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Successful Sales And Marketing Alignment | 5 Powerful Best Practices

Successful Sales And Marketing Alignment | 5 Powerful Best Practices

“I’ll prove it to you!” exclaims Jack Kosakowski.

“Let me show you the current state of Sales and Marketing alignment.”

It’s September 12, 2017. I’m attending the London Sales Hacker event.

We’re in the middle of a panel discussion, “Sales And Marketing Alignment Strategies To Build Massive Pipeline”.

Also on the panel is Jack’s marketing colleague, Creation Agency CEO, Jason Sibley.

The two have contrasting views.

“Everyone in the audience that’s in sales, stand up!” orders Jack.

Two-thirds of the 600-strong audience stand.

“Okay,” continues Jack.

“Stay standing if you believe Marketing give you enough warm leads.”

I look around.

Not a single person remains standing.

Jack turns to the rest of the panel.

“See what I mean!” he proclaims, waving his hand theatrically at the seated room.

“Marketing isn’t aligned with Sales at all.”

Why Sales and Marketing Alignment is a Good Thing

Sales and Marketing alignment seems like common sense.

If Sales and Marketing work together as one, then revenue generation is more efficient and effective.

The evidence bears this out.

The Aberdeen Group research identifies a direct causal link between Sales and Marketing alignment and revenue growth.

Your own experience will probably concur.

When Sales and Marketing align successfully, revenue increases because:

  • Marketing campaigns focus on the most beneficial topics and channels.
  • Salespeople have a higher volume of well-qualified, sales-ready leads.
  • Sales have the correct quantity and quality of content needed to convince prospects.
  • Marketing deliver company-specific and marketplace insights that improve selling effectiveness.
  • Metrics and qualitative feedback are available for continuous improvement of sales and marketing performance.

What company doesn’t strive for these benefits?

Unfortunately, like many things that sound easy on paper, Sales and Marketing alignment turns out to be more difficult to achieve in the real world.

In fact, in my experience, the lack of alignment is the cause of more angst in business than any other topic.

However, if Sales and Marketing alignment is something that business wants, why is it so difficult?

The Sales and Marketing Blame Game

The conflict between Sales and Marketing plays out in many companies.

Sales blame Marketing and Marketing blame Sales.

To quote Tavris and Aronson, “Mistakes were made (but not by me)”.

In other words, both sides blame the other for the repeated failure to turn marketing activity and leads into won opportunities.

There are many reasons for this finger pointing.

  • Goals that do not encourage cooperative behaviour.
  • KPIs that do not align.
  • Personal desire to look good against rivals, including vying for the future CEO position.
  • Short-term sales objectives conflicting with longer-term marketing priorities.

I could probably go on.

Popular Strategies for Sales and Marketing Alignment

Do a Google search on Sales and Marketing alignment and you will discover no shortage of content.

In fact, 40.3 million search results.

You’ll even find there’s a Sales and Marketing alignment summit.

To examine best practices for Sales and Marketing alignment, I carefully reviewed the top 50 search results.

You probably don’t want to spend as much time on this as I did, so I created a summary of the recommendations that you can read here.

Some of the recommendations will clearly have a positive impact.

It’s hard to disagree, for example, that a robust lead hand-off process should be implemented, that Sales and Marketing must define and agree the customer buying process and that they must communicate regularly.

Likewise, agreeing common definitions of what a well-qualified, sales-ready lead looks like is a precursor for successful implementation of this process.

Other sales and marketing alignment strategies are more controversial.

For example, potentially not every business will want to make both sales and marketing the responsibility of a single chief revenue officer.

So what else can we do?

5 Sales and Marketing Alignment Recommendations

Let’s return to the problem.

Sales and Marketing frequently blame each other for missed objectives.

However, in most cases, as Jack and Jason concur at the end of their Sales Hacker panel discussion, neither side is entirely right nor is either side entirely wrong.

Unfortunately, both Sales and Marketing come to the debate with their own preconceived ideas on the responsibilities of the other.

It’s these ingrained perceptions and, in many cases, preconceived views of the way the world works that determine where each side places the blame.

We need to break out of this narrow horizon to align Sales and Marketing successfully.

But what’s going to smash through the existing paradigm?

Enter center stage: CUSTOMERS and PROSPECTS.

We need the direct involvement and input from customers and prospects.

That may not sound radical.

Yet it’s something many companies hardly achieve at all.

So, here are my five recommendations for Sales and Marketing alignment.

  1. Create an effective open feedback loop with input from customers and prospects.
  2. Create an effective closed feedback loop with quantitative metrics.
  3. Re-shape your end-to-end revenue process and methodology.
  4. Implement a process of continuous marginal gains.
  5. Make project-led structural improvements.

I have applied these Sales and Marketing alignment strategies in many businesses with success.

Let’s go through them.

1 – Create an effective open feedback loop

Marketers strive for a closed feedback loop that links lead and opportunity outcome back to the originating campaign.

This closed loop delivers quantitative metrics on lead conversion rates and the efficacy of marketing campaigns.

This is crucial. I’ll explain how to implement an effective closed feedback loop successfully in Recommendation #2.

However, an open feedback loop is something else that provides other benefits.

