There’s always been a complicated relationship between sales and marketing. We hear about it all the time, and it’s especially prevalent in the B2B industries, where lead generation and demand generation are key to a successful marketing and sales funnel.
In a typical organization, a marketing team is tasked with filling their sales team’s pipeline with qualified leads. Sales is tasked with taking those leads and turning them into opportunities or closed deals. The grey area in between–where communication between teams can drive good business practices or quickly dissolve into chaos–is what we wanted to learn more about at TechnologyAdvice. So we took a survey of sales leaders across several organizations to learn what they really think.
Here are a few things we learned:
1. Each lead has a different journey
Our survey found that of the ways that marketing teams interact with leads after they receive them:
- 2 percent interact with leads in an unspecified manner,
- 5 percent only purchase BANT leads that are ready to close,
- 16 percent send leads to a landing page for qualification,
- 33 percent send leads directly to sales upon receipt, and
- 44 percent score leads before they hand them off to sales.
So if your team engages only in one type of lead qualification, that can leave a lot of leads leftover who don’t interact with your brand. What happens to the rest of the leads that don’t qualify? Are they sent through some type of nurture track? Or do they just hang out in lead LaLa Land until they go cold? And if so, how might that affect the confidence of the sales team?
Having a destination for each lead that hits your CRM–no matter its qualification score–is key to success. If you don’t know where to start, ask the experts (that’s us at TA, BTW). A great way to figure out what works for your leads and your nurture campaigns is to A/B test. If you received 150 leads from your 3rd party lead gen partner, send half the leads through email first and call the other half, then compare results. You may find your new process along the way!
2. The source matters! Or does it?
The overwhelming majority of teams we surveyed–88 percent–said that leads that came to their website were their favorite lead source. Next in line were leads sourced from events, then webinars, and then 3rd party lead generation. It’s obvious that sales teams are going to love the leads that come directly to your website because they’ve already expressed interest in and knowledge of your product, but not every potential customer is proactively looking for your solution or service.
Almost every organization is looking for leads that are ready to purchase their service or solution right now. We generally classify these as BANT leads, and of course they’re our most popular product. But not all potential customers are ready to buy immediately. Lead generation companies exist to help boost demand for products. If you fill all sections of your funnel with leads at different stages of the buying process and nurture those leads, you help generate demand for your product based on a customer’s existing need–that they may not even know they have yet.
3. Lead follow up process
Depending on your lead source, each lead may need to be treated differently. From our survey, sales reps interact with leads in these ways:
- 25 percent of sales people call first,
- 11 percent email first,
- 35 percent do a combo of calling and emailing, and
- 29 percent said it depends on the interaction the lead had before sales received it.
If you find that you’re having trouble figuring out the proper followup or nurture track, your lead generation partner should make it a point to help you better understand the readiness to buy of each lead, and how to interact with them. Zach Jones, our VP of Sales said it best:
“Reps should focus not on the close, but on moving these leads forward or getting a piece of information they did not have before. If a lead is not the decision maker, finding the right person and getting their info is a win.”
Knowledge is power, especially in the follow up process. Set the expectation with your team that even though the goal is to move leads down the funnel into an opportunity, no information they obtain is unhelpful to your ultimate goal, because even if the data is inaccurate, you’ve learned something about your provider or practices. Every piece of information you receive is a win. Even if the lead doesn’t want to work with you or is the wrong point of contact, you can cross them off your list and move on, but save that information to help you better understand who your target audience should be.
4. Confidence is key
From our survey, we found that a whopping 59 percent of sales reps aren’t fully confident in following up with the leads they receive from marketing:
- 10 percent said they were either not confident or had no clue whatsoever as to whether they should follow up with leads
- 20 percent said they were somewhat confident
- 29 percent voted neutral, and
- 41 percent of respondents said that feel confident in following up with the leads from marketing
As a marketer, it should be important to ensure that the team has the confidence needed to follow up with the leads you send their way. And sales teams should make the effort to understand where these leads come from and how to follow up with them.
