If you’re early in your marketing automation journey, you’re probably gobbling up blogs and advice everywhere you can find it. One of my favorite ivory tower best practices is to start by creating a “service level agreement” about leads to pass on to sales.
But if you ask sales what leads they want to see, you know what they’ll say?
They’ll say “all of them.” But 6 months from now, they’ll be complaining that marketing leads are crap and are never ready to buy anyway.
DON’T DO IT, IT’S A TRAP!
Push back, and push back hard
Take this “all of them” response with a BIG grain of salt. Push back on this — what criteria would make your sales reps so excited about a lead that they’d stop what they’re doing and pick up the phone? (Because that’s what you need them to do).
As part of this “service level agreement” guidance, a lot of inbound marketing gurus will tell you to spell out definitions of what’s an MQL, what’s an SQL, etc. That’s great and all, but in my experience, that’s really hard to define in the beginning.
Get agreement on some rough classifications, but be prepared to make some judgement calls and pivot as you see how things are going.
What the data says about sales’ role
Marketing is (and is going to continue) to hang onto leads for waaaay longer than they have in the past. One of my CEO friends is fond of saying that inbound marketing is his way of “reducing dependence on overpaid sales reps.”
Maybe don’t repeat that to your sales team though.
It’s different for every organization, but I think we’re going to see a shift like this happening:
Here’s what Forrester Research has to say about it:
“Today’s buyers control their journey through the buying cycle much more than today’s vendors control the selling cycle,” explained Lori Wizdo, Principal Analyst at Forrester. “Marketing now owns a much bigger piece of the lead-to-revenue cycle, and B2B marketers must take responsibility for engaging with the customer through more of the buying journey.”
Gartner’s data shows a similar trend, leading them to conclude, “By 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationships without talking to a human.”
TL;DR: Marketing is influencing more of the sales cycle than ever before (although whether sales will or won’t admit that is another story).
Negotiate a shared vision of success
If you want to facilitate lasting marketing and sales harmony, work on negotiating a shared vision of success. Talk to your sales leadership and ask them what they would like to see, and what they expect to see from your marketing campaigns.
In some cases you may need to manage those expectations. Be sure to capture this in writing and point back to it often.
I will admit that this is a “do as I say, not as I do” observation – I have definitely learned a lesson or two on this the hard way.
Communicate excessively with sales (especially at the beginning)
EOY or EOQ isn’t frequent enough to check in on how things are going – cultivate a constant feedback loop so you can learn what’s working and make adjustments.
What tactics and messaging resonate? What don’t? How is sales following up with leads, and what’s the outcome?
And make sure this ends up in a CRM. You can’t run a report to quantify every time a rep says “oh, we’re trading voicemails.”
If sales doesn’t act, don’t give them the damn leads
If you’re tossing leads over the walls to the sound of crickets, stop. Just stop. You worked hard for those leads, gosh darn it, and you deserve better.
Re-evaluate what leads you’re passing on, and to who. Is there a hungrier sales rep on the team that you could leverage as a “pilot” for developing a better follow-up workflow?
How might marketing nurture these leads even further before relinquishing control? Could the lead development / business development function live under marketing, so that you can ensure timely follow up?
What are your options besides arm wrestling sales or begging them to pick up the phone? Who can you get in your corner to help you drive a change in behavior?
More to come on this…
This isn’t the last time you’ll hear me talking about working with sales… it’s a wicked problem, with no easy answer. And I’ve got all kinds of opinions I’d love to air and get your thoughts on.
For now, over to you – what’s worked for you with handing off leads to sales? What causes you heartburn? Please share in the comments!