It is common knowledge that marketing and sales teams must be aligned to garner the greatest success for any business. Often times however, it seems that the right hand doesn’t necessarily know what the left hand is doing. Many sales teams will complain that marketing departments don’t truly understand what it is like out in the field and constantly try to push new products into the market. On the other hand, marketing departments don’t understand the basis behind sales’ complaints. They simply feel as though they are providing additional opportunities for sales teams to hit their quotas.
In lead generation, this confusion exists because there is a large gray area as to when sales should become responsible for the leads versus marketing. Often times sales teams want a fully vetted lead where all they have to do is call to close the sale. The challenge many businesses face is figuring out how to determine the right time to do the marketing to sales handoff. One way to ensure a smooth handoff is through marketing and sales alignment as well as collaboration.
According to Marketo there are at least three areas where marketing and sales collaboration becomes a business imperative:
- The definition of a sales-ready lead derived from co-defined lead values
- The appropriate type of customer communication, associated cues and optimal timing
- Will you use internal lists or external lists or both?
- The lead profile and history that is most interesting and valuable to sales
Marketing and sales teams must work together to establish what a sales-ready lead looks like very early in the process. When these expectations are appropriately set, it will lead to decreased confusion or uneasiness further down the road.
So what is the lead definition? A common rule of thumb that sales organizations use is BANT, meaning Budget, Authority, Need and Timeframe. Determining what each of these means to your lead definition will vary by industry as well as whether the sales process is transactional (short turnaround) or solution based (long turnaround). Transactional sales typically have a short sales cycle varying from one day to one week whereas, solution based selling builds rapport with the customer and typically includes handling larger revenue sales. Building the customer relationship creates a longer sales cycle, sometimes leading up to eighteen months.
In the lead generation world typically what happens is that prospects are contacted to determine need, budget, authority and the timeline to purchase. If any of these criteria do not meet the previously established lead goals, then the marketing groups will further nurture the lead until the prospect is ready to move forward in the sales process.
When a lead needs to be nurtured, sales and marketing need to mutually agree upon what will be the appropriate type of prospect communication and determine the optimal timing of sending out the communication. This process also needs to be established early on in the lead management strategy and whether marketing or sales will handle the communication. It also needs to be determined who will be the primary contact for prospects, marketing or sales? Many businesses may also choose to utilize various marketing automation tools to automatically send out communication to prospects on a predetermined timeline.
Prior to any communication being distributed, sales and marketing need to determine what communication vehicles will be used. One vehicle might be sending an email that includes a snippet of the features and benefits and will direct the prospect to the company website to learn more. The type of communication that is distributed also depends on the product or service. Some products may only require sending out information about a white paper or company article while other times a demo call may be more appropriate. Again this varies greatly by industry and what resonates the most with your prospects.
(Check out our article on Lead Nurturing: Qualifying Prospects and Timing Interactions to learn more about lead nurturing best practices.)
Once marketing and sales have mutually agreed upon what defines a lead and how often marketing or sales will communicate with the prospects, a lead system must be in place that can accurately house the lead information and history. This is especially important for leads that have been nurtured, handed off to sales, determined to not be sales ready and placed back in to the lead nurturing process once more. The lead history is necessary for sales in order for them to be better prepared for future interactions with the prospects as they will have all the topics that were previously discussed and any questions or concerns the prospect posed.
The best lead management campaigns come from a marketing and sales team that can work together. When everyone is on the same page with clear expectations it makes for a better internal team as well as a better interaction with the prospects.
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