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Salesforce Analytics Cloud gives the sales funnel a B-12 shot

Sales and marketing teams that work in silos when they should be sharing data risk losing deals. Here's how two companies use Salesforce Analytics Cloud to fix the sales funnel.

When sales and marketing departments are perfectly in sync, they share data; work in lockstep, thanks to transparency; and speed deals through the sales funnel quickly. But this can't happen when sales and marketing teams operate as islands.

As a result, the sales funnel -- that is, the vehicle between sales and marketing that helps close deals -- can break down quickly.

"Marketing owns the top of the funnel, but sales pretty much does all the rest, and there is very little overlap in responsibilities," said Danny Lai, product management director for the Salesforce Wave Analytics Cloud. "So, there is very little opportunity for sales and marketing to get aligned."

Recent data also indicated sales and marketing teams report a schism between their departments. According to a survey, less than half of more than 550 respondents said marketing and sales departments are aligned.

The schism is augmented not only by poor communication, but also data silos, Lai said. Two companies with these problems turned to Salesforce Analytics Cloud, or Wave, to integrate data, communication and decision-making that is native to the applications they work in regularly. Salesforce's strategy, as a whole, is to bring together departmental data silos, so organizational units can operate in unison.

The abilities to drill into data in seconds and to easily display it in a variety of bars and charts are the virtues of Wave that Salesforce, and users, frequently tout. But Wave has also encountered struggles among the party faithful. It debuted in 2014 at what many considered too high a price tag, undercutting its success. It was also approached hesitantly by companies that already had other analytics tools installed. Finally, Wave may be easy to use, but it isn't entirely turnkey. There are still processes required to make data consistent and viewable in Wave.

While tools like the Analytics Cloud give sales and marketing teams a way to share and analyze data, very few companies have implemented these tools to effectively analyze and act on the data generated from their customers, prospects and others, said Jeff Kaplan, managing director at THINKstrategies Inc., a technology consulting firm.

"The adoption of cloud-based applications is still relatively new, and most companies have built proprietary data warehouses and internal analytics systems that have only been available to a limited number of end users," Kaplan said. "It will take a lot of time for organizations to implement the new generation of analytics tools; integrate them into their existing systems; and change their business processes to gain the insights they need to improve their sales, marketing and service effectiveness."

Visualizing the sales funnel

One company that has taken advantage of Wave Analytics Cloud is Akamai Technologies, an internet infrastructure company in Cambridge, Mass. It uses Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint, but has also used Salesforce Wave since 2014 to bring marketing and sales together on improving the workings of the sales funnel.

While sales and marketing teams were accustomed to talking about the health of the sales funnel in Excel spreadsheets, it turned to Wave to visualize some of the deficiencies in the sales cycle, said Scott Forrey, senior director of operations and planning at Akamai Technologies.

"Marketing might say, 'We're providing plenty of leads; we don't understand why sales can't act on them,'" Forrey said. "And sales could then have the conversation, 'I don't see the quality of these leads.' So, we had the ability to drill down into the data and expose that data for what it is and no longer get into anecdotes. We could drill down into the specifics, which wasn't available in [Excel and PowerPoint]."

While marketing and sales had exchanged Excel spreadsheets to pinpoint areas of improvement, Forrey said Wave gave the departments an opportunity to gauge the success of marketing campaigns and look at the process as a whole.

"We were able to ask, 'What is the progress of those leads, and how do they ultimately become deals? And what is the value of those deals?' So, you start to get a sense of the entire marketing funnel," Forrey said. At the same time, business users can get quite granular and look at specifics easily.

"We never had the ability to drill down. It displays the accounts, and then we can drill into an account in East Asia in financial services without sending a large, multimegabyte spreadsheet around," he said.

Ultimately, Wave is about redirecting business decisions through better data in real time. So, for example, Forrey said, sales can combine data from multiple departments and determine whether sales might need more reps in a particular territory or whether marketing is sending leads to the right people.

"We brought in data from revenue, bookings and combine that data with account information, opportunity information to determine sales resourcing and from marketing perspective to think about lead routing," Forrey said.

"There was anecdotal information. This brought a broad, visual coverage to what was actually taking place. We can move from the realm of anecdote to the realm of data and have conversations about the actual sales process. We would never have been able to have that conversation in a fluid form without Wave."

Using Analytics Cloud brings operational efficiency

Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, based in Stevens Point, Wis., sells travel insurance, but its old systems made for a slow and painful claims-processing process. So, in 2014, Berkshire Hathaway moved its billing process to Salesforce Sales, Service, Marketing and Analytics clouds to bring speed and transparency to the claims process. As a result, Berkshire Hathaway has brought a claims process that could take up to 45 days to finalize down to just a few minutes through automated payment.

With Analytics Cloud, Berkshire Hathaway can aggregate weather and flight data, as well as other travel information, to provide real-time travel data to Wave to provide more accurate, real-time insurance claims.

"We don't have legacy systems ... our data was aligned from the beginning," said Brad Rutta, vice president of marketing at Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection. Because the company uses various Salesforce clouds, "everything can talk together."

"The key for us is transparency," Rutta said. "We want to make sure that both departments understand what's going on and where the project stats are." Berkshire Hathaway uses Wave to pull third-party data into Wave for issues like customer experience and sales projects. Berkshire can use a kanban board to display sales activity that is integrated with Salesforce clouds, including Wave. Sales can see where sales activity is, which proposals are in process, which campaigns are running and the health of this activity.

Berkshire Hathaway also uses Wave to analyze customer experience and satisfaction, and the company uses voice-of-the-customer data, or customer feedback, to measure success.

"The biggest challenge has been getting the Net Promoter Score and different scoring measures. It's being able to drill down and see how one person rated us on an IVR [interactive voice response] when they called our call center; we can do that in Wave, and it's really impactful," Rutta said. As a result, 85% of claimants said they are satisfied with customer service and would recommend the company to a friend.

Rutta acknowledged data management is an ongoing challenge.

"Unfortunately, our data isn't always clean. Companies measure flight status differently, for example." Berkshire Hathaway may have to massage that data to give it consistency before it can analyze the data effectively.

Ultimately, though, the Analytics Cloud has enabled Berkshire Hathaway to bring two departments together that had operated as islands.

"Wave has given us ways to display that data organizationally and break down the silos that happen within traditional companies," Rutta said. Forrey agreed, and said grounding discussion of the broken sales funnel in data enables both departments to take responsibility for their contribution and communicate constructively.

"Both sales and marketing could realize where they were right and where they were wrong and have that constructive conversation to move in the right direction," he said.

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