Input from external sources is what defines an open feedback loop.

In other words, when there’s no external feedback or stimuli coming into play, nothing will challenge existing perceptions or alter the status quo.This sales and marketing strategic recommendation is to create an open feedback loop to gather external input from customers and prospects.Matthew Syed describes it this way.

“Without external input, failure doesn’t lead to progress because information on errors and weaknesses is misinterpreted or ignored; an open feedback loop does lead to progress because the feedback is rationally acted upon.”

To achieve Sales and Marketing alignment we need to break the existing cycle.

It means we need an open feedback loop.

Feedback on success and failure

For the purpose of Sales and Marketing alignment, an open feedback loop means we need input from customers, prospects and leads.

We need this input not to apportion blame, but to understand the customer buying process and to make improvements to our sales cycle.

In other words, unless with have this external input, the status quo will continue. Sales and Marketing will still blame each other for ineffectiveness, because what else is there to do? There is nothing to challenge the existing model in the absence of customer and prospect insight.

Specifically, to break out of this, we need input on the customer buying process in two areas.

  1. We need to learn from success. Why did we win?
  2. We need to learn from failure. Why did we lose?

I recognize the latter, in particular, is a deeply uncomfortable recommendation for many businesses.

Unfortunately, getting first-hand feedback on the reasons for failure is something we do infrequently, either as people or as organisations.

However, this is critical.

Think about it.

How often is ‘price’ blamed for a lost deal or an opportunity that does not progress?

I can vouch from personal experience of conducting research on behalf of many clients that price is rarely the root cause reason for a deal sales that doesn’t succeed.

For example, here is verbatim, what one person told me recently:

“Yes they were the most expensive and the price was too high, but if we had wanted to work with them I’m sure we could have gotten around that somehow. The fact is we didn’t want to work with them, so it was easy just to say, ‘your price was too high’”.

Prior to this externally focused research, this company spent many months tinkering with their pricing strategy with no discernible impact on opportunity conversion rates.

It was only after getting external feedback, from customers and prospects that the company began to truly learn why they win and why they lose.

Areas to get external feedback

Here are examples of specific areas on which you can gain valuable qualitative feedback:

  • Why do some unqualified leads fail to become qualified leads?
  • What stops some qualified leads becoming opportunities?
  • Why do some deals not progress beyond the initial, discovery stage?
  • What causes some deals to be lost at the negotiation stage?
  • What is the compelling reason why certain deals are won?

And lots more.

The key thing about this feedback is that it is comes from external rather than internal sources.

Steps to get external feedback

To implement this first sales and marketing alignment best practice, gather external, qualitative feedback in many ways, including:

  • Invite customers and prospects that didn’t buy into the company e.g. a facilitated team meeting.
  • Commission independent in-depth telephone and face-to-face interviews.
  • Get independent observation of live sales calls and visits.
  • Sit alongside the customer in their office and experience ‘walking in their shoes’.

One more thing about external feedback.

Get to the heart of what the customer means. Don’t accept at face value, “I don’t like the brochure”. Discover the underlying reasons; for example, whether this view relates to the core messages, the way the content is written, or the physical appearance.

In an upcoming blog, I’ll expand on this Sales and Marketing alignment best practice by detailing six ways you can get external feedback.

To get a heads-up when this post is live, register here.

2 – Create an effective closed feedback loop

The first sales and marketing alignment recommendation is to create an open feedback loop. This creates qualitative, externally sourced feedback that leads to improvement.

However, external feedback is only part of the story.

The second best practice is to gather accurate and reliable internal feedback. You do this through a robust closed loop feedback process.

This needs to happen in two ways.

  1. Insist on quantitative feedback.

Link every lead and opportunity to its source and originating marketing campaign. If no campaign produced the lead or opportunity, record this as well.

2. Insist on qualitative feedback.

On every lead handed-off from Sales to Marketing, whatever the outcome, ensure there is qualitative feedback transferred the other way.

How to implement a closed loop for quantitative feedback

The only effective way to achieve this is by using a CRM or sales automation application.

Unfortunately, many companies fail to implement the closed loop successfully by failing to follow these 5 best practices.

For detailed advice on how to design the closed loop process, read The Difference Between Leads and Opportunities. This blog post contains downloadable process diagrams in Visio and Powerpoint to help get you started.

This closed loop feedback on quantitative data also means you can collect insightful metrics on lead conversion metrics and the contribution that marketing campaigns make to overall revenue.

How to implement a closed loop for qualitative feedback

CRM systems also provide ways to capture qualitative feedback from Sales to Marketing on each lead.

For example, if your company uses salesforce.com, use Chatter on Leads and Opportunities to gather this feedback.To achieve sales and marketing alignment, gather qualitative feedback from sales using Chatter.Create reports that summarise these Chatter posts. Create tags to group Chatter posts together.

3 – Re-shape your revenue process and methodology

Your feedback loops are gathering qualitative and quantitative information on your end-to-end sales cycle.

Clearly, that information is of no value unless you do something with it.

So what should you do?

The two things Sales and Marketing must do together with all this information and feedback are:

  1. Re-design your revenue process.
  2. Re-define your revenue methodology.

The difference between the two:

Process is the planned steps you take to achieve something.

