Historically, the biggest cause of conflicts between marketing and sales can be summed up in one word. Leads.
Marketing generates leads. Sales determines that most of these leads are not qualified. They tell the marketing department that they need more leads. The marketers say, “Why don’t you use all the leads we’ve already given you !?”
And so it goes on.
Establishment of criteria for leads and SLA
When it comes to sports, we not only ask the athletes to play fairly; we create rules and use judges. Similarly, companies cannot expect their sales and marketing departments to work well without guidelines or objective third parties.
The first step, which most organizations have already taken, is to establish a common definition of what a qualified lead means.
It is of the utmost importance that your marketing department, sales department and senior executives agree with each other on what a lead is, whether it is a “lead”, a “ready to sell” lead, a “qualified lead” or a variation of the above.
Once you have worked out these definitions, the next step is to create a service level agreement (SLA). This agreement is used to define the marketing department’s commitment (for example, X qualified leads per month or quarter) and how the sales department responds to it (for example, follow-up at least six times with the most qualified leads and three times with the less qualified leads).
According to HubSpot’s 2016 State of Inbound Report, only 22% of all organizations say they have a well-worked SLA. Furthermore, marketers who have internal SLA pervasively say that their marketing is effective.
Implement a lead review
Once basic rules have been created, an objective third party is needed. This is where the authority I call “the lead review” comes into play.
The lead review consists of sales and marketing managers. If possible, the CEO should also be part of this. However, it is also good to let the operational manager be part of this instead.
A department goes through every lead that the sales department ignores or refuses (for example, when they send back a lead to the marketing department) to analyze if the refusal was done on good grounds. Did all parties follow the definitions you came up with?
By using this system you promote that both departments are held accountable for their actions. If your salespeople know they have to justify their decision when they deny a lead, they are less likely to throw in the towel or deny a lead because the potential customer was not immediately ready to make a purchase.
And if your marketers know that the quality of their leads will be reviewed, chances are they won’t fill the tube with low-quality leads just to meet their quota.
However, it is important to point out that the lead review is not there to allocate debt. The department is there to find out where the problem is so you can take appropriate action.
Common problems with lead generation
If we say that the lead review concludes that the sales department was right when they refused a lead, then that means the marketing department is not doing its job properly or that your criteria for leads are too broad.
If your sales department uses a formula like BANT, they may qualify for many leads. If we assume that a seller is talking to a decision maker who has a problem that can be solved but does not have a budget or time frame. The seller would then technically be right in denying this lead. But if the seller waits too long to allow the customer to become fully qualified, your competitors can access them first.
Of course, you don’t want your sales department plowing through a never-ending stream of bad leads either.
Solution? Determine that a qualified lead should have four of eight of the following characteristics:
It is vertical (SIC or NAICS code)
It is consistent with company-related characteristics (income, number of employees, number of offices, etc.)
Decision-makers / influential people or similar roles are included in the decision-making process
The right environment (related to the solution, eg “technical environment”)
Level of commitment from decision makers (engaged, referenced but included in the notes etc)
Business problems / needs are identified and validated
There is a documented decision-making process
There is a clear budget or documented process for establishing a budget
There is a documented competitive landscape
There is a sense that this is urgent or captivating.
This framework helps you focus on qualified opportunities and win over your potential customers before your competitors do.
Common problems with potential customers
Mike Weinberg, the author of “New Sales. Simplified .: The Essential Handbook for Prospecting and New Business Development, ”says one of the most common reasons for wasting leads is that the sales department does not conduct proper follow-up.
Weinberg claims that it is extremely uncommon to hear from potential customers after a single call. Sellers must earn their callback or email response. The lead review should analyze both how persistent the seller was (in other words, how many times he or she followed up on his initial call) as well as how strong the quality was on the bet (did the seller vary his methods? Did the seller value each call?)
This process requires a lot of time and effort from your managers. To speak clearly, this is time and effort that is usually unavailable.
If so, use a modified version instead. Rather than having the lead review review every lead sent back, you can have them review a random selection of denied leads each month.
According to SiriusDecisions, 72% of all B2B companies have a formal handover process between their sales and marketing departments. The average frequency of accepted leads is only 42%.
If your organization is to work together, SiriusDecisions says this frequency should be twice as high as this. Measure how effective lead review is by keeping track of the number of leads the sales department accepts. If the lead review does its job, you will notice how this figure continues to climb.