Crossing the Great Divide: Aligning Sales and Marketing
Your company has so many things going for it: superior product, smart people, and sound vision. Yet you consistently miss the revenue target. Inefficiencies between sales and marketing are killing your chances for success. You fit the mold of the Aberdeen study: 80% of marketing efforts to generate leads are wasted and ignored by sales, while sales spends 25% of their time recreating customer-relevant collateral that marketing should have developed. This dysfunction is pervasive in your company, derailing efforts on both sides and destroying the focus needed to collectively and effectively drive sales and revenue. It’s time to stop the death spiral. You must cross the great sales and marketing divide, fast. Your CRM system can help.
First: Define and Align the Lead Process
A logical place to start is the common touch point between marketing and sales – leads. Too often, marketing blames sales for not following up on the leads it generates, while sales accuses marketing of not pulling in the right leads.
To break this stalemate, form a joint task force to agree on lead definition, lead prioritization, information to be captured, and when the handoff to sales should occur. The taskforce should be comprised of marketing managers responsible for driving demand and salespeople who follow up on leads. Sales participation in the definition process not only ensures buy-in, it provides salespeople with the opportunity to become stakeholders in the process.
What’s a Lead?
The most basic definition of a lead is a potential customer who wants to learn more about what you have to sell. What differentiates a lead from an inquiry – someone who has responded to your marketing program – is that a lead meets specific elements from your ideal customer profile. The important thing is to agree on the elements of your universal lead definition.
Begin by reviewing the characteristics of an ideal sales opportunity. Rather than relying on anecdotes, use real-world opportunity data from your CRM system to evaluate the job functions involved in the buying process, whether budgets are formal or informal, the time frame to evaluate your product or service, and common purchasing decision triggers. Next, gain consensus on the elements necessary for a meaningful lead definition, distinguishing must-have from nice-to-have information.
Immediately update CRM lead record fields to align with the universal definition. If your system is flexible, a business person without a heavy IT background can quickly make these updates through various built-in wizards and configuration options. If not, these crucial changes will have to wait until your overburdened IT staff has time to implement your request.
Armed with this definition, the team is prepared to address the quality-quantity conundrum.
If you ask a salesperson to define a high-quality lead, he will tell you it’s a C-level decision maker with a current, fully budgeted short-term initiative. Unfortunately, in most purchases, a C-level person is not involved in evaluating solutions. And if the initiative is already budgeted, your competition is typically established in the account, dramatically reducing your probability of winning. Remember this when establishing lead quality scoring criteria and determining the hand-off to sales. Once you’ve achieved consensus regarding lead quality, scoring criteria must be mapped in your CRM system to route “sales-ready” leads to specific reps or partners for active followup and less mature leads to marketing for nurturing.
Ideally, your CRM system will enable a business person to reconfigure the routing workflow using simple wizards, so you can immediately implement these changes and start gauging lead quality. Your CRM system should also dynamically monitor lead scoring, so when questions regarding quality arise – as they inevitably will – sales and marketing can hold pragmatic discussions focused on business metrics, not theoretical anecdotes.
Once quality has been defined, the task force must agree on the volume of leads required to sufficiently fuel the sales funnel. Quantity can be methodically determined by calculating conversion rates at each stage of the selling process, ultimately revealing the number of raw leads needed to reach corporate revenue goals.
Quantity requirements may fluctuate as a function of quality. Therefore, your CRM system must allow you to proactively monitor performance against projections to determine if lead quantity, quality, or sales cycle velocity require adjustment. If you’ve selected an intelligent CRM system, insufficiencies and bottlenecks will surface in dynamic dashboards, allowing marketing to determine if campaigns require refinement and sales to determine if reps need a helping hand.
Establish Feedback Guidelines
The task force must also reach consensus on what feedback information to capture. The key is developing universally understood feedback terms to minimize confusion, with criteria broad enough to identify trends, yet detailed enough to support corporate decision making.
A prime example is feedback for unqualified leads. Because the scoring process is not infallible, unqualified leads will be routed to salespeople from time to time. When a salesperson closes a lead as unqualified, marketing needs to understand the reason.
- Did the lead match the profile, but a purchase decision was already made? If a significant volume of leads fall in this sub-category, you may want to accelerate the lead distribution process, so leads reach reps before the decision is made.
- Did the lead match the profile, but the purchase timeframe was subsequently delayed? Accurately flagging these leads allows marketing to continue the nurturing process.
- Did the lead match the profile, but the price was too high? This could be an early warning sign of market commoditization, and executive management must be informed, so pricing and product line strategy adjustments can be made swiftly. It could also indicate that salespeople are ill-equipped to articulate business value and need additional training or better customer-ready messaging from marketing.
Obviously, producing the highest possible quality leads is in everyone’s best interest, allowing sales to focus on prospects with the highest probability of closing and marketing to increase its return on investments. Improving quality, however, is only achievable when sales and marketing are working hand-in-hand, and meaningful feedback is timely received. Which brings us to the next step, accountability.
Come back tomorrow for part 2–Articulating Accountability.