A CEO of a software vendor I once worked for once said, when discussing Lead Generation: “Until we get an order, all we’ve done is spend money”. On the face of it, that seems like a pessimistic view, but actually it is very insightful. Every lead is a cost centre that only ceases to be so when it is turned into revenue. If this view is truly embraced by an organisation, the end-to-end process from selecting target data, generating the lead through to pitching and winning the business becomes much more strategic. And if you get the fundamentals right, you can enjoy a much better return not just on your marketing investment but on your sales investment too, whilst competitors are left chasing their tails.
During a career spent working on both sides of the great ‘sales and marketing divide’, I’ve seen a few subtle but important changes to approach make a big difference to results:
Aligning Marketing and Sales towards a common goal: Not many organisations do this. In most, Marketing will have a goal to generate a target based on lead volume. Not many Sales people have a target based on a volume of deals! This disparity often leads to the age-old argument where Marketing says: “We generate loads of leads for Sales but they never close them”, and Sales responds with “I’ve never got enough good leads from Marketing to do my number”.
Marketing generates pipeline value not a number of leads: Building a Lead Generation engine that focusses on ‘pipeline value accepted by sales’ and not a given number of leads has a much greater contribution to sales success, particularly in enterprise sales where deal values can vary greatly. No longer constrained by having to hit a volume-based target, Lead Generation Agents can focus on data of the right profile and are free to spend more time hunting for and nurturing larger leads. If the goal is based on ‘accepted’ pipeline by sales, the focus switches to high-level qualification because it is in the Lead Generation Agent’s interest to get the lead accepted by the Sales person.
Sales people don’t actually want a full diary: they want a full order book: It is a received wisdom that one will equal the other. The usual remedy during a Sales person’s performance review is: I’ve missed my number so I need more leads. This usually just makes the Sales person busier but not necessarily more productive. It could actually make the problem worse. In reality if Sales are provided with a lower number of high value, well qualified leads, they have more time to work the deals and increase their chances of winning them.
Sales and Lead Generation working together as a team: Experience shows that if a Sales person is handed 10 leads and the first 2 are not great, not much effort will be expended on the remaining 8. Conversely, if 6 leads are handed over and the first 2 are fantastic, the chances are the next 4 will get the full focus. I’ve found that a warm hand-over of each lead from the Lead Generation Agent to the Sales person achieves much better buy-in and improves the quality of lead follow-up over the traditional cold email or allocation on a CRM. Creating this dialogue also enables the Sales person to give the Lead Generation Agent feedback on what was good and what was bad about the lead, enabling the process to continuously improve.
These seemingly small changes to approach actually drive significant positive changes in behaviour, and I’ve seen that double true sales pipeline without increasing costs.