Growth in your business fundamentally depends on the effective hand-over of leads from Marketing to Sales. Marketing want to be generating good quality leads and Sales want to be closing those deals. That’s been the way for at least a century – but amazingly, for too many organisations, this seems to be a really hard nut to crack.
There’s an old joke in marketing that goes: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”
That joke was made by John Wanamaker, a US department store owner. It still seems relevant today, yet John actually died in 1922. How can it be that that so little progress has been made in a hundred years?
All too often, we hear tales of woe from Marketing along the lines of:
“We’re passing Sales loads of leads – what do they do with them?”
“I know it was a quality lead – we met at an event!”
“And why is our customer data spread over so many spreadsheets – all in different formats, with no segmentation?”
Similarly, Sales also have their own complaints:
“I am not hitting target because Marketing do not provide enough leads”
“The leads I do get are of poor quality – they are just not sales ready”
“I am meant to be spending my time selling – not entering data into a system”
Surely with all the progress we’ve made through an industrial revolution, a manufacturing revolution and an IT revolution, it shouldn’t still be this way? Of course it doesn’t – you can bet your bottom dollar that Larry Page over at Google or Jeff Bezos over at Amazon don’t have these problems. They’ve solved it… and so can you.
The magic question that proves you do have a problem…
As is often the case, the first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem. So how can you be sure that your Sales and Marketing processes are broken enough to require fixing? Well, there is one stupidly simple method that I use with my clients to see if their handover process is effective. It goes like this:
Step 1) Go to your Head of Marketing and ask them the following question…
“In your view, what constitutes a good, quality Lead?”
That’s all, nothing more. Just get them to tell you how they define a quality lead.
Step 2) Now, go to your Head of Sales and ask them the following question…
“In your view, what constitutes a good, quality Lead?”
Seriously, that’s it. Just one question. The exact same question.
Here are the types of answer you may get from Marketing:
- “Someone who has opened an email”
- “Someone who has filled out the contact us form”
- “Someone we met at an event”
And, here are the types of answer you may get from Sales:
- “Someone with need, budget, time-scale and authority”
- “Someone interested in one or more of our products”
- “Someone who looks like our ideal client”
The chances are that you will get two totally different answers. And that, right there, in a nut-shell, is your problem. If Sales and Marketing are not on the same page, you have a problem. You are wasting marketing spend and you are wasting sales effort. To put it another way, you’re introducing friction into your sales engine – stopping it from running like the well-oiled machine it should be.
Marketing is from Venus, Sales is from Mars
It may seem that with such strongly opposed views it would be impossible to come up with a common definition that both parties can agree upon. I’ve even heard the phrase “Look, it’s like Marketing is from Venus and Sales is from Mars” used to describe this challenge.
I believe that you need to take a step back and look at things from the customer’s point of view. After all, this is about them, right? Ask yourself, when does a customer want to speak to sales? The answer is probably much later in their buying journey than you imagine. In fact 57% of the sales cycle in most b2b purchases takes place on-line. The prospect is already more than halfway to a purchase before they are open to talking to someone.
If we use the term ‘sales-ready’ to mean the point in time that a prospect is ready to speak to Sales – or, more precisely the point in time when they’re at least open to being approached by Sales – then we have at least defined a threshold which clearly defines whether the prospect belongs to Sales or Marketing. Whilst the prospect belongs to Marketing, they will continue to be nurtured. Once they are sales-ready, Sales can get to work in earnest.
But when is a prospect ‘sales-ready’?
This then, is the million dollar question. How do we know what constitutes sales ready? Well, perhaps ‘know’ is too strong a word. We can’t know for sure. However, if we had a mechanism to measure some of the prospect’s behaviour, then we may be able to infer where they are in their buying process.
Consider the following:
Prospect A opened an email from you three months ago, clicked on a link and then viewed your home page and ‘about us’ page on your website. They’ve not opened two subsequent emails.
Prospect B also opened the email you sent three months ago. Subsequently, they’ve visited your site every couple of days. They seem to check out your pricing page a lot. They’ve downloaded several white papers, watched some video tutorials, and attended two webinars.
In my book, Prospect B is sales-ready. They are giving out clear buying signals. It would be appropriate for Sales to reach out.
Marketing haven’t yet got Prospect A to engage. There was an initial spark of interest but the ember never really caught. Hopefully a good nurture programme can reignite interest.
Track and measure every engagement
So, if we can accurately track all of the prospect’s engagement, then we stand a chance of being able to measure that. We could perhaps say “ok, over a period of a month or so, let’s award 1 point for a web visit, 5 for downloading a white paper, 20 for attending a webinar, 30 for coming to our event stand, etc.”
With our prospects all scored in this way, it’s simple to rank them and identify who the most engaged prospects are. It’s also really easy to determine a threshold at which the prospect should move from Marketing to Sales (or back again if the engagement level subsequently declines).
This then provides a mechanism that delivers a smooth transition from Marketing to Sales and gives a consistent definition of what a quality lead actually looks like that both teams can agree on.
Choosing the right tools for the job
As you might imagine, being able to track engagement at this level is not simple. Performed manually it may be an impossibly time-consuming task. But recent generations of software make this simple. Being able to manage all of your digital content and track engagement with it falls under the heading of Marketing Automation. Marketing Automation products will allow you to organise your web landing pages, forms, downloads, social channels, adwords account and more. They’ll provide tools to create and dispatch attractive emails, either on a case-by-case basis or through fully automated nurture campaigns. And best of all, they will track and score all engagement with this collateral.
Of course, once your prospect is sales-ready, you’ll then want to push the lead into your CRM solution so that the sales team can get straight to work on closing the deal. It is incredibly useful to be able to push across all of the engagement history. This allows your sales team to really get to know what the prospect is interested in ahead of the all important first call.
Act-On Marketing Automation & SugarCRM – seamless integration
We use Act-On to manage our digital engagement. Coupled with our own instance of Sugar it provides a complete head-start for everyone else in the business when it comes to preparing for a client call. The integration is seamless, ensuring that all of our customer segmentation data is kept up-to-date, live within the marketing environment.
Best of all, both SugarCRM and Act-On are affordable products, delivering the kind of power that is normally only found in the style of software more usually associated with the largest of modern enterprises.