If the art of finding new customers and growing a business were a rock concert, some of the best marketing teams have served as a warm-up act, and sales has been the main attraction.
Within most organizations, for example, marketers have been charged with what’s often described as “top of the funnel” kinds of activities. These can be the creation and distribution of ads, blog posts and other content that can raise brand awareness and stimulate interest in a company’s products and services. Just like the warm-up act at a concert hopefully gets the audience energized, marketers who generate leads then hand over to sales reps who, ideally, can wow the customer or prospect with their pitch and close the deal.
Of course, it often isn’t nearly this smooth and well-coordinated. Marketing teams can sometimes feel siloed from their counterparts in sales. They might spend their time crafting email marketing campaigns, trying to generate leads through landing pages and other techniques while sales reps barely pay attention. It’s not that reps aren’t busy, though. It’s just that they might be busy making connections with leads on the floor of a trade show or industry event, working the phones or doing cold emails from their personal list of contacts.
It’s not hard to imagine the challenges that result. For one thing, when sales aren’t working in lock-step with marketing, they risk missing out on valuable leads who have a genuine interest in a potential purchase. Worst of all, there’s a chance that sales and marketing might actively be pursuing the same lead, which means the person at that prospect or customer organization starts to feel bombarded by the company (and that the left hand doesn’t know what the right one is doing, so to speak).
Fortunately, marketing and sales teams have one important thing in common besides a desire to grow the business: data. When organizations make the best use of tools such as customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing automation, for example, they are literally on the same page in terms of what opportunities exist and how best to follow up on them. Both sales and marketing are realizing that, in the Age of the Customer, data-driven decision-making allows them to maximize their time, effort and end results.
Instead of a warm-up act and a main attraction, maybe it’s time for marketing and sales to share the stage — working as one to deliver the performance of their careers:
How would you define “engagement,” much less a hot sales lead? Is it someone who clicks on a link, fills out a landing page and downloads a white paper? Is it someone who signs up for a webinar? What about new subscribers to your company blog or newsletter?
Some might suggest that any one of these activities could constitute a lead. Others might argue that they need to see several of these activities happen over a given period of time, or over the course of the campaign, to consider the lead actionable. Unless the qualification criteria are mutually accepted, however, no lead generation program is likely to be effective. Make this a key agenda item in your next joint meeting.
There are plenty of sales reps that can work wonders with little more than a name and a phone number or email address. As organizations get more strategic and particular about the accounts they want to win and the volume of business they hope to grow within them, though, you may need to have discussions about the kind of information marketing teams gather and then pass on with the leads.
Some basic examples include geography, size of firm based on number of employees and, of course, job title. Depending on the lead gen program, though, you may want to know what kind of product categories interest them, budget details and even whether they have legacy products from your competitors. It may not be possible or advisable to try and get this kind of data with every lead magnet you develop, of course, so sales and marketing teams should brainstorm on when to ask what.
Marketing teams do a lot of research to stay current with what interests customers, as well as their key challenges. Sales teams, meanwhile, may rely more on first-hand experience from talking to customers on a regular basis. The truth is, great lead generation programs are developed when you marry these two sources and use them as the starting point for any materials you put in front of prospects.
In a group ideation session, talk about what you’re hearing and how it could be effectively referenced in white papers, landing pages, event registration pages and other marketing materials. Maybe marketing teams could help sales reps add some valuable statistics or customer testimonials to polish their call scripts or email templates. Having a unified approach to storytelling will lead to a better ending for everyone involved.
Marketing and sales teams are already measurement-driven, but they need to be even more so when they’re focused on lead generation. This means also paying close attention to how things get done as much as looking at what got done.
Don’t make assumptions, for instance, about the way sales teams receive leads and how they act on them, or the speed at which they should be passed on. Have an ongoing dialogue about the content behind the leads, any ways they could be supported by sales enablement materials and the kind of feedback that could help marketing teams improve.
Then, reexamine your lead-to-conversion ratio as well as the number of leads generated, the cycle time it takes to get from a lead to a closed deal and so on. All this should be included in the sales report, and referenced in what marketing teams use to gauge their progress as well.
Sales and marketing alignment is always a worthy goal in any organization. Given how much business growth depends on lead generation however, it may be the place where you see the most value from making it happen.