SimplyDIRECT recently surveyed marketing professionals within large software firms, and we learned a lot about the assumptions, desires and anxieties of this group. No question, this is a smart bunch. We often come back from meetings with clients not only liking the marketers we meet, but impressed with how creative and thoughtful they are. Unfortunately, there is often a disconnect with what sales is doing, and that is particularly – and painfully – obvious in the larger organizations.
No one is really to blame. Often intentions are good and the goals are shared. But poor communication – a distinctly human trait – can sink a good marketing plan. Let’s look at ways to avoid some common mistakes:
- Understanding Compensation. No, I don’t mean, “What does the sales person make?” This is more a common understanding of how they are “comped”. Many telemarketing reps get bonuses based on number of sales qualified leads (SQLs) and marketing is measured on marketing qualified leads (MQLs). Nothing wrong with this, but a comp plan should only reward teams for things they can control. Can the two share a common goal? I bet they’d start working together more closely.
- Length of Sales Cycle. Here again, marketing almost always underestimates how long it really takes to make a sale. What is the starting point? Let’s get something understood right off the bat: if you’re selling a six-figure solution, a sale is really hard. At that level – let’s say a $350K sale – there may be a dozen people in on the decision. Sometimes it requires the blessing of the Board. Imagine how, at each step of the way, a senior manager or director has to wait for the right timing to pitch the next layer of management. It’s like climbing Everest. Every step higher is harder, the weather can change suddenly, and teammates may get cold feet. It takes time and visibility into a foggy process and forecasting is difficult. When a marketer tells me it’s a 3-6 month sales cycle (for just about anything), I politely stay quiet.
- Definition of “good lead.” A good marketer shouldn’t be afraid to approach sales with a list of their last, say, 30 “good” leads and ask how they performed. Be prepared to be humbled. First, you’ll learn what they consider “good”. Then, you’ll learn where the holes are in your organization’s sales process. Just be positive and keep asking, “How many did you pursue? How did you pursue them? What happened when you contacted them? What could marketing have done better? Do you want more?”
- Crediting the source. Ah, this one is really challenging. I had a meeting once with a client (a SaaS-based HR solution) and explained that my company’s marketing programs achieved a 4% response rate on first touch. He huffed and said, “We get 8% on ours!” I told him that was plenty good, and asked him to explain. He looked at the floor and said that that was the response rate they got on leads that were already warm. Okay, fine. Right there he admitted his comparing apples to oranges. Who would get the “win” in an organization like that, if they weren’t being straight about where the leads came from? How could their campaigns be properly measured? Finally, what value is there to inflate your numbers if your goal is to determine what works, what can be replicated, etc.? A key goal for a marketer is to be straight with the facts, so you can build a plan that delivers again and again.
- Repeatable wins. This is the final test. Any scientist will tell you how, in their youth, they thought they’d cured cancer and bought cigars for all their pals… only to discover later that they couldn’t reproduce the results. A sales professional will often tell you that when the client comes back for the third engagement, THEN you can call them an account, a customer. Same with marketing. Isolate the variables that seemed to perform for you, then try it again EXACTLY. And then maybe one more time. The mailer, the subject line in the email, the list, the offer, the job titles, the company profile… when you understand all these and run the campaign again and get the same results (response rate, MQL, SQL… sale!) then you’re a true marketer. And here’s the punch line: it’s hard. But for a marketer to be creative and disciplined enough to design campaigns that have repeatable and forecastable results… that’s really hard, too. It’s also called success.
For more on how to penetrate key accounts, download our Account Penetration Report.