Every company wants to generate more and better-quality leads. Yet what makes a “qualified lead” remains ambiguous for too many organizations. The attitude “I’ll know if when I see it” does not work for today’s competitive business environment. You need concrete details.
Vague expectations hurt marketing and sales equally. When marketing doesn’t clearly understand what constitutes a quality lead, they cannot take the appropriate steps to improve their lead generation efforts, nor can they increase the number of qualified leads.
By improving the communication between sales and marketing through marketing and sales alignment, both departments benefit. Key metrics, such as cost per acquisition, lifetime value per customer and velocity to close, will improve, supporting the business as a whole.
Don’t Make Assumptions
When companies engage in lead generation, they often make assumptions about what makes a “quality lead” or what key performance indicators (KPIs) should be targeted. For example, a company may state that they want to focus on the best cost per acquisition (CPA). Yet the data they use to determine that can have a wide range of interpretations.
For every KPI, there are likely multiple ways to dissect the information, which each require a different way to capture the data. Making assumptions of what the KPIs measure and how granular that data will be when you go to analyze it is at the heart of the problems most businesses have with sales and marketing alignment.
Your marketing and sales departments need to understand how executive leadership will use the data to make business decisions and determine profitability, growth plans, and projections. This clarification can help these employees understand what data impact quality lead generation will most.
Sales and marketing teams should go beyond the obvious questions. Is the CPA for all products and services equal? Are there loss leaders which provide easy upsells or cross-sells to justify a higher CPA? Should reporting be by region, country, state, or zip code? What is the relative cost per employee who work on the sale? Are clients net new or repeat customers?
Additionally, there needs to be agreement and governance about how the data will be captured and stored. For example, when factoring the CPA for a multi-year subscription for a SaaS product, does one use the first year payment, subscription term, or lifetime revenue to calculate this information? There needs to be clarity and consistency around what and how data is entered into the Customer Relationship Database (CRM) or other tracking system.
Who Does What?
The next step involves determining who will be responsible for recording the agreed upon information into the designated fields. If the data isn’t entered into the CRM or other tool, there is no way for others to access, incorporate or report on it.
The critical gap in most companies is access to data to which sales traditionally alone has access. Marketing will need the sales data to help determine what leads converted to sales, as well as what kinds of sales came from leads (one-time purchase, low margin, repeat business, referrals). If they don’t have that information, their hands are tied: they have no way of knowing what works and what doesn’t.
Furthermore, the data needed for the marketing efforts will differ from what sales needs or wants, which differ from what the CEO and CFO want and need. Your company will need to determine what business metrics are sought and how those metrics will be reported before determining what data needs to be captured and then defining the necessary fields in the CRM.
The more that can be captured automatically, the better. Modern CRMs, like HubSpot, automate many of the common data points, which saves both your marketing team and your sales team valuable time that could be spent elsewhere. Sales follow-up and notifications can also be automated. Since sales teams prefer to work a lead rather than log data into the CRM, automation plays an invaluable role.
Additionally, teams will also need to agree on who is responsible for recording data in which fields. There should be no surprises when it comes to reporting information at the end of the month, quarter, or year.
Sales bypasses Marketing
Ironically, more and more sales organizations are starting to share information about sales processes, reports, scripts, and common customer questions with third-party lead generation organizations, while their own marketing team do not have access to this information. Both sides share the blame for this conundrum: many marketers don’t know what to ask for, and sales teams are frustrated by the lack of understanding most marketers have of the sales process.
This doesn’t have to be the case, though. Many marketers are fully trained in inbound marketing and focus on creating the same flow of content that these third party organizations do!
Furthermore, the internal marketing departments already have the information about the products and services, brand proposition (they wrote it, after all), and personas. They pay close attention to Top of the Funnel, Middle of the Funnel and Bottom of the Funnel. They evaluate competitors and industry trends. When given the freedom to truly maximize their impact, marketing can address shortcomings and retention issues through personalized and targeted content.
Despite all this, sales would rather work with teams that speak their language. Working with third-party organizations instead of internal marketing teams might result in a short-term win, but the long-term costs will be greater. The company will need to perpetually pay for leads generated, rather than building evergreen content on their own site which can generate quality leads for years to come. In addition, valuable search and prospect data will be lost, resulting in lost opportunities, lost marketplace research and lost revenue.
Getting into Specifics
After years of working with organizations who struggle to achieve marketing and sales alignment, I wrote a book that went into concrete detail about how to execute this alignment. It breaks down common KPIs, what fields in Salesforce or HubSpot are commonly used to capture this data, when it can be automated, and who needs to take ownership of that data.
For most organizations, there will likely be a few fields which will need to be customized. When they do so, be sure to go through the steps to clarify how the data should be entered and who is responsible for entering that data.
Document everything. Governance is so important. The quality of the reporting depends on the data entered. If companies are to make business decisions based on the data, then the data needs to be correct and consistent. Someone new to the organization or department won’t know crucial information if there is no clear documentation. Organizational responsibilities and consistency will get lost in the shuffle. You can avoid all this with full, clear documentation approved by management and updated at least annually.
What Data Matters
At first, those who hunger for data might want to gather every single piece of information. However, business moves too quickly to do so and the sales team simply won’t have time to complete this lengthy data entry.
Be judicious. Be strategic. Be realistic.
Finally, be flexible and listen to the other party. Try to understand why they are asking for a particular piece of information or why they resist gathering it. Be creative in finding compromises. Reach consensus between sales and marketing, respect the other, then present a unified approach to senior management to ensure that their requirements can be met with the data to be collected.
If senior management is resistant, negotiate a plan so that some baseline data can be gathered as a proof of concept. Then determine a timeline and adjust what data should be captured and how to meet management’s needs.
Managing expectations is at the heart of marketing and sales alignment. Clear and detailed communication is how such alignment can be achieved, and to ensure that the broader business impact is all that it should be.
Read this if you want to learn more about how marketing can impact your business.