How to build alignment between your sales and marketing teams with just one Salesforce field

More than half of all leads passed from marketing to sales never get called. It’s the eternal struggle – your marketing team works hard to provide leads for your sales team to call, while your sales team complains that the leads are not worth their time. Neither side is right or wrong – both are making valid points – but what is missing is alignment between your sales and marketing. This blog will tell how an experienced consultant or salesforce admin can tell if you have that alignment by looking at just one field on your lead record, and how utilising that field correctly can be the very foundation of building that good alignment.

A seemingly simple question

After one of my first client meetings as a consultant with Axenon I was having a debrief with a colleague about what we had learned. While talking about the client I mentioned what I thought was an obvious opportunity for improvement – the client was not utilising a nurturing stage in their lead process. My colleague shook his head. ‘Very few use that stage.’

I was dumbfounded. I pushed further on the subject. Why bother using a CRM if you’re not going to use it to nurture your prospective customers? Isn’t the whole point of a CRM to … manage customer relationships? What was going on?

Sometimes you ask a question where the answer seems so obvious you feel like you must be missing something, and in this case I was. I was viewing the world through my own personal lens, informed by my work as both a Pardot and a Salesforce administrator and owner at my previous employer. In that role I acted as an intermediary between sales and marketing – the very physical embodiment of alignment between those two teams – and this role (or the lack thereof, in this case) was the answer to my question.

Upon further discussion, my colleague clarified his statement slightly. ‘They don’t use that stage – because they don’t have a process for it.’ he explained. ‘Only some companies do.’ The common thread, he continued, that runs through those companies is not just a top notch marketing team, but one that is strongly – deeply – aligned with the sales team. These marketing teams live and breathe the sales process. They create marketing content and material not for, but with, the sales team. And one of the fundamentals of that content (and one of the best places to start) is lead nurturing.

A lead nurturing stage allows marketing to support your sales teams efforts – perhaps even automatically.

What is the lead nurturing stage?

The ‘classic’ explanation of the lead nurturing stage goes something like this.

“When your lead shows interest but is not ready to buy, place them in the nurturing stage to send them back to the marketing team to nurture them until they are.”

There are a few problems with this way of thinking. First, it encourages an ‘us and them’ mentality between sales and marketing by suggesting that the lead was not good enough – and asking marketing to ‘fix it’. Second, by defining nurturing as a place to put leads that are ‘duds’, it inevitably turns this stage into a kind of ‘lead storage unit’, where the leads are placed and then forgotten about – with little accountability or incentive to go back to them. And third, with this implied ‘back and forth’ lead handoff between sales and marketing, it’s easy to see how rather than take on the task of implementing yet another handoff process that seems to offer little benefit, you might just skip this stage entirely.

Here’s how I prefer to define the nurturing stage.

“When your lead shows interest but is not ready to buy, place them in the nurturing stage to indicate that you need help from the marketing team to move them further down the sales funnel.”

Does this make a little more sense? First, because there is no ‘hand-off’ back to the marketing team, there is no need for additional processes, and no confusion about lead ownership and accountability for lead conversion. Second, there is clarity about what is required for the sales process to move along – help from the marketing team in the form of lead nurturing materials – and less chance of leads being forgotten. Third, and perhaps most importantly, there is a clear need (and reason) for strong alignment between sales and marketing.

Nurturing campaigns – automated customer journeys that guide these colder leads towards a conversion – are the missing link, and the key to making the nurturing stage worth using.

Nurturing campaigns

An example nurturing campaign in Salesforce’s Pardot marketing automation platform.


Nurturing campaigns (such as those generated in Pardot’s engagement studio) all look a little different, but at their core, involve sending your leads targeted information to keep your business top of mind and to gently guide your leads further down the sales funnel. This targeted information can be generated automatically (based on existing fields or activities) or manually (based on which campaign the salesperson enrolls the lead in). Either way, the lead gets what they need (a little time and space), and the sales team gets what they want (to concentrate on more likely leads while leads in the nurturing stage get a little encouragement to move towards a close).

There’s a fundamental similarity between all successful nurturing campaigns. To understand what it is, ask yourself a simple question – who in your organisation is the best at selling to your customers? The answer – often ignored by marketing teams – is your sales team, of course. Successful nurturing campaigns may be led by marketing teams, but they never succeed without your sales team, who know better than anyone what your leads need to convert. Alignment, again, is key – but this road goes both ways.

You have to start somewhere

Here’s the beauty of nurturing campaigns. The very act of building them requires teamwork between your sales and marketing teams, and because both teams have clearly defined goals and incentives for success, successful nurturing campaigns are easier to create than you might think – and success (as it often does) breeds more success.

