal of control over the information flow and education of prospects.

Now, according to Forrester analyst Lori Wizdo, two-thirds to 90% of the buying cycle is completed before a B2B buyer ever speaks with a sales rep.

Marketing automation helps the marketing team track prospects’ behavior, such as website visits and social media interaction, and then respond to that behavior with what the prospect is looking for, at the time they are looking for it and on the channel where they are looking.

“Then, [Marketing] offers an invitation to the next place on the prospect’s journey. I think that’s where marketing automation comes into play,” Brian explained.

How does your company handle CRM technology? What department “owns” each technology piece? We’d love to hear your thoughts and insights in the comments section.

Related Resources:

CRM How-to: Tactics on Marketing/IT alignment, database strategy and integrating social media data

Marketing Research Chart: Social CRM is increasingly important for managing social customer relationships

Defining CRM: Thoughts from three experts

How Technology on the Trade Show Floor Can Help Your Sales Team Work Smarter and Sell More

Lead Nurturing: 9 questions answered on lead qualification, nurturing, and Marketing-Sales alignment

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Marketing Strategy



  1. February 18th, 2013 at 07:53 | #1

    I agree with Linda Athans about the company size really matters the bigger the company the hard to assign an user to the CRM.

    In our particular case marketing own the CRM until a lead has been convert to a business opportunity then is sales who take on that lead and start to follow up.

    I think is about how well you CRM supports your marketing efforts. If you CRM can provide a good way to track how you generate leads (integrate with landing pages, email marketing, etc) then you can split who owns each section of you software. If your CRM only allows to track opportunities and deals then its all about sales.

  2. February 26th, 2013 at 09:58 | #2

    The primary business application of CRM systems should be to reduce work load and improve the quality of the output. This should be and remain a central objective in CRM management. As user expectations climb and social networks flourish, it seems CRM systems will need to evolve and become more intuitive and in line with the sales people using them – this is why I believe that proven sales methodologies embedded in the front end is essential.

    I understand Linda’s point that depending on an organisation’s size and how it uses its CRM application depends on the necessity for MA integration, however, I do believe that the CRM should be the go-to tool that sales teams use to increase productivity and achieve business goals. The key thing to remember is that technology allows us to integrate and embed the right applications to do the job at hand, which Heidi quite rightly points out. This is the case now more than ever with the increasing adoption of mobile and tablet devices.

    Another area that is crucial to corporate sales success is the integration of sales training methodologies in CRM. The core functionality of CRM should deliver personal value to the sales rep. Quality user experience needs to be at the heart of CRM systems in order to reach objectives. For me, the question isn’t who’s managing the CRM, but how is it being managed and what business objectives are being met?

  3. April 23rd, 2013 at 05:37 | #3

    I guess that CRM should be managed as Conrado said: first it should be handled by the marketing department, and then when sales opportunities come along, it should pass to the sales department, but i understand that this modus operandi may change according to the size of the company and the number of customers.

  1. March 12th, 2013 at 12:09 | #1
  2. March 28th, 2013 at 04:02 | #2