As more buyers move their transactions online, the business-to-business sales process is blurring the lines between sales and marketing. The two business units now should be working in tandem to exchange information on leads and content, and a common meeting ground is online configure-price-quote systems, Forrester Research Inc. says in a new report.

Forrester says that 83% of B2B marketers are responsible for their company’s sales tools, including content and training. But until recently, “marketing didn’t need to pay close attention to sales operations processes because the two groups had clearly demarcated roles and responsibilities,” writes Forrester B2B marketing analyst Steven Wright in the report, “Mind The Gap: What B2B Marketers Need to Know About Sales Operations.”

Because marketing and sales now often work in parallel, “marketing needs to understand better how sales tracks and closes deals to ensure that the information and advice they offer sellers is productive and accepted,” Wright says. In other words, when the marketing department sends leads to the sales department, marketing should understand what the sales team is trying to sell.

A good example comes up with configure-price-quote, or CPQ, applications. CPQ assists sellers and buyers by automating the processes around product configuration, pricing and quoting, enabling suppliers to come up with accurate proposals quickly and easily, the report notes. As a buyer configures a product, the CPQ system will automatically suggest components and display a total configured price, then give the buyer the option to request a new price quote from a sales rep.

The CPQ system is often set up by the sales teams to suggest particular product configurations. Sales reps’ compensation, meantime, may reward sales of particular products or configurations—for example, if their company wants to produce higher margins rather than higher sales volumes, the report notes. But without good coordination between the sales and marketing teams, the latter may wind up running campaigns that promote products other than the ones the sales team is focusing on.


“While marketers often have some visibility into this at a high level, a deeper understanding of both CPQ and compensation systems can improve the effectiveness of their work,” Wright says.

He adds that good coordination between these teams will also ensure that, when a CPQ system recommends products, it also displays pertinent marketing content that highlights and explains the value of suggested product combinations to buyers. Without that marketing content, “sellers are left on their own to convince the buyer” to make a purchase, Wright says. That requires more time, of course, and can take the rep away from addressing the needs of another customer.

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