Imagine getting a call or email from a sales team member telling you that they just converted a lead thanks to a nurturing campaign that they had input on. Imagine the same team member suggesting ways to improve it, or asking for a new campaign based on a different product line or business unit? Not only have you created a successful lead nurturing process – but you’ve laid down the foundations of true alignment between sales and marketing – and enabled both to be more successful and to grow your business.

Nurturing campaigns are not for every business – they tend to work better in sales processes with longer buying cycles – and are almost entirely wasted if the content they provide is not correctly targeted to the customer. This content can be industry or product specific, or based on customer attributes such as size or location. As long as your content is relevant to the need of the customer you’ll find success with nurturing campaigns. And you’ll build valuable alignment between sales and marketing at the same time.

Have any questions about lead nurturing or aligning your sales and marketing teams? Interested in hearing how Axenon can help you sell better, smarter, and easier? Drop your contact details into the form below and I’ll be in touch!

Send the right email to the right person – automatically – with Salesforce and Pardot

Imagine being able to send a prospective customer a customised email about a product they’re interested in just as they’re getting ready to make a purchasing decision. Now imagine sending hundreds or thousands of them. The sky is not the limit – the size of your email list is. You can accomplish this, and more, by harnessing the power of Pardot’s Scoring Categories, Segmentation Lists, and Engagement Studio to deliver the right email to the right customer at the right time, every time.

The right tools for the job

Pardot’s toolbox is impressive, but not all tools are the correct ones for all jobs. Let’s take a look at the tools we’ll be using.

Scoring Categories

Pardot provides a handy scoring system ready to go out of the box. By assigning point values to various actions via Scoring Rules (eg 1 point per website pageview and 3 points per email click), Pardot provides us with a rough idea of how engaged the prospect is (you can learn more about Prospect Activities – a prospect’s “digital footprint” – here). With Scoring Categories we’ll take the middle ground, and the best of both worlds, and combine the in depth detail of Prospect Activities with the at-a-glance simplicity of Scoring Rules.

Scoring Categories work to categorise certain actions based on whichever rules you see fit. For example, rather than a pageview on a specific product page being worth 1 point, you could create a category for ‘product pageviews’, and award points directly into that category. You can go even further, as we will in this case, by creating Scoring Categories by product type, so we can award points in different categories based on what kind of product page the prospect visited. This way, not only can we have an idea about how engaged a prospect is, we can take a pretty good guess about what types of products or services they’re interested in.


Read more about Scoring Categories

Read more about Scoring Categories here.

Segmentation Lists

Now that we can understand through scoring categories what types of content our prospects are interested in, it’s time to put those scoring categories to use with Segmentation Lists. Prospects in Pardot can belong to any number of Segmentation Lists, and we can use dynamic lists to automatically include Prospects that reach a certain Scoring Category threshold – or we can use Automation Rules to add and remove prospects from static lists.

In our case, we might make several Dynamic Lists and include all prospects that reach a certain score in a Scoring Category. Depending on the need, we may not want prospects be members of multiple lists to avoid prospects receiving emails related to several different product categories – as always, the best solution is unique to each case and depends on the intended business results.


Read more about segmentation

Read more about segmentation here.

Engagement Studio

Now that we have lists of prospects that we know are interested in certain products or services, it’s time to put the icing on the cake. A simple solution would be to use automation rules to send them emails as soon we identify them as interested, but with a little diligence we can target that email to reach the customer just as they’re preparing to make a buying decision. To make this a reality, we’ll turn to Pardot’s marketing automation workhorse – Engagement Studio. In Engagement Studio, we can use actions, triggers, and rules to engage with the customer in the right way at the right time.

Engagement Studio programs all start with a list. The members of this list (we’ll use the one we created earlier) enter the Engagement Studio program at the start point. To accomplish our goal of getting our email to the customer at the right time, let’s use the trigger function to monitor the members of our list and listen for certain actions. Let’s say that customers often download a pricing list prior to making a purchasing decision – and let’s use this as our trigger. When the members of our list download this file, let’s move them forward in our engagement program to an action. In the action step, we’ll automatically send a personalised email – based on an email template – addressed directly from whichever member of our sales team specialises in the product in question.


Read more about engagement studio

Read more about engagement studio here.

What’s next?