Methodology is how you take those steps.

An example:

Your sales process might include a discovery meeting. That’s a step in your process.

Methodology is the way you conduct that meeting. This includes the words you use to introduce the meeting, the questions you ask and the way you agree the next steps.

In other words, the meeting is a process step; the way the meeting is conduced is the methodology.

Some (although admittedly not many) businesses I encounter have a clearly-defined sales process.

The stages of the process are well understood by the sales team. The CRM system reflects this process in its opportunity stages. Reports and dashboards report the pipeline in a consistent way. There is uniformity across the team in terms of the process they follow.

At least, that’s sometimes the case.

However, in these businesses, what is far less uniform is the methodology the team members adopt. Sales people are left to decide for themselves HOW they undertake each process step. These companies can benefit hugely from identifying and sharing best practice and delivering training on how to execute the sales process.

How to re-shape your process and methodology

Sales and Marketing alignment recommendation 3 is about re-designing your process and methodology based on the feedback you have received.

Here are the specific steps to take.

  • Get Sales and Marketing people together in the same room with a large whiteboard.
  • Pick one significant deal your business recently lost (or a deal that withered on the vine).
  • Map the end-to-end sales cycle on the whiteboard.
  • Figure out everything you did (i.e. the process).
  • Describe how you did those things (i.e. the methodology).

Then take these two further steps:

  • Work out how to improve your process.
  • Work out how to improve the execution of that process.

This separation of process and methodology means you focus on both what and the how.

For example, if we had to go after the same deal again, what activities would we repeat? How could we execute them more effectively? What didn’t we do that with the benefit of hindsight, we could have done? How would we do those activities?

Examine more deals

This is what you do next:

Repeat this cycle of examination for a successful deal.

Capture the things that worked well and those that didn’t. With the benefit of hindsight, even though the deal was won, identify the activities whose execution can be improved.

Then do the whole thing again with another deal.

Work through four to six deals.

You know the score:

Figure out how to improve the process and the methodology. Remember to use the feedback from recommendations 1 and 2 to decide what these improvements look like from a customer and prospect perspective.

Document the improvements to process and methodology

Sales and Marketing alignment best practices 4 and 5 explain two ways to implement these improvements.

However, there’s a precursor to implementation.

The sales and marketing workshops will produce many whiteboard photographs, flipchart sheets and handwritten paper notes.

Get it into a structured format.

This means:

  • Process diagram(s) that describe the ideal end-to-end revenue cycle for existing and potential customers.
  • Notes and use cases that articulate how the process is best fulfilled.

Then you’re ready to start implementing changes that will achieve sales and marketing alignment.

4 – Continuous process of marginal gains

Now Sales and Marketing have fresh insight.

We understand what works well and what needs improvement.

We have information about success and failure. Your teams have figured out what is important to customers and prospects and what they care about less.

Here’s what you do next.

Implement a process of marginal gains. This is Sales and Marketing alignment recommendation 4.

Marginal gains is the term originally popularized by Dave Brailsford, the hugely successful head of the Sky pro-cycling team. 

Brailsford’s belief was that if you improved every area related to cycling by just 1 percent, then those small gains would add up to remarkable improvement. They started by optimizing the things you might expect: the nutrition of riders, their weekly training program, the ergonomics of the bike seat, and the weight of the tires.

But Brailsford and his team didn’t stop there. They searched for 1 percent improvements in tiny areas that were overlooked by almost everyone else: discovering the pillow that offered the best sleep and taking it with them to hotels, testing for the most effective type of massage gel, and teaching riders the best way to wash their hands to avoid infection. They searched for 1 percent improvements everywhere.

Brailsford believed that if they could successfully execute this strategy, then Team Sky would be in a position to win the Tour de France in five years’ time. He was wrong. They won it in three years.

Source: This Coach Improved Every Tiny Thing By 1% And Here’s What Happened

Whether sport or business, success or failure is determined by the aggregation of multiple marginal gains.

Each gain may be minimal in itself, but when combined together, they have an irresistible impact.

How marginal gains works

Suppose you’re standing at point A.

You want to get to the top of the hill, point B.Marginal gains is the first way to implement changes that achieve successful sales and marketing alignment.Marginal gains will get you there. Take a small step.

Test whether you went up or downhill.

If you’ve gone uphill, take another small step in the same direction. Test again. Repeat the process.

If you’ve gone downhill, take a small step in another direction. Test again.

Keep repeating this process and without fail, you will get to the top of the hill. You’ll eventually arrive at point B.

Applying marginal gains in your business

Marginal gains mean you identify multiple ways in which you can make small improvements. Make enough of them, and you have a significant advantage.

So this is what you do.

  • Apply the feedback you gained and work out the many small ways in which you can improve the customer and prospect experience.
  • Refer to your sales and marketing funnel. Look for small changes that will improve the conversion ratio at each point.
  • Examine the end-to-end lead generation and sales process. Search out the multiple small changes that together, will collectively add up to a big difference.

Remember, every error, every flaw, every failure and every piece of adverse feedback, however small, is a marginal gain in disguise.

Sales and Marketing must regard this information not as a threat, but as an opportunity.

