What Don Draper thinks about Exact Target/Salesforce

Email Service Provider (ESP) turned Digital Marketer ExactTarget was acquired by CRM/SFA juggernaut Salesforce for nearly 2.5 billion dollars yesterday. This is significant for many reasons. It’s the size for one—most significant acquisitions ever for Salesforce and one of the most major of the year for Wall Street.
The fact that Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff reported a “bidding war” for the Indianapolis-based company that has about 1,300 employees and 5,000 customers also has a broader significance. This high valuation for a technology-driven marketing organization underscores something deeper percolating in B2B sales.
Pete Campbell (the smarmy sales guy on TV’s Mad Men) is losing the battle to Don Draper (the troubled marketing genius from TV’s Mad Men).
This is because the B2B buying and selling process has been permanently disrupted by advances in technology that are now ubiquitous (internet, email, and mobile). And now, with the “cloud,” most of these B2B selling tools work. This is in stark contrast to the IT-intensive premise-based systems of the past.
Last year Corporate Executive Board (CEB) reported in their Harvard Business Review (HBR) article “The End of the Solution Sale” that “customers completed 60% of a typical buying decision before even having a conversation with the supplier.” This represents a fundamental paradigm shift from the days when Pete Campbell types would show up in person with a bag and brochure full of products/solutions to get things started.
In trying to read the tea leaves here, Salesforce’s acquisition of ExactTarget suggests three significant shifts in B2B selling that have brewed for some time.
1. Marketing trumps sales. Sales and Marketing have historically been at odds. For years sales took credit for every deal justifying their salaries, travel, conferences, and expense accounts. Meanwhile, marketing floundered without clear metrics to measure the effectiveness of their activities. The Internet changed that. Website visits and investments in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Search Engine Marketing (SEM), and Pay Per Click (PPC) – all the domains of marketing – became measurable through robust analytics. Plus, those strategies worked. The Return on Investment (ROI) became demonstrable. Refining these strategies, marketing would ultimately produce better, more qualified leads that convert than sales would (in most cases).
2. Email is king. According to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), in 2013, 89% of those surveyed rated email’s strategic value to their business as “important” or “very important.” No wonder 78% of organizations reported using email for retention and 58% for acquisition, with both numbers trending upward. Acquisition and retention used to be the exclusive domain of sales – today; they are shared with marketing. It is email that ties them together – at least for now. No wonder Strongmail reports 55% of businesses to plan to increase spending on email this year.
3. Salespeople becoming admins. With email and marketing taking the front seat in acquisition and retention, the salesperson’s role continues to evolve. Winning the big deal through relationship-building tactics like gossiping and face-to-face meetings, Pete Campbell style – may still have a place. Just far more limited. Today, many salespeople are tasked with merely “following up” on activities assigned by marketing. CRMs like Salesforce make this possible. Companies can now measure everything a salesperson (or anyone who touches the account) does and report it back to the managers in beautiful reports. The price of this accountability is more data entry for salespeople – administrivia – not a skill most salespeople historically excel at.
The bottom line is the Pete Campbells of the world are becoming as anachronistic as Don Draper’s Lucky Strikes. Instead, inside salespeople armed with autodialers, CRMs, and excellent admin skills have replaced him and his three-martini lunches. Forbes reported demand for Inside Sales (read telephone sales) is up 54% this year.
Meanwhile, Don Draper sits in his marketing office, overlooking a variety of analytics as he tweaks his next email campaign.
And as of yesterday, if Don uses Salesforce, his job just got easier.
Image Credit: Don Draper (Jon Hamm) – Mad Men – Season 5 – Gallery – Photo Credit: AMC Networks

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