The above is all well and good if the customer does, in fact, engage with our content – but if they don’t, all is not lost. The trigger action we created has a wait period, after which we can either end the program or add more steps. Maybe we’d like to send a different email if the customer hasn’t engaged with us after 30 days? Maybe they need more information to make a purchase, so we send them a white paper or eBook or other content? Maybe the price was too high, and we send them an offer for discounted pricing? We can tell through additional scoring categories which one might be more applicable – and add additional logic to our engagement program to automate the process.

And more?

With this kind of power it’s easy to see how Pardot can provide swift value to you and your marketing teams, and highly qualified leads directly to the Salesforce accounts of your sales teams. It’s no wonder that digital marketers love Salesforce and Pardot!

Have any questions about email personalisation or marketing automation? Interested in hearing how Axenon can help you market better, smarter, and easier? Drop your contact details into the form below and I’ll be in touch!

5 tips to get your users to love their CRM

A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system’s primary role is to provide a business with the means to manage customer relationships, improving your ability to upsell, win new business, and provide better service to your existing customers. CRM can be a sore subject for some – older users tend to see CRM systems as additional work, while younger generations who have been raised amongst computers and technology see it as what it can be – a way to be more productive and to do more with less.

Your CRM’s quality is directly related to its users experience of it

All CRM systems currently on the market do the basic CRM functions quite well. With that in mind, the key to a successful CRM deployment is not so much the system itself – but how useful the CRM is for its users, particularly in streamlining processes and providing users with a positive CRM experience.

In short, the happier a company keeps its salespeople, and in turn, its customers, the more likely it is to win and retain those customers

At Axenon, we focus solely on the deployment and implementation of the Salesforce platform across the Nordic countries. Our philosophy is ‘people and culture first, technology second’. The five tips below are a product of that philosophy – and we believe them to be vital for a successful Salesforce implementation.

Here are our five favourite tips to make your users love, believe – and to use – salesforce.

  1. Involve your sales team early – The earlier your sales team gets involved with your CRM implementation, the better your CRM system will be. Take the opportunity to learn their requirements and needs, and not only will your CRM be better, but you’ll win valuable buy-in and better adoption rates. A CRM implementation is not a technical or IT project, but a people and process improvement – where the CRM will be designed according to its end user’s needs and desires. Include your sales team in the implementation process and make sure their voices are heard. Develop your CRM’s functionality rapidly and iteratively, and gather feedback from your users at every stage.
  2. Implement with purpose, and one piece at a time – Change can be hard, so rather than spend a lot of time finalizing a product only to drop it, unexplained and unsupported, in your users laps, break the implementation down into small and manageable chunks. Start small, with features the end user cares about first, and iteratively improve it – delivering new features in easily digestible pieces until the end result is achieved.
  3. Make the user experience easy and logical – CRM instances in many businesses tend to include (at the leadership team’s behest) uncountable required fields that make the sales team’s job (hint : making sales) more difficult and more frustrating. Fortunately, salesforce is easy to customize depending on the types of end user, so that fields that are truly required at certain sales stages can be requested only when they are actually needed, making the data input process easier and more natural, and showing your users the fields that they need only when completion of those fields is useful to them.
  4. Your own data – A good CRM contains a vast quantity of high quality data, which is of no use if you can’t find what you’re looking for. With salesforce, you easily filter the data to make lists, reports, and processes useful for all types of your users. Customizing these features is easy, and can be configured separately for each user, so that your users see only the data they care about – keeping them more engaged and interested in your CRM’s success.
  5. Involve the sales leadership team – If all your leadership team does is read reports without having any desire to understand how those reports are made, and how they use the underlying data, how can you expect your other users to do any better? Modern sales leadership teams actively utilize CRMs and take ownership of their data, processes, and people – leading by example every step of the way.

A challenge for your leadership team : Your own interest in your CRM will make or break your CRM implementation. Take the effort to learn your CRM in detail, rather than just reading the reports.

Axenon will be present at Salesforce Base Camp Helsinki 2019, where we’ll cover the topics of this blog post in a 20 minute hands-on presentation.

Is CRM implementation or adoption a problem in your organisation? Interested in hearing how Axenon can help you sell better, smarter, and easier? Drop your contact details into the form below and I’ll be in touch!

Pardot Activities – Your prospect’s digital footprints

Pardot follows and records your prospect’s ‘digital footprint’, right from their first interaction with your website. As long as your prospect’s browser settings allow it, Pardot’s tracking code loads a cookie into their browser which is used to identify the user and to link them, eventually, to an email address when that visitor converts to a prospect.

This data is saved in Pardot on the Prospect record in a list named Prospect Activities. This list contains the prospect’s digital footprint, going forward from when point when the prospect first received the pardot tracking code cookie.

