Change Management / Modern Marketing Culture / Strategic Planning

The Perfect Cup of Coffee

coffee-carlijeanMany marketing transformations seem to go really well until the leads start flowing to sales. For some reason, the conversion funnel numbers you projected just don’t end up materializing. The reason for this is often because sales has a different idea of what leads are worth the effort and which ones are not. Unfortunately, there is about as much agreement on that topic as there is on what constitutes the perfect cup of coffee.

Identify What Sales Wants

First, understand the historical “sales acceptance rates” of your past campaigns and why sales rejected some of them. Sales acceptance rates indicate whether the contact met the criteria for your sellers to think the lead was worth following up on. Since sellers are typically compensated on percentage of revenue earned, their feedback on which leads are most likely to result in revenue is both probably based on some pretty good data and a key component of getting them to buy in to the new marketing process you’re rolling out.

Sales acceptance tells you, based on the expertise of the sales team, which leads are most likely to convert – which is relevant even when marketing has its own revenue goals. Marketers get a head start on understanding what works, even if it’s just to understand that segment of the buying audience who requires sales assistance before purchasing and use it as a baseline for other types of purchasers you may be going after, those who prefer to purchase online, for example.

Study the marketing touches each lead had and look for patterns on those that were accepted versus those that were rejected. What sort of messaging did those have in them? What formats and channels did they come from? Did some sequences of formats and channels and messages work better than others? Spend the time and see what you can learn

Define Well-Qualified

Bring the research you did on past leads, both those accepted and those rejected by sales, and review the data with sales. The goal of this conversation is to understand, from their perspective, the difference between accepted and rejected leads. Then work with them to define what a well-qualified lead would look like. This up-front clarification will help avoid finger-pointing later on about the quality – or lack thereof –  of leads marketing’s fancy new transformation is generating.

These criteria usually include a certain number of interactions with the brand. In fact, interaction with a specific key asset that requires the buyer to invest significant time or data to use the content (such as a return-on-investment calculator or a free trial) might also be part of the calculation. This time or sharing of data typically indicates level of interest, similar to filling out a form to have someone call to answer questions the buyer has. The criteria might even might include the lead having sufficient budget, reasonable timeframe to purchase, and so on.

As we’ve discussed before, however, improving lead quality often means reducing lead volume. This is logical in that you have more stringent criteria, fewer contacts will meet that criteria. However, it’s always a bit alarming to sellers so engage them at an even deeper level. Work with sales to define how to score leads so that they support the agreed upon definition of qualification. Scoring means assigning a number to each element of the criteria and weighting it based on how well it indicates readiness for conversion from lead to sales opportunity.

Team to Make it Work

There is some awesome new software out there that can help you score and route well-qualified leads. However, you’ll need to get sales to buy into the concept of automating that process since it’s not cheap. There is also the same process modification and training that has to take place, just like it did in the marketing transformation. Help sales navigate that process by sharing all the great change management, process realignment, and other material you have from your marketing transformation.

Lead scoring or even defining what a well-qualified lead is isn’t a “set it and forget it” sort of scenario since no one ever guesses the perfect score to give each element right off the bat. Marketing and sales will need to experiment with the number attributed to each criteria and the criteria themselves until they find a formula that really reflects strong revenue. Then you’ll need to modify it whenever you have new marketing tactics or adjust prices or features any other major portion of your organization’s revenue generation plan.

You will likely also need to nurture a lead a little more to find these better qualified, high-scoring leads but it will be worth the time saved following up on a lead that was never going to convert to a revenue opportunity in the first place. The point at which buyers want to interact with a seller may even change, likely later in the buying cycle than what you planned in past campaigns. This is another facet of change sellers will have to adjust to, given that the customer is now definitely in control of the buying process, thanks to technology and how other organizations are using it to market to them.

Many marketers may read this and complain that they end up doing all the hard work and sales just takes the credit but, if you’ve ever taken the time to sit in on some sales calls, you know that selling is hard work. (In the same way, it makes sense for marketing to share the complexities of optimizing a tactic, so sellers get a better understanding of what it is that marketing actually does – and that it’s not as easy as they might have imagined.) It’s a partnership. Plus,  if they have the data that is going to help me do better marketing, how does it benefit me not to use it? It’s my marketing that will suffer, not theirs.

Comments are welcome, especially examples of how your sales and marketing teams work together to define well-qualified leads.

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