For example, if leads were sourced through a webinar, the sales team needs all the webinar information and should be able to speak confidently about its content. If the leads were sourced through outsourced lead gen, all necessary documentation should be included with those leads so sales can align their strategy with how the leads were generated.
5. Efficiency is the name of the game
When asked what their biggest day-to-day challenges are, one response that stuck out for us was, “Efficiency.” Efficiency doesn’t happen on its own. Teams have to plan and implement tools and protocols to make their processes as smooth as possible.
While it may sound obvious, efficiency helps streamline everyone’s work so real work gets done. In the sales and marketing world, becoming more efficient could mean streamlining your lead hand-off process by ensuring you have a great Marketing Automation system in place, or by having leads populate directly into your CRM. Because a lot of success can depend on the amount of time that elapses before you follow up with a lead, it’s important to have these tools in place.
Background: Why Ask Sales How They Feel About Leads?
At TechnologyAdvice, our sales team is responsible for selling our unique Demand Generation programs to different clients who all have different needs. Some clients purchase our content syndication leads to send through a nurture cadence while others need leads to pass to their SDRs with hopes of eventually converting leads into opportunities. Every team, company, and individual sales rep has different goals and expectations.
What types of leads your company needs can largely depend on your company size and objectives. For example, say you work at a small company (50-60 employees) and your sales team is relatively small. You may need leads that are already somewhat qualified, so you can save your sales folks time when it comes to moving the leads through the funnel to a qualified opportunity. Or maybe your company is large (1000+ employees) and your sales cycle is typically long (6-12 months.) You may need a mix of leads to nurture over time and leads that are more ready to buy ASAP, so you can have leads all across the funnel. Our job at TechnologyAdvice is to identify those needs and find a program to match.
As a sales executive, I hear from our clients all the time that their sales teams can be wary of the leads sent from marketing. This emotion is worth exploring. Is it because sales doesn’t think the leads are qualified enough before they’re passed over? Or is it because the sales team doesn’t know enough about the leads from the start? The reality is that the issues can stem from many reasons, and it’s probably a little of both.
Communication and Setting (Reasonable) Expectations
As a sales team we have to set the proper expectations for what clients can expect from our leads, so they can communicate with sales on how to appropriately handle the leads. Zach Jones, TechnologyAdvice’s VP of sales says, “Set the sales team’s expectations, and they will be happy with the performance.”
We solved this problem with our clients when we created a Best Practices Guide. The marketing team then has a guide to refer to, so they can properly inform their sales team on how to best follow up with our leads. While this makes the marketers’ jobs easier, it also sets expectations across all three stakeholders, so there are no surprises.
Communication Is A Two-Way Street
But the responsibility shouldn’t only fall on the marketing department or the lead generation service. Sales teams need to vocalize the gaps in order for both teams to work together seamlessly. I asked our Marketing Manager, Joe Neill, what he thinks can be done by both marketing and sales to ensure success,
It’s key that both groups share a common goal. Marketers need sales teams to provide feedback, but they also know that sales’ priorities will always focus on closing the next deal – so they need to make it as convenient and efficient as possible to collect that feedback. The other key is around communication: whatever method your marketing and sales teams use to communicate, clarity and consistency is the best way to avoid wasted time and get everyone singing from the same hymn sheet.
I once was told by a marketer that he would take the sales team’s feedback with “a grain of salt,” because they tend to be judgemental of leads passed from marketing. My question is, why? If the proper expectations and communication exists between sales and marketing, both teams should trust one another. Unfortunately that doesn’t always happen. As a marketer your primary role before handing leads over to sales is to fully understand and communicate to sales how the leads were qualified initially.
Let TechnologyAdvice Help
At TechnologyAdvice, we want to help your team create ROI through our demand generation programs. Don’t stress yourself on how to fill your sales team’s pipeline, leave it to us, we’re the experts. Check out Our Process and Our Services to learn more about how TechnologyAdvice can help you close more deals.