Prospect Activities list on the Prospect’s record

Prospect Activity is related also to Prospect Scoring, which you can read more about here.

What activities are recorded?

You can view the full list on the Prospect page, but in short, Prospect Activities contains each prospect’s :

  • Website visits as well as individual page loads during each visit
  • Landing page history (both views and completions)
  • Pardot form completions (both forms and form handlers)
  • File downloads
  • Webinar activities (eg Gotowebinar registrations and participations)
  • Marketing email opens and clicks
  • Link clicks
  • Social media clicks (if posted via pardot)

How can we use this information?

With Pardot’s automation rules and page actions you can create automations based on your prospect’s activities. Here are three examples :

1. Re-engage with passive leads

Prospect activities update the Pardot field ‘Pardot last activity’. Automation rules can be created that collect leads that have not recently engaged with pardot (for example, those with a Pardot Last Activity 60 days or older) and sends them an automated email directly from the most qualified salesperson.

Automation rule:

Match Type – Match All
Prospect CRM Status – Lead
Prospect time – last activity days ago – is greater than – 60 days
Action: Send Prospect Email

Pardot Automation Rule : Reactivating Inactive Leads

2. Balance lead scoring

The longer a lead goes without engagement, the colder they get – and the less likely to buy. With this rule, you can balance lead scoring by reducing inactive prospect’s score. If the prospect has not been active, the below rule lowers their score by 20 points for every 30 days of inactivity. This can be useful if you use automation rules to assign prospects to your sales team when they hit a certain points threshold.

Automation Rule:

Match Type – Match All
Prospect time – last activity days ago – is greater than – 30 days
Prospect score – is greater than – 0
Action: Adjust prospect score – by – –20

Page Action: Create Salesforce task – Assigned to – CRM Owner

3. Pageview alerts

Interested in having your salespeople receive alerts every time when their customers view, say, a ‘pricing’ page? Create a page action on that page that automatically creates a Salesforce task for the user.


Page Action: Create Salesforce task – Assigned to – CRM Owner

4. Segment your lists based on Prospect Activities

You can also create list segmentations based on prospect activities – for example :

  • Contacts (existing customers) who have visited a new campaign page
  • All prospects who have completed a certain landing page or form
  • Prospects who have not received an email in the last three months
  • Contacts who have viewed a pricing page in the last 30 days

Pardot’s Prospect Activities gives the digital marketer limitless amounts of data to use, and when combined with existing marketing or CRM data it is a true B2B marketer’s treasure chest =)

Have any questions about prospect activities or marketing automation? Interested in hearing how Axenon can help you market better, smarter, and easier? Drop your contact details into the form below and I’ll be in touch!

In Pardot, not all Prospects are created equal…

Pardot’s central data type is the Prospect, which is created when a website visitor is associated with an email address (usually through completion of a form or landing page). The Prospect record in Pardot shows all the information which we currently know about the prospect.

One of pardot’s key features is its 1:1 integration with the Salesforce CRM system, from which Pardot Prospects can exist in three different forms. In this article, we’ll discuss the differences between these three.

Prospect Types in Pardot

1. Prospect

Pardot automatically relates prospect email addresses with those of leads and contacts in Salesforce, but when an associated email is not found in salesforce, the prospect in pardot has no relationship to salesforce and remains a basic prospect. These prospects are typically near the top of the marketing funnel – for example newly registered newsletter subscribers or first time white paper downloaders, whom we don’t yet know enough about to make a high quality sales call.

Related object in Salesforce : None

Pardot features :

  • “Assigned User” field is empty
  • Salesforce cloud-icon is missing

2. Prospect (Lead)

These prospects are related, unsurprisingly, with the Salesforce Lead object. Prospects are created as Salesforce leads when Pardot Prospects are assigned an owner. Pardot is also able to identify existing leads in Salesforce and relate prospects to those.

These prospects have shown enough engagement to move further ahead in the marketing funnel – for example they’ve viewed a product catalogue or case study, or otherwise been identified – and have either automatically (via a pardot automation) or manually assigned a user and thus have been created as a lead in Salesforce.

Related object in Salesforce : Lead

Pardot features :

  • “Assigned User” field is complete – the prospect has been assigned an owner
  • “CRM Record Type” value is “Lead”
  • “CRM Lead Id” value shows the related Lead’s Salesforce ID

3. Prospect (Contact)

These Prospects are found related to the Salesforce Contact record, thus are linked to an Account (business). Contact configurations vary, but usually they are :

  • A contact manually added to Salesforce by a salesperson
  • A current customer
  • A partner
  • A converted lead

You can general about contacts that they’re someone our sellers know quite well.

