Marketing automation offers a myriad of tools to make marketing easier and improve its effectiveness, but it also offers significant value to sales as well. It can greatly improve the efficiency of the sales cycle and drive more leads if it’s implemented correctly.

The secret to marketing automation success is involving sales in the process. Gone are the days where sales and marketing work independently of each other. Today’s companies must align their teams as partners in pipeline management and lead conversion. This is critical, yet one of the most overlooked aspects to adoption.

The reason for this is marketing automation will change your existing lead-to-revenue management process. Both teams will need to understand and reach consensus on the changes in order to enable success and collaboration. To accomplish this, you’ll need to meet as a group, map your existing processes, identify what will change during deployment, and understand how those changes will impact each other’s workflow.

The following three key items should be at the top of your meeting agenda. You’ll want to address them prior to implementation to ensure a smooth transition:

Lead source: If you employ a two-tiered lead source model – e.g. a categorical source, such as “trade show,” combined with a sub category, such as the name of the event – you’ll need to consider whether this is sustainable. Your marketing automation platform will track ROI in a very specific way that may differ from your current model. You’ll need to be flexible here and decide the best way to adapt your sourcing process. Once you decide on the appropriate changes, pull reports out of your CRM to ensure you don’t lose your historical data. You can always convert a two-tiered lead sourcing model into a one source model by combining them and overwriting your data. In the example above, a trade show lead source might become TradeShow|TradeShowName.

Lead status: The pipeline and lead management process you put in place should accommodate a bidirectional workflow between the marketing automation platform and the CRM. The lead status field plays a very important role in that workflow as it will impact nurture campaigns and lead scoring. Both teams will need to reach consensus on how they’ll categorize leads. For example, if sales calls on a prospect and determines they’re not yet ready to buy, sales can change the lead status to “remarket” in the CRM and have them added into a nurture campaign in the marketing automation platform. Marketing should work with sales to establish status options that make sense within the context of a bidirectional workflow and overall lead management process.

ROI reports: Any good marketing automation platform worth its salt will have the ability to track and report on opportunities generated from campaigns originating in the platform. Lead-to-revenue reporting is one of the most valuable aspects of marketing automation adoption, so getting it right will require some give and take between marketing and sales. First, lead sourcing must be established, as outlined above. Then the CRM must be adapted so the lead source “follows” the lead from creation to closure. It’s imperative that you map the original lead source created in the marketing automation platform from the lead to the contact and opportunity records in the CRM. Most CRM workflow engines can easily handle this automatically. What’s important is that the originating lead is associated with the opportunity, which may require that sales associate convert the original lead/contact as the opportunity owner.

There are a number of important considerations to take into account when you’re implementing new technology. Make sure your marketing and sales teams collaborate and agree on new processes before you implement a marketing automation platform. It will help ensure both teams realize the full benefits of this powerful technology.