Finally, how do you decide which marginal gains take priority for implementation? That’s why you did Recommendation 3. You worked out what was important to customers and what was not.

Focus on the marginal gains that customers and prospects care about the most. The ones that relate most closely with the unique value your business adds.

Test marginal gains

Here’s what many people forget about marginal gains.

They forget about testing and measuring.

“Marginal gains are not about making small changes and hoping they fly. Rather, it is about breaking down a big problem into many small parts and then rigorously testing to establish what works and what doesn’t”. Mathew Syed. Black Box Thinking.

In other words, test everything. Make changes and validate that they have the result you anticipate.

How do you do this testing? Keep using the open and closed feedback loops we describe in Recommendations 1 and 2.

How to implement a marginal gains process

Implementing a marginal gains approach successfully requires a structured approach to communication and decision-making.

Here’s an example of how Modernis embedded this dialogue to achieve Sales and Marketing alignment.

In this company, marketing pass leads to inside sales reps. The inside sales reps aim to turn these leads into qualified appointment for field reps.

  • The inside sales team leader meets daily with the marketing team leader.
  • Each field rep speaks daily with his or her inside sales rep to discuss leads and appointments.
  • Each regional sales manager has a weekly face-to-face meeting or conference call with the inside sales team leader and the marketing team leader.
  • The VP of Sales and VP of Marketing hold a weekly conference call. They also meet formally face-to-face monthly.

The format of the discussion is the same in every case. Here’s the agenda:

1. Review:
Quantitative results and metrics.
Qualitative feedback from reps.
Qualitative feedback from customers and prospects (this happens only on a weekly basis).
Results from tests on marginal gains previously implemented.

2 Agree:
Those changes that will maintained and those to be reversed.
New marginal gains that can be tested.

There’s a formal method for recording these conversations in the CRM system.

Team leaders review these records in their weekly meetings. The VPs of Sales and Marketing do likewise.

This approach has transformed Sales and Marketing alignment. It gives both a common purpose, strategy and framework for working together.

The result at Modernis is an uplift in opportunity conversion rates of 17%.

5 – Make project-led structural improvements

Seeking marginal gains is something you do every day.

My final Sales and Marketing alignment strategy is something you do once or twice a year, sometimes not as often as that.

Look at this diagram of two hills.A sales and marketing alignment best practice is to implement step change improvements.You’ve already climbed the first hill. Marginal gains and continuous improvement got you from point A to point B.

Better design

Marginal gains work for day-to-day improvements. As we’ve seen, it’s highly dependent on testing and feedback to check each step.

However, it will never get you to point D, the top of a mountain. That mountain represents a better design and a better way of doing things.

The problem is that when you are at point B, the top of the smaller hill, a small step in any direction always takes you downhill.

To scale the mountain you need the vision and confidence to take a big leap.

Make that leap in the right way and you will likely land at point C.

Then what do you do?

Start again seeking marginal gains. Test each change.

And you know what?

Through a combination of step-change and marginal gains you will eventually arrive at point D.

How to make the big leap

To make that leap, to get to point D, you need a better design. A fundamentally different and improved way of doing things.

That might be a marketing automation system. It can be the introduction of new products or services. A new sales strategy. A culture change.

It may be many other things.

Above all, however, it’s a visionary step change that results from detailed analysis of quantitative metrics, salesperson feedback and qualitative input on success and failure from leads, prospects and customers.

These major leaps require a formal, structured transformational project.

You need to do all the things you expect from a successful project: robust business case; clearly defined scope; agreed goals and objectives; realistic implementation plan.

But you know where it starts. It starts with feedback and input from external sources, combined with innovation to produce a best-in-market revenue cycle.

Sales and Marketing Alignment in your business

“You know what?” says Jack Kosakowski at the end of the Sales Hacker panel discussion.

“Sales can’t live without Marketing and Marketing can’t live without Sales.”

He’s right.

Break through the existing paradigm and Sales and Marketing enter a beautiful relationship.

A relationship that can play-out in your business if you follow these five compelling strategies on Sales and Marketing Alignment.

If you got value from this article:

  • If you think this is a solid article that other people will benefit from reading, I would be delighted if you share it on LinkedIn.
  • To get a heads-up when we publish our next Sales Enablement blog, register here.
  • I’d love to discuss these concepts with you in more detail. Simply fill in our form or give us a call (number at the top) and we’ll arrange to talk.

Good luck.

Lead Conversion In Salesforce | 5 Proven Best Practices

Lead Conversion In Salesforce | 5 Proven Best Practices

I have seen many attempts to implement an effective lead conversion process in salesforce.

Not all of them successful.

That is putting it mildly.

In fact, businesses can often mangle their lead conversion process in salesforce.

The result is:

  • Reduced sales, because leads get lost.
  • Unnecessary friction between Sales and Marketing.
  • Lack of meaningful metrics on the efficacy of marketing campaigns.

This happens because companies are often unaware of lead conversion best practices in salesforce.

Salesforce Lead Conversion Best Practices

Therefore, here are five Salesforce Lead Conversion Best Practices for Sales and Marketing teams.

  1. Create an opportunity during lead conversion.
  2. Convert before passing to Sales.
  3. Convert leads when they are sales-ready, not before.
  4. Compare win rates on converted leads with standard opportunities.
  5. Insist upon feedback from Sales on every converted lead.

