Marketing generates leads. Sales ignores them or only acts on a fraction of them. Marketing complains that Sales cherry picks and (excuse the mixed metaphor) leaves money on the table. Sales complains that Marketing doesn’t get it. The leads they provide are for opportunities that are too small. The customer timeline is too long. They don’t have budget. And so on.
This dance plays itself out in many organizations in one form or another. How you do you stop it? Better yet, how do you turn this struggle into a beautiful pas de deux that results in greater efficiency on the Marketing side and more revenue on the Sales side?
One man who has some ideas on how to make that happen is Dan McDade, president and CEO of PointClear. Dan wrote a brief treatise on the topic—The Truth About Leads—and I asked him about it during this week’s episode of Marketing Smarts. I was interested in the idea that most companies don’t seem to have a lead problem but rather a leadership problem.
Marketing Purgatory, Sales Purgatory
The problem is, Dan explained, that leads either end up in “Marketing purgatory,” where Marketing generates leads but doesn’t pass them along to Sales in a timely fashion, or “Sales purgatory,” where Sales has accepted the leads but nothing happens with them. The leads just sit there.
Losing leads into these purgatories represents a kind of leakage. Dan says, “Stop those leaks!”
The Judicial Branch
To stop the leakage, Dan recommends the following.
“You have to have a single individual that has responsibility for both of these areas, what I call a kind of ‘judicial branch’ that says, ‘You know, if a lead hasn’t moved into Sales from Marketing, then what happened? Why not? And if a lead is not moving through the sales process, why not? And how can we get those leads passed back into some function that can nurture those leads or re-heat those leads so we don’t basically just lose leads into the black hole?’”
Dan adds, “It’s a leadership problem, not really a lead problem.”
Letting the Leaders Lead on Leads
A company’s leader can help solve the lead problem in at least three ways. First, he can ensure that there is absolute clarity around the process, that both Sales and Marketing are operating with a common definition of the market and what constitutes a qualified lead, and that all performance is being measured every step of the way.
Secondly, the leaders need to make sure that the sales forces are being properly deployed. “80% of sales people are farmers, not hunters,” Dan says, emphasizing that there are “a lot of farmers that think they’re hunters.” While in some circumstances you may want more hunters than farmers, you must make sure you’re pointing the people you have in the right directions. Don’t ask farmers to do the job of the hunters or vice versa.
Finally, Dan says, you need “the C level weighing in on lead quality.” At some point, if there are disputes over lead quality between Sales and Marketing, the leaders need to act as arbiters who will come in and settle the issue. Marketing thinks the leads are good, but Sales think they stink? Let the leaders decide by reviewing all the leads in question. In Dan’s experience, this can vindicate the efforts of Marketing and send a strong signal that Sales needs to run with the ball they’ve been handed.
Give Sales What They Want
Dan reminded me of the traditional wisdom that, “You should never go to war with the sales force.” Why? Because you’ll lose.
That holds true for the leaders of the company as well as its marketers. Rather than browbeating the sales team for not working with the leads produced by Marketing, Dan suggests that you remember what motivates sales folks, namely: control, credit, and compensation.
On the control front, you need to make it all right for a sales rep to return a lead to Marketing. On the credit and compensation fronts, make sure that the rewards are aligned with the way your business actually works. For example, if deals with a slightly longer time to close are more profitable, see to it that reps aren’t penalized for pursuing this business and are adequately rewarded when they win it.
What’s Your Problem?
It’s easy to view these ancient battles between Sales and Marketing as “natural” or “just the way things are.” That is simply not true. Sales and Marketing are mere functions of a greater whole. They will work well together (or not) based on how well this greater whole is led.
If you’d like to listen to my entire conversation with Dan you may do so here or download the mp3 and listen to it at your own convenience. Of course, you can always subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes and never miss an episode!
(Photo courtesy of Bigstock: Business People Playing)