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Helping Marketing to Help Sales to Help Marketing

Helping Marketing to Help Sales to Help Marketing

It might sound like a ditsy question, but who are you giving your leads to?

Answering it can shed a great deal of light on how you market because it can tell you how much work you need to do in the marketing and sales process, and how much you can expect your sales counterparts to perform.

Consider this.

The sales research company CSO Insights says that only half of sales organizations have a formal sales process and/or one that has SFA embedded in it to help streamline its operations. By formal, I mean a process that is written down and repeatable to the point that we know that something is not forecasted unless it has met some criteria imposed by the organization. Nothing too rigid, just knowing who the buyer is, if there’s budget and need, and a timetable for getting something done, things like that. Each sales organization is a bit different based on what and how they sell but a formal sales process ought to be standard.

As for the other half of sales organizations without documented sales processes? Their processes are more ad hoc and a forecast is, well, problematic — it might include deals that resemble those discussed above but it might also include wishful thinking. Worse than that, a forecast from an informal process might not include some deals that should be there but that the sales rep might be saving for the proverbial rainy day.

As a marketer it’s critical to understand what kind of sales process you are dealing with if you are going to help your sales team win business. This means that you might have to do more work if you support a team that has the informal kind of process.

Here are some marketing and sales alignment ideas that will help you help your sales team, regardless of their process leanings.

1. Measure what you want to improve along the whole marketing and sales spectrum by building metrics that reflect a formal sales process. Whether or not sales wants to help, you can still get a lot done by keeping in mind that a good lead has the things mentioned above. It makes little sense to hand over something that simply indicates passing interest. In this light, tracking things like the number of leads and gross revenues generated is not enough to be successful. While it’s not good to spend a lot of money and other resources on leads that don’t close, simply measuring quantity and costs won’t tell you how to do better. This leads us to number 2.

2. Don’t be satisfied with a purely retrospective analysis of your programs like revenue, costs and leads generated. Ask and answer harder questions such as: Which programs generate leads that are fastest to close?  Which programs generate leads that drive the biggest initial sale? Using analytics to answer harder questions drives better insight into your marketing processes and also drives improvement over all. To do this, you need ratios, not just raw measures. You can get some of the financial data from the CFO if you can’t get it from sales and that will help you build a picture of what sales success really looks like. Also, taking a ratio approach transforms old metrics like leads into leads per program, cost per lead, revenue per lead, time to close leads generated in a program, etc. Ratios like this make it easy to compare programs, investments and even sales performance.

3. Time stamping is the new black — it is one of the least costly and invasive ways to get a handle on performance. Time stamp your marketing funnel events (ask for sales to do the same, if you can) so that you can understand things like velocity and time in a marketing or sales stage. Use it to assess program and campaign productivity as well as the quality of the forecast. Deals that have been in the forecast too long are aging out of closing range and into the wishful thinking area.

4. Deliver only the best leads. The ones that have telltale signs that the prospects are serious, have need, have budget, and are ready to act. Sales will be very grateful and their feedback will automatically improve because you’ll see deal velocity and close rates improve.

5. Encourage sales to provide feedback on every lead that marketing hands them. I admit that this is hard, especially in an environment where there is no formal sales process because salespeople might reject a lead for a good reason or for no reason at all. But if you track the disposition of all the leads you give to sales, you will be building a trail of evidence that will show good and not so good sales practices. This might sound Big Brotherish but it might be the best way to demonstrate marketing’s effectiveness while providing a gentle nudge to sales to move in a more effective manner.

You might think this is asking a lot, and it is. Ideally sales will want to participate but even if it doesn’t you’ll be helping sales to improve its performance and the data you get back will improve yours.

   Image Credit(s):                marc falardeau                    

Written by

Denis Pombriant
March 26, 2014