I explain specifically why these guidelines are best practices for lead conversion in salesforce.

I’ll also explain the circumstances when it’s right to NOT to follow these best practices,

Struggling with sales and marketing alignment? These lead conversion best practices contribute directly to Recommendation 2 in our 5 Sales and Marketing Alignment Recommendations That Nail It

Best Practices #1: Create an Opportunity

When converting a lead you have a choice.

Create an opportunity or not?

Here’s what I mean.

Ticking the ‘Do not create a new opportunity upon conversion’ checkbox means creating an Account and Contact only.

No Opportunity arrives on the scene. At least, not during lead conversion.

#1 of the salesforce lead conversion best practices: Do not check the ‘Do Not Create Opportunity’ checkbox.

Here is salesforce lead conversion best practice #1:

Create an Opportunity when the Lead is converted. Do not check the ‘Do Not Create Opportunity’ checkbox.

The exception to this is when converting a Lead into a matching Account and Contact that already exists. I deal with this exception below.

However, if you are converting a new lead, it’s best practice to simultaneously create a new opportunity.

Create the opportunity upon conversion – Rationale

Two important pieces of information transfer from the lead to the opportunity when you create an opportunity during lead conversion.

Firstly, the Lead Source on the lead maps to the equivalent field on the opportunity. This means you can produce reports and dashboard charts on the contribution of different Lead Sources to revenue.

Here’s an example of the open pipeline by Lead Source.

Example of the open pipeline by Lead Source that is enabled by lead conversion best practice #1.

Secondly, the Opportunity links to the last marketing campaign to which the lead responded. This means metrics from the opportunity pass to the campaign.

In #1 of lead conversion best practices, the Opportunity links to the last marketing campaign to which the lead responded. This means metrics from the opportunity pass to the campaign.

These metrics mean you can track the contribution of each marketing campaign to the sales pipeline and revenue growth.

For example, here’s the pipeline by Campaign.

Lead conversion best practice #1 means the pipeline by Campaign can be displayed on a salesforce dashboard chart.

Opportunities not created upon lead conversion

Remember, we are talking about new leads here; not leads that match existing Accounts and Contacts. More on that in a moment.

Here’s what happens in some businesses.

The lead converts with the ‘Do not create opportunity’ checkbox ticked.

The lead converts to an Account and a Contact only.

The salesperson follows up. Once the sales cycle starts to progress, the salesperson creates an opportunity.

Unfortunately, the two pieces of information that inform marketing effectiveness are lost.

In other words, the Lead Source does not pass to the opportunity. The opportunity does not link to the Campaign.

These linkages only occur when the lead conversion creates the opportunity otherwise there is no closed loop reporting from the opportunity to the campaign.

Exceptions to best practices #1

This salesforce lead conversion best practice doesn’t apply in every situation.

Sometimes, there are legitimate reasons not to create an opportunity.

For example, let’s say an existing contact downloads an eBook from your website. You capture their email address in a web to lead form as part of the download process.

Salesforce creates a lead when the web-to-lead form passes through the data.

Here is what to do.

Use the Find Duplicates button to find matching Leads and Contacts.

Use the Find Duplicates button to find matching Leads and Contacts.

Next, convert the lead.

Let’s say you decide there is no new opportunity. Alternatively, there may already be an open opportunity on the Account that’s in progress.

This time, check the ‘Do not create opportunity’ checkbox.

Salesforce recognizes there’s an existing match on the Account.

During the lead conversion, Salesforce recognizes there’s an existing match on the Account.

Salesforce also presents the option to merge the lead data into an existing Contact.

Salesforce also presents the option to merge the lead data into an existing Contact.

No new opportunity is created.

However, the campaign information passes to the Contact. This means you can see the campaign history on the Contact.

After the lead conversion, the campaign information passes to the Contact. This means you can see the campaign history on the Contact.

Further reading on lead conversion best practices #1

This blog post describes a Marketing Dashboard for salesforce that gives examples of the reports and charts using Lead Source and Campaigns.

Use the dashboard to generate powerful insight on marketing effectiveness in your business.

CLICK TO SHARE ON LinkedIn: Lead Conversion Best Practices #1

Best practices #2: Convert before passing to Sales

Best practice #1 status says create opportunities when the lead converts.

Next question.

Who should do the converting?

Here are your choices.

  • Option 1. The marketing or inside sales team convert the lead and pass the Account, Contact
    and Opportunity to sales.
  • Option 2. The lead passes to sales and the salesperson converts the lead to an Account, Contact and Opportunity.

This is lead conversion best practices #2:

As a rule, have marketing or inside sales convert the lead and pass the Account, Contact and Opportunity to sales.

This is why you should adopt salesforce lead conversion best practices #2.

  • The risk that lead conversion best practices #1 is broken, reduces significantly.
  • Valuable sales time is not spent re-qualifying leads. An opportunity is a more concrete manifestation of a potential sales deal.
  • Qualifying leads and judging when to convert the lead, is a skill in its own right. If you are doing this day-in- day-out then you are likely to be better at it than the average salesperson.

Converting leads before passing to sales gives a clear delineation between roles.

