Today, too many B2B marketers are generating leads without regard to quality … and paying a premium for appointments that won’t generate the results they need. With the marketing tools out there today (close to 5,000 of them) it is easier to get more poor-quality leads to sales faster than ever before. And, it is killing results.
At the same time, sales executives devalue marketing’s efforts—for valid and invalid reasons. This article will help you focus on the 6 actions to take right now to improve your ongoing sales and marketing programs.
Symptoms of the lead-quality problem include one or more of the following conditions that probably exist in your company today:
- Leads are delivered to sales with little, if any, specific lead-by-lead feedback from sales.
- Marketing’s objective defaults to quantity and cost-per-lead because there is no other way to measure or report on return.
- The cycle continues: Sales is demanding more and better quality leads. Marketing is not delivering.
- Forecasts are consistently inaccurate. Over the past five years the percentage of sales reps making quota dropped to under 55% (it has gone down every year for five years in a row).
Your company is unique if these conditions do not sound familiar. The challenge is not so much in recognizing the conditions as fixing them.
Sales reps frequently do not value marketing leads. Sales reps do what you pay them to do, not what you want them to do. So, basic changes in forecasting that relate to compensation are always required if you want to tighten up the forecasting process. An example: put highly qualified sales leads on the forecast at 10% and make sure taking a lead off the forecast requires a careful and specific level of oversight by senior management (not just sales and/or marketing management).
To help in the process, it is necessary to audit each lead and report back to sales and marketing on the accuracy of the lead being passed and the effectiveness of lead follow-up. Reports generated from this auditing are among the most effective tools your company will ever have.
It Isn’t Easy to be Effective
Short-cuts such as measuring results based on the number and cost per lead is a well-intentioned example of decision-making that oversimplifies a very difficult process. This is often fostered by an environment that is created by senior-level executives.
Here are five recommendations that can make your sales and marketing process more effective:
- Take responsibility for providing strategic market, message and media direction. If you’re a C-level executive, and have given your team the direction that “our market is the Fortune 1000” or “we sell enterprise solutions” (as examples), then you may be responsible for gaps between expectations and actual results. The “F1000” is not a specific enough market and “enterprise solutions” is not specific enough to take to the market. C-level executives should get involved in the mix of media as well. If the mix is too heavily weighted toward inbound activities you are going to end up with lower-level decision-makers and smaller deals. Because senior executives are not as apt to give up their digital body language they are sometimes ignored. A big mistake!
- Adapt your strategic-level marketing messaging into one-to-one sales messaging. If you cannot explain what you do with a simple story and/or analogy, you need to work harder on carefully crafting just what you need to say—and just what will resonate with your targets.
- 3. Close to 95% of marketing investment is wasted due to marketing’s focus on short-term leads and failure to value and capture the long-term leads. Also, frequently lost is information about companies that are qualified, but have no immediate opportunity—valuable information that results from the process of finding short-term leads. Gathering market intelligence and applying the learnings in the context of a thoughtfully planned nurturing program delivers significant return.
- Make sure your inside sales group is reaching out to prospects, not being glorified administrators. If they’re making 25 to 35 dials per day (vs. the 80 to 100 calls they should be making) due to other urgent but not important tasks, that means you are settling for 65% less productivity than you should. You can’t afford anything less than a dedicated group of trained professionals focused 100% on generating highly qualified opportunities for sales.
- Manage the sales process holistically. Sales management has six jobs: Hiring, Compensation, Training, Deploying, Managing and Coaching. There are ample resources for the first three, but the secret to more successful sales management is doing a good job with deployment, management and coaching. The best sales rep, with an enviable comp plan and great training, will fail if not pointed in the right direction (deployment, including providing true hunters with fully baked sales opportunities) and pushed (managed, including requiring compliance with the needs of the corporation regarding SFA or CRM) and coached as required when things are not going well.
Too many companies clog the pipeline with low-level leads created by tradeshows, web hits, inbound calls and junior telemarketers. A surprising majority also spend a premium to buy “appointments” that really aren’t. Get out of the downward spiral. If you are creating leads that are thrown over the fence to sales and end up in a black hole called CRM, take the tips in this article to heart.