Strategic Planning

A Beautiful Bouquet

A photo by Charlie Harutaka. this blog, I’ve been using the term ‘marketing transformation’ but, given how many down-stream implications a marketing transformation has, you have to consider how other departments, especially client-facing ones, will also need to change.  We’ve talked about bringing in the subject matter experts to help map out the new processes that might impact them. However, especially with Sales, there is a lot more you have to align than merely the method of how a lead is handed off from the marketing department to the sales department.

Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) may want a beautiful, perfectly arranged bouquet of flowers where each bud is of the same, customer-centric or digital variety, just a slight shade different from the others, reflecting the department’s unique function. However, there is usually some friction between functions, especially between sales and marketing.

Some of the friction may be due to marketing being given (taking?) more and more responsibility within organizations in recent years. Marketing was traditionally just responsible for filling the pipeline for sellers. Over time, though, researching the market and its needs, packaging, distributing, and pitching products/services/brands have all increased in scope.

At the same time, the huge opportunities created by analyzing data from marketing interactions (including being able to prioritize customers via customer lifetime value (CLV), reducing marketing costs with cost-per-lead data, etc.) have increased the return on investment (ROI) on marketing spend. This change has even gotten to the point where, in some cases, marketing has gained enough traction to drive the direction of some organizations, taking some of the limelight from sales or product development/engineering, the two departments that have historically been the most influential.

Conflict between departments, especially the revenue-generating sales and marketing groups, can interfere with effectiveness. While I’m not advocating merging the two departments under a single leader (partly because organizations that divide the two groups are likely to grow faster than average and partly because I can’t imagine how you get sufficient expertise in both those challenging disciplines to do justice to both at once), your marketing transformation does have to do more than just map out a physical handoff of leads from marketing to sales, some of them more controversial than others.

Lead Quality Impacts Lead Quantity

Most organizations have a variety of sales roles. For inbound contacts or marketing qualified lead (MQL), there is usually a lead development representative who sorts, nurtures, and progresses qualified leads.  Sometimes you have outbound sellers who support business development goals. Field (outside) sales and inside sales, based on size of account or territory or even size of potential opportunity. One of the biggest issues in the handoff – from a marketer’s point of view – is that qualified leads are not followed up with via phone calls (which are more effective, but more difficult, than emails). However, from the seller’s perspective, the MQL may not be as important as an inbound lead (i.e., one who came in via a contact form requesting a demo).

The answer is for the marketer to send only the most mature leads to the lead development rep. However, the volume of more mature leads is significantly smaller than then the base number of responses. Most lead development reps are compensated by volume of contacts so there is a natural fear that there will not be enough leads to sustain the current employment levels. You have to some more change management here, to ensure the sales team understands the benefit of the change to them and to the entire organization or you’re going to have some serious problems across the organization.

Taking Advantage of New Digital and Its Data

The shift to digital and client journey mapping techniques allow sellers to gain better understanding about who they are talking to and what the unique buyer wants. While much more of the journey may be self-driven, when buyers are ready to talk to sales, the conversation is likely to be much more productive than in the past, since information-gathering questions the buyer might have asked the sellers in the past now get addressed early in the buying cycle. Knowing that, buyer consumption of a specific asset can be used as an indicator of buyer readiness to speak to sales.

By the same token, though, sellers have to continue with the type and tone of interactions that marketing has used. Email signature lines have to change from “Sales Rep” to “Account Manager” or something equally suggestive of post-purchase support. Marketing may be able to help with templates and such. Sellers need to live that sentiment so work with sales to set up a periodic customer-only newsletter or website or other on-demand tactic they can use with minimal effort. Whatever you and your sales team do, ensure that you use the capabilities of modern technology to make client’s feel that you care about building a long-term relationship with each client.

The shift to digital marketing and the growth of customer relationship management (CRM) and other technology also gives sales a huge leg up from the information they’ve had to go on in the past. To start with, marketers can help sellers understand the messaging and content. Marketers can also connect their systems (or at least their reports out of those systems) with sales systems. These connections are as simple as setting up lead scoring and can be as complex as providing customer lifetime value data into the seller’s lead’s dashboard.

In this way, sellers will have descriptive data about what each buyer did when. The sales department can then add their own predictive data to determine what the best product/service is to pitch to this buyer, what promotion is the most effective, even what course of action is best to take in this particular situation. There have been lots of complaints about the sheer volume of data available today and how overwhelming it can be so ensure that you have a full-time analytics professional on staff to support these various data needs. And, if you are lucky enough to hire an analytics person for sales and another for marketing, take the time to set up a structure to ensure they stay on the same page so sales and marketing data is in synch.

Comments are welcome, especially if you have examples of how your sales team handled the ramifications to their department from the marketing transformation.

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