Centralizing this activity within marketing or an inside sales team also means tighter control of conversion processes and lead follow up activities.

However, implementing best practices #2 means there must be clear agreement between sales, marketing and inside sales on when leads should convert.

It also requires a robust process and unambiguous configuration in salesforce to support this process.

Exceptions to best practices #2

In small companies, the marketing, inside sales and salesperson may be one person.

In this case, this salesforce lead conversion best practice tip does not apply.

However, in larger businesses, where these functions are separated, it is generally better for leads to be converted before they’re passed to sales.

 

Further reading on lead conversion best practices #2

We explain the lead conversion process in detail. It includes process diagrams that you can download and use to kick-start your lead conversion arrangements.

CLICK TO SHARE ON LinkedIn: Lead Conversion Best Practices #2

Best practices #3: Convert leads when sales-ready

When is the right time to convert a lead?

That’s one of the great business challenges of our time.

Here is lead conversion best practices #3. It’s the Goldilocks advice:

Convert the lead when the person is sales-ready. Not too warm and not too cold. In other words, when the lead is ready to speak to a salesperson.

Of course, this begs the question:

How do we know when the lead is sales-ready?

Sometimes it’s easy.

A lead fills in a web form requesting a call. You’re quickly going to ascertain whether there is a potential sales opportunity. If so, convert the lead straight away.

However, here is the mistake I often see.

Leads convert and pass to sales far too quickly.

An example:

The marketing department of one of our clients ran a webinar.

They got an astonishing 800 registrants. 400 people attended the live session.

Marketing immediately passed the leads to sales.

“It will be like shooting fish in a barrel,” said the VP of Marketing.

Only it wasn’t. In fact, hardly any deals materialised.

Many of the leads were not sales-ready. They attended the webinar for early-stage education. They did not immediately want to buy.

In addition, sales were ill-equipped to suddenly deal with 4 to 800 new leads.

Here are three factors that influence lead conversion timing:

  • Channel. An inbound phone enquiry is at one of the scale. Leads from a purchased list are at the
    other.
  • Market maturity. Leads will generally convert more quickly in companies that are transforming marketplaces with new, innovative products unfamiliar to buyers. If you operate in a mature marketplace with lots of competitors, it will be longer before leads are sales-ready.Engagement. For this, you ideally need a marketing automation platform such as Marketo or Pardot integrated with salesforce. These applications help you quantify more scientifically when leads are kept sales-ready.

Few people ask their partner or spouse to move in at the first sign of interest. It’s the same with leads.

Convert the lead when there is evidence of commitment.

Recommended reading on lead conversion best practices #3

Why Sales Complain About Marketing Leads

CLICK TO SHARE ON LinkedIn: Lead Conversion Best Practices #3

Best practices #4: Compare win rates

Is all this effort worth it?

Do the converted leads contribute anything to revenue?

That’s a mystery in most companies.

However, here’s an example of a salesforce dashboard chart and report that compares sales revenue from converted leads with opportunities created directly on Accounts.

Salesforce lead conversion best practices #4 allows you to track the contribution of converted leads.

The chart and report put the contribution of converted leads into perspective.

Now go further.

Here’s salesforce lead conversion best practices #4:

Compare win rates on opportunities from converted leads with opportunities created directly on Accounts.

Here’s an example:

Win rates compared of converted leads versus direct opportunities.

Apply this salesforce lead conversion best practice to create high impact, actionable insight in your business.

Want to create these dashboard charts in your business. Easy.

Simply install the free Lead Conversion Dashboard From GSP directly from the AppExchange.

Recommended reading on lead conversion best practices #4

7 Lead Conversion Metrics You Should Be Tracking (But Probably Aren’t)

SHARE ON LinkedIn: Lead Conversion Best Practices #4

Best practices #5: Insist on qualitative feedback

The lead conversion metrics in best practices #4 deliver powerful quantitative insight.

So far so good.

For maximum benefit, insist upon salesforce lead conversion best practices #5:

Transfer qualitative feedback from Sales to Marketing or Inside Sales on every single converted lead.

Use Chatter to capture this feedback.

Here’s an example of what I mean.

Lead conversion best practices #5 recommends transferring qualitative feedback from sales to marketing.

This feedback means sales and marketing collaborate on continuous improvement in lead qualification and nurture.

Put in place a process in which sales managers and marketing team leaders review this feedback.

Examine the qualitative feedback in conjunction with the lead conversion metrics from best practices #4.

It’s a sure-fire way to continually improve the efficacy of marketing campaigns and decision making on when to convert leads.

A Call To Action

These five salesforce lead conversion best practices have helped many organizations implement robust lead management processes.

The result is far superior sales and marketing alignment.

The means higher opportunity win rates and increased revenue.

You can apply all of these best practices in your business.

But wait.

There’s more.

Get in touch. We will provide a 30-minute free consultation to help improve lead conversion in your business. Simply fill in our contact form here.

Got value from these lead conversion best practices? Please help us spread the word by sharing on your favorite social media channel!

Broken Lead Process In Salesforce? Here’s how to fix it

Broken Lead Process In Salesforce? Here’s how to fix it

You probably don’t remember Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

It’s a surreal comedy group from the 1970’s. It’s how John Cleese and Michael Palin first made their name.

