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Insightly.com Sales and Marketing Alignment, TechThis is our second installment in a series of interviews we’re calling: #SmarkLife [Interviews]. We invite successful founders, executives, and marketing and sales leaders across various industries to answer our questions on sales and marketing topics plus a few fun bonus questions.

Our guest today is Loretta Jones, VP of Marketing at Insightly. In her career, Loretta has worked for a number of startups and in a number of management positions before joining Insightly in 2012.

We had the opportunity to talk with her about sales and marketing alignment and CRM technology. Here’s what we asked.

The line between marketing and sales is becoming more blurred. In respect to CRM solutions, how is technology changing the relationship between sales and marketing functions?

Technology is making the relationship between sales and marketing more symbiotic and transparent. A good CRM toolset will provide a direct view into the sales pipeline, as well as into marketing activities. Depending on your business model, marketing may also be responsible for sales, or at least delivering leads that are “mid-funnel” as opposed to “top of the funnel.” In this case, a good CRM will keep all customer communication straight so that both sales and marketing have a history of interaction with the customer.

Work environments are also changing. With more people working from virtual offices, texting on their cellphones, and communicating through social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter, technology is really opening the door for sales and marketing departments to connect in a variety of ways.

What advice would you offer marketing and sales leaders to overcome sales and marketing alignment barriers?

Whether you’re sitting in the marketing or sales organization, it’s easy to get caught up in the silo-effect. You’re busy meeting your goals and objectives, but you’re not really sure what’s going on day-to-day in other areas. That doesn’t have to be the case. My advice would be to pull the two functions together in a fundamental way by creating activities that each team can participate in both separately and collectively. Whatever the activity is, it needs to be meaningful and useful for each department, as well as for customers and prospects.

At Insightly we host live webinars twice a week. The Wednesday webinar is directed at customers with a free account or customers on a 14 day trial account. Our objective is to get these users engaged with the product as soon as possible so that there are minimized questions on our product when an account manager reaches out to them. This webinar is hosted by both sales and marketing. The Thursday webinar, which is aimed at new prospects, gives an overview of Insightly and includes a high level product demo. Again, this webinar attempts to educate prospects in hopes of a shorter sales cycle and a more productive conversation with an account rep.

In addition, I would ensure that both sales and marketing agree on the definition of a lead as this is a typical friction point between sales and marketing. A popular process is to have ‘marketing qualified leads’ and ‘sales qualified leads’. However, I believe there should just be a single definition of a lead that is developed by sales and marketing. Over time this definition may change but a common definition will reduce friction between the two groups.

Survey question: We have seen significant growth in the role creation of Sales Development Reps (SDR’s). We like to think of the role as passing the baton (lead) from marketing to sales. Is the SDR role a function of marketing or sales? Why?

I see the SDRs role as a hybrid job function because that person really needs to have one foot in the door of sales, and the other foot in the door of marketing. There’s so much information available through the web and social media that customers are becoming savvier by the minute. They don’t want to be oversold, and they come to the table armed with information.

To that end, the SDRs job is to maintain a deep understanding of what’s coming out of marketing and internalizing it as the company’s true definition of a lead (or a ‘sales ready lead’ if you are using that model). The SDR must mobilize around that definition and then, and only then, pass a lead onto the sales team when it meets the appropriate criteria. It doesn’t end there. Once that early stage opportunity has been vetted and passed on, a good SDR will track when the sales org moves opportunities into subsequent stages. A good SDR will also pay close attention to what might be slowing the process down and act accordingly.

Let’s talk Insightly. My career began in the Salesforce.com world. There were only a few options at that time but now we’re seeing a range of CRM solutions catering to different audiences. Where does Insightly fit into the CRM market?

There are roughly 27 million small businesses in the US with employees 500 or below. In the EU, 85% of net new jobs created between 2002 and 2010 were created by small enterprises. The point is, there are thousands of small businesses fueling the global economy, yet historically these small outfits have been edged out of having access to really useful CRM tools because they are either too expensive, too complex, or both.

Insightly fits into the CRM market by filling the large gap created by the big CRM players like Salesforce, SAP, and Oracle. We offer a comprehensive online CRM and project management application with an intuitive UI, the flexibility to customize and integrate with a lot of ubiquitous web apps, plus a price point that’s affordable and within easy reach of small and mid sized businesses. Most small businesses are selling services (i.e. consulting, advertising & media) and not hard goods, so the integration of CRM and project management is a key advantage for service businesses. In addition our integrations with QuickBooks Online and Xero allow small business owner or small business sales teams to see customer and payment information in one place.