Related object in Salesforce : Contact

Pardot features :

  • “Assigned User” field is complete – the prospect has been assigned an owner
  • “CRM Record Type” value is “Contact”
  • “CRM Contact Id” value shows the related Contact’s Salesforce ID

This is a very short summary of the different types of Prospects in Pardot. Next we’ll discuss how to best use Pardot data with each type of Prospect.

Have any questions about prospect types? Not sure how best to implement a marketing automation system for your organisation and interested in hearing how Axenon can help you market better, smarter, and easier? Drop your contact details into the form below and I’ll be in touch!

Our sales process … or the client’s buying process?

Why prioritize your own internal processes over the needs of your customer?

Thanks to Aki Sopanen, from Rema Partners, for this suggestion on prioritizing your customer’s purchasing process over your own sales process!

People talk about the selling process often. Sales opportunities are measured by the customer’s stage in your sales funnel. These stages are weighted and scored according to customers who work as your sales process predicts (or more accurately, hopes). While speaking with Aki, the traditional ‘sales process’ started to sound a little … insane.

Your customer is buying, so to best make sense on how to sell to them, you’d naturally be better off trying to understand and work with your customer’s purchasing process. Perhaps this happens already, but discussions tend to remain focused on the sales process.

As an example :

A customer sends a request for proposal, but you’ve never heard from them before.

  • In which stage of your sales process is this customer?
  • In which stage of their buying process is this customer?

In your sales process, you might set this customer’s stage as “Qualification”, with a close probability of 10%. But what if the customer’s buying process is much further along, for example in the “Supplier Identification” phase – which in their purchasing process is preceded by identifying the company’s needs, setting a budget, and committing decision makers to the project.

What if, instead of prioritising our own needs we concentrated on helping the customer succeed with that purchasing process. Perhaps we might not win every prospective deal, but in return we get :

  • A better ability to help our customers solve their problems
  • More satisfied customers, and less arguments about pricing
  • Bigger win rates and bigger deals with customers that we are a true fit for

What do you think? Should we change our mindset from our sales process to our customer’s purchasing process? And should our sales team or our sales leadership lead that change?

Picture: Rema Partners Opportunity-Process

Is your sales process – or your customer’s buying process – a bottleneck in your organization? Interested in hearing how Axenon can help you sell better, smarter, and easier? Drop your contact details into the form below and I’ll be in touch!

What I learned from my role as a startup business coach

Only by letting something go can you have the chance to start something new. When I left an established startup a couple of years ago, I was given the opportunity to start sharing my experience with other entrepreneurs and businesses. Sometimes my role was to act as a caretaker CEO, other times as a board chairman, and sometimes as a salesperson. My friend Petri Kajanderi gave me the working title “Chairman as a Service”.

Only by letting something go can you have the chance to start something new.

Without guaranteed regular income and with changing commission models – and while being responsible for other entrepreneur’s financials and assets – one must take care to constantly assess one’s own values. Thus I went in search of a model where at the end of every meeting or engagement my clients could say with certainty “You have been useful for us today.” If I was not consistently providing value, what reason would they have to ask me to come back the next day?

At the end of every meeting or engagement my clients could say with certainty “You have been useful for us today.”

In certain projects it was clear to see that I was not the best person to provide the services that were required – and in these cases, it wasn’t wise to begin these projects with disappointment as the inevitable outcome. This principle helped me focus only on the projects where we were able to identify the true elements of success at an early stage. These elements may differ from what the client was requesting. In some cases, merely being able to complete the desired work is not enough if that work will not accomplish the client’s business goals.

This principle helped me focus only on the projects where we were able to identify the true elements of success at an early stage.

In my current role at Axenon, we’re helping Salesforce customers achieve maximal return on their investment, and helping Salesforce users achieve outstanding results through making Salesforce work for them – not the other way around. The philosophies that I developed in my business coaching days still apply – and there is no greater reward than good feedback from the customer and creating a trusting environment for future business. Sometimes this may require some modification of hours and of billing, but this true success is only achieved through open, long lasting relationships built on trust – which are surely what our clients are looking for.

There is no greater reward than good feedback from the customer

While today, our clients are generally much larger than those from by coaching days, that initial philosophy remains. I also believe that Finland’s emerging startup culture will emphasize and reward those of us who measure our value by what we provide for our customers, not by the amount of hours we bill.

Interested in hearing how Axenon can help you sell better, smarter, and easier? Drop your contact details into the form below and I’ll be in touch!