In one famous sketch, Palin arrives at the Argument Clinic or for an argument. Cleese is happy to oblige. They go round in circles, arguing the same point over.

You can recreate a similar scene:

Ask a room full of Sales and Marketing people to agree how the lead process should work in salesforce.

You’re guaranteed a bun fight.

I’ve run hundreds of salesforce implementation workshops. And here’s something I’ve experienced. No subject causes more debate than that surrounding the lead process.

However, resolving this debate is critical to an effective lead process in salesforce. Unfortunately, often that doesn’t happen with clarity.

The outcome is an ineffective lead process. The result is ineffective lead qualification, reduced revenue and poor marketing and sales performance information.

It also means a lack of lead conversion metrics that quantify the contribution of leads to revenue.

Let’s understand what causes this debate. Then we will define a lead process in salesforce. Do this as one of the core components of effective Sales and Marketing alignment in your business.

(By the way, don’t forget, you can download the lead process diagrams used in this article).

Update: Join me for a compelling webinar on November 1, 2017 on Lead Conversion Success.

Difference between a lead and an opportunity

There is often dis-agreement between Sales and Marketing on the difference between a lead and an opportunity. Yet clarity is essential.

Unfortunately, that is harder than it sounds.

Why is there so much confusion? After all, most Sales and Marketing people will acknowledge that a lead is the first step in the sales cycle.

Here’s why it’s a problem.

Salesperson’s definition of a lead

To a salesperson, a Lead can come as easily from an existing customer or known prospect, as a brand new one.

The lead can be repeat business for an existing customer. Or a new prospect, freshly arrived through the door.

Either way, the sales process has started. It may not be advanced enough to warrant an Opportunity in salesforce.com. But sales engagement is at least commenced.

So, from a salesperson’s perspective, a lead reflects a broad range of early stage, potential opportunities that require immediate action.

Marketing person’s definition of a lead

A Marketing person’s perception of a lead often varies in two important ways.

First, a Lead is a person or business that will potentially make a purchase at some undetermined point in the future.

Marketing may hand the lead to Sales, but not necessarily with the expectation that a sale will immediately result. The lead is a potential customer that may engage in a future sales process. Conversely, to a salesperson, a lead is someone entering the sales process right now.

Second, to Marketing a lead is very often a new company or person. The business or contact may not have existed previously in the database. Indeed, the role of Marketing in many businesses is to increase the overall lead database for long-term benefit.

Sales are under pressure to close deals in the short term. Marketing want to nurture the Lead. It’s this contrast in expectations that frequently results in Sales complaining about the quality of Leads created by Marketing.

Salesforce lead process

Sales and Marketing often fail to agree on the difference between a lead and an Opportunity. This directly obstructs the implementation of an effective lead process in salesforce.

So what constitutes a lead in the salesforce.com CRM system?

In fact, salesforce uses the term Lead in several different ways. Let’s take them step by step.

  • Lead as a brand new enquiry

Start by thinking of a Lead in salesforce as a brand new enquiry, from a business and person you’ve never previously heard of.

For example, let’s say you have a Web-to-Lead form set up on your web site. Web-to-Lead is an easy way to integrate salesforce with your web site. It means anyone that fills in your Contact Us form will be created automatically in salesforce as a lead.

So, the lead is created. What’s the first thing that should happen in the lead process? Check for duplicates by clicking on the Find Duplicates button on the Lead page layout.

This will identify any matching Leads or Contacts that already exist in your salesforce database. Let’s assume you don’t find any.

Now you make an outbound telephone call to the Lead. Essentially, one of three outcomes will result from this part of the lead process.

  • The Lead is a dead end

It turns out the person isn’t interested in any further dialogue. Perhaps it was a student simply looking for research information. Either way, set the Lead Status to Closed. You don’t necessarily delete the Lead from the database, but no further action is anticipated.

  • The Lead is a definite maybe

The Lead is moderately interested in your products and services. He doesn’t want to speak to a sales person – at least not yet. But you agree to send a brochure, product specification or price list. So this time set the Lead Status to Contacted. You might also create a follow up Task to call the Lead again in the future.

  • The Lead is a sales Opportunity

The Lead agrees to a meeting or phone call with a Sales person. Or he requests a quote. In other words, he gives you some indication that he’s a legitimate potential customer. He’s a Qualified Lead.

This time leave the Lead Status alone. Instead, click on the Convert Lead button. Salesforce will convert the Lead into three separate records; an Account; Contact; and Opportunity.

Here’s the process in a flow chart diagram.

Lead process diagram for qualifying a new Lead.

The Account represents the business or organisation. The Contact is the person employed by that organisation. And the Opportunity represents the potential sales deal.

It’s this early stage Opportunity that many Sales people will regard as a Lead.

Indeed Sales people may be reluctant to use the term Opportunity. It raises expectations about the outcome. It creates visibility of the deal in the sales pipeline dashboard. And from the salesperson’s perspective, the Lead may – or may not – have been properly qualified by Marketing before it was converted to an Account, Contact and Opportunity.

All legitimate issues. Before we address them, let’s deal with several other ways salesforce uses the term Lead.

