The ongoing convergence of customer-facing teams is happening to such a degree that we have to wonder is there any real significant difference remaining for many industries. The traditional three pillars of marketing, sales and support are becoming so blurred that the only remaining clear difference in many cases is how and by how much different teams are compensated. So should more businesses be investing now in structures and technologies to support this convergence and if so what should these investments look like? Are we looking now at the era of the ‘full-stack’ employee?
A world of freemium has changed everything
Technology has so significantly reduced the barriers from a consumer and a potential product that many of us are used to trying things for free so what was once largely the preserve of the B2C world is now true in every sphere. In effect we skip the part where someone is a prospect (traditionally where CRM and sales come in) and the user gets to try a product for free. This means that the primary responsibility for a prospect becoming a customer is getting them on board in the first place and their perception and understanding of the product (marketing) and how they are treated when they use the product (success/support). Sales, if there at all, is mostly trying to add value to the sales cycle and influence the deal size much more than create or close an opportunity.
Is every full-stack job a sales job?
In many industries, the sales role remains vital and is often to a large degree an account management/customer success role in any case. However in the fast growth industries we are seeing new roles emerge like Chief Revenue Officer and Chief Customer Officer where the focus is not on how teams are organised internally but in how external people engage with a company. Revenue is seen as a joint function of many people’s efforts and not just a quota-carrying sales guy. Employees are increasingly asked to be ‘full-stack’ which is to say capable of operating at various points in the customer journey.
Technology is the big driver here. We are seeing the CMO — or CCO — spend more on IT than the CIO according to Gartner . So the degree to which the right tech can drive this convergence is huge if the conversion magic of a sales team is now going to become a shared function. We have written elsewhere about many of the specific technologies but the characteristics shared by successful ones are:
easy to integrate: there needs to be the ability to have a consistent insight into a customer lifecycle and journey but it’s unlikely and undesirable that a single platform will manage every interaction. Therefore any single technology needs to slot into an overall picture seamlessly.
run by the functional teams themselves: as we expect employees to be ‘full-stack’ with an input from prospect to conversion to retention the tech we give them has to be comprehensible, usable and non-specialist to a deep level. No use in the world’s best marketing automation tools if it requires a consultant or developer to make every significant tweak.
reportable: the degree of analytics will vary on the complexity of the tool, but whatever the case it will be required to have instant, useful and verifiable data on its contribution to the customer journey.
The level of convergence will vary depending on the type of organisation but without doubt the responsibility for attracting, converting and retaining customers is becoming a shared one.