We have to be careful not to take words too literally.
Consider the idea that marketing delivers sales ready leads to sales. By doing this, marketing has moved the buyer X% (30% -70%?) of the way through the sales process, right? Well, maybe, but maybe not.
Let’s look at what has to happen with that “lead” on the sales side. (Reminder, we’re talking complex not transaction oriented sales here.) In most B2B sales processes 4-15 stakeholders are engaged. (A top technology company selling a multimillion dollar solution has 30-50 people on their People Map).
When we say marketing has delivered a sales ready lead, do we mean the 4-15 stakeholders to a specific opportunity, or a single individual?
Obviously, waiting for marketing to get an entire buying team to sales ready status introduces serious risk factors of being late to apply the critical sales professional resource. After all, people progress individually at different rates, and in a non-linear manner, through their buying process. It’s often difficult to determine the specific stage for each individual.
So, at best, what we can say is sales gets a good start. Hopefully they receive confirmed:
- Business needs
- A decision by the customer to resolve some need
- A participant to the buying process who is willing to engage immediately with a sales person (considerable time and effort saved)
- Some degree of information about the customer’s preference for the approach of the solution provider (SP) — at least on the part of the contacted lead.
What we don’t know is, do we have:
- A thorough and accurate diagnosis or assessment of the business needs (anything overlooked like peripheral needs, programs, functions or people?)
- Clarity about, or relationships with, all affected participants to the buying process, especially key influencers and decision makers
- Complete understanding of the customer’s buying process, criteria, assessment of fit with the SP’s capabilities
- The customer’s flexibility to modify or evolve those criteria (are the criteria favorable to a positive outcome for the SP, or for their competitor?)
OK, you get it, not all the factors by a long shot (and many more are on the list). And that’s the point. A lot of work to do, possibly even to determine if they really ARE a legitimate prospect — hence the Sirius Decisions distinction “sales accepted lead” and “sales qualified lead.”
What’s most important from a sales and marketing perspective is, sales must begin enrolling, educating (nurturing), building relationships, trust and credibility with the balance of the buying team, the other people on the People Map.
Without effective marketing collaboration, sales lacks the tools, resources and time to do this efficiently and effectively. They work in a cacophonous, interrupt driven world of phone calls , meetings, travel, preparation and learning — and did I say meetings?
They need content (tailored to role, issues, buying stage, competitive factors and communication objectives within the downstream portion of the buy/sell process). Sales needs delivery and tracking assistance — resources and automated tools — to execute in a consistent and timely manner.
For marketing and sales managers, this raises the question: how have you defined, documented and communicated with your counterpart, requirements for core services that marketing can provide as part of their content marketing and automated delivery and tracking systems, so everyone gets timely and accurate visibility to actions and the “digital body language” of each buying stakeholder?
Marketing: how does this inform your content strategy and execution priorities? For example, have you identified with sales all the downstream risk points that sales experiences after you hand off that lead? Have you defined how you can create content, first, as “bait” to uncover and identify individuals who are at those risk points, and then created content to help sales address those issues?
The most obvious area involves competitive alternatives, but also those nasty related risks of “do nothing” or “deal with it ourselves”.
It’s natural for marketing to deal with early stage, lead generation requirements that are in heavy demand by sales and senior management, and are more familiar and comfortable for marketing to address.
But if we’re talking about collaboration and having marketing take more responsibility to “drive the revenue engine” it’s critical to see the whole process as a system that requires alignment and execution of all the elements that make a sale successful.
Too often in the past, these activities were hostage to siloed ownership where the parties never spoke (maybe other than to say your stuff s*cks) let alone had regular meetings, developed a common strategy and process, provided helpful feedback, and shared execution.
This is a great opportunity for marketing to add further value, establish higher relevance, build better relationships with sales, and make a visible and significant difference to the business.