  • Leads that match existing Lead records

Let’s go to back to our person that filled in the Contact Us form on your web site.

In our example, we assumed that no existing Lead or Contact matched our new Lead. We established this by clicking on the Find Duplicates button on the Lead page layout.

What if one or more matching Leads had been found?

Click the Find Duplicates button on the Lead page layout to find matching leads

No problem. Use the Merge Leads button to merge the various Leads into a single record. Then make your qualification call.

Here’s the lead process diagram.

Lead process diagram for qualifying a lead with match to existing lead.

  • Leads that match existing Contact records

How can an existing Contact be created as a Lead in salesforce? There’s a number of ways.

For example, Leads can be created by importing the spreadsheet that contains a list of people that came to a booth at an exhibition. Some of those people may well be existing Contacts.

Or, a Web-to-Lead form on your web site that allows visitors to register for an event. When an existing Contact registers she’s created as a Lead. The same thing happens if you’re using Web-to-Lead to enable visitors to download a document from your web site.

In any of these cases, when you click on the Find Duplicates button you may find there’s a matching Contact.

Click the Find Duplicates button to find Leads that match.

Here’s three ways to deal with the Contact-as-a-Lead situation.

  • Convert the Lead without making a Qualification call

    During the Lead conversion, salesforce will help you merge the Lead into the existing Contact record. If the Account Owner is already actively engaged with the Contact – on an existing Opportunity for example – then perhaps it isn’t appropriate to make the qualification call.

  • Convert the Lead and then make a Qualification call

    This is the common approach when it’s the Account Owner that is dealing with the Lead. He or she merges the Lead into the Contact record and then makes a call to the Contact.

  • Make a qualification call before Converting the Lead

    This approach is used most frequently when Marketing or Inside Sales is dealing with the Lead. They make call to the Lead, cognisant of the fact that the person already has a relationship with the company. Following the conversation the Lead is converted, but Marketing or Inside Sales make a human decision on whether to simultaneously create an Opportunity.

Here’s the process diagram for the last of these scenarios.

Lead process diagram for lead qualification with match to existing account or contact.

To Convert a Lead without creating an Opportunity, check the box “Do not create Opportunity upon conversion” during the convert process. It’s underneath the Opportunity name on the Convert Lead page layout.

At the end of the Monty Python scene, Palin and Cleese continue to argue about whether the argument is finished.

You can do better than that. You can resolve the argument about lead processes in the workshop. And then build the lead process in salesforce; it’s a sure-fire way to increase sales and marketing alignment.

Free lead process diagram download

Are the lead process diagrams in this article useful to you? Download the diagrams in Powerpoint. Use them starting point for creating your own lead management process.

And now, kick-start lead metrics in your business by installing the free Lead Conversion Dashboard From GSP in your salesforce environment.

Related Blog Posts

Are Sales Right To Complain About Marketing Leads?

Should Salespeople Generate Their Own Leads?

The Mini Dictionary of Marketing Automation Terms

Who’s in your invisible sales pipeline?

2 Quick Wins Using Web To Lead You Can Implement Today

2 Quick Wins Using Web To Lead You Can Implement Today

Here are two quick wins using web to lead that many companies overlook:

  1. Web to lead on their Contact Us page.
  2. Web to lead for downloadable web content.

The fact that many companies don’t do this means they are not generating leads as efficiently as they should.

The result is fewer leads, and less sales-ready opportunities.

Yet web to lead is quick and easy to do. Read on to discover the benefits. Then have your system administrator implement these quick wins today.

1. Web To Lead ‘Contact Us’ page

I doubt there is a business that doesn’t have a Contact Us page on their web site.

But many companies that own salesforce licenses are missing a trick. They are not using web to lead on their Contact Us page.

Instead, they have the prospect fill in a form. Then they send the form details to an email address. (Or even worse, they simply invite the prospect to send an email to info@). This means it is more time consuming, and requires more effort, to respond to the enquiry.

A salesforce web to lead form is a quick win in this situation. Here are five reasons you should be using web to lead on your Contact Us page.

  1. Populate the lead information into salesforce without any extra effort. No re-keying of data involved.
  2. Automatically send an acknowledgement email. Let the prospect know you have received her enquiry.
  3. Immediately assign the new lead to someone qualified to deal with the enquiry. I’ve commented below on who the right person might be.
  4. Alert the person to whom you have sent the lead with an automated email.
  5. Capture hidden information that will improve your marketing metrics. For example, link the lead to a relevant Campaign. Automatically set the Lead Source field.

I’ve helped hundreds of companies improve their lead process. And in every case, I’ve found that the quicker you respond to a new lead, the higher the chance of a successful outcome.

These probably ring true in your own experience.

Web to lead means you get the information into salesforce, acknowledge the customer and assign the lead to the right person, all in the blink of an eye.

Who is the right person to receive Contact Us enquiries?

Often the immediate response is to assign web to lead prospects to a salesperson.

But hold on. That might not be the best way. Here’s why.

  • Salespeople are busy dealing with opportunities. Which is the way you want it. Most salespeople will see a new web lead as lower priority than an open opportunity. That may mean a slower response.
  • Salespeople are often out in the field. Speed is of the essence. You need to respond to the web to