As buyers increasingly turn to the internet to find information on products and solutions before engaging with sales, marketing’s lead generation role is becoming more important. However, asking marketing to generate leads without first identifying target customer segments and gaining agreement on lead quality guidelines, will likely results in poor quality leads being passed to sales. The survey asked, “What is the most effective way for marketing to impact sales enablement activities?”
The frequent misalignment between marketing and sales stems from a lack of process. In the past, marketing’s role was to create brand awareness to smooth the path for sales, who undertook the brunt of the lead generation effort. Marketing does generate leads from events (e.g. a trade show), but often not much effort is made to correlate the leads generated with the criteria used by sales. That is, there is no process for agreeing on target customers and then determining how to attract and identify quality leads. Consequently, marketing leads are mostly perceived as poor quality by sales. They just don’t match their needs!
Another key factor requiring alignment is “lead readiness”. It’s easy to generate contacts from a web article or whitepaper, but downloading a white paper doesn’t indicate a need or intent to buy. It indicates interest in the topic of the whitepaper only. To turn such contacts into leads requires “nurturing”. Nurturing means providing contacts additional touch points where they can choose to engage further. The nature of the nurturing and the interpretation of any engagement must be something sales and marketing agree on together. Introducing more “interesting content” without leading potential prospects towards a buying decision does not necessarily move them down the sales funnel and make them any more qualified.
The following statistics illustrate the impacts of this misalignment between Sales and Marketing:
- 61% of B2B marketers send all leads directly to Sales; however, only 27% of those leads will be qualified. (Source: MarketingSherpa)
- 79% of marketing leads never convert into sales. Lack of lead nurturing is the common cause of this poor performance. (Source: MarketingSherpa)
And when you consider the next statistic, the imperative to get this alignment right in order to maximize quality leads, becomes clearer:
- Research shows that 35-50% of sales go to the vendor that responds first. (Source: InsideSales.com)
Our survey results suggest that marketers understand the issues. Now it’s time to establish a common strategy for success. Cross-departmental agreement needs to be achieved, at a minimum, on the following:
- A precise, detailed definition of the target market(s) and buyers
- Lead generation processes and qualification criteria
- The number of “qualified” leads Marketing must deliver
- The time period within which Sales should respond
Alignment around a common strategy must also detail how to maximize prospect and customer satisfaction and value. Today buyers are completing over 65% of their purchase process online before engaging with a sales person. Yet studies indicate that the relationships developed and services received during and after the sales process may be more important than product attributes and remain integral to successful sales conversions and customer retention. In other words, customers seek value from their vendor relationships beyond simple product purchase.
Engaging early and maintaining engagement is vital to gaining and retaining customers and care must be taken to deliver real value throughout. Challenging your prospects and customers with timely and relevant issues connected to the solutions you offer – and stretching them to regularly think outside the box – is one means that successful sales people use to differentiate their solutions and provide value.
To help, marketing must become far better attuned to the needs of the target customer segments and must be able to provide sales with appropriate intelligence, not only on existing segment challenges and needs but also in terms of business opportunities that customers might benefit from, if they chose the right solution. In this manner, marketing can help sales devise new ideas and ways of thinking to more artfully engage the customers and develop their ongoing interest. Ultimately, a common understanding is needed, rooted in a shared strategy, and based on the one goal of engaging and converting prospects into successful customers.
What do you think is the most effective way for marketing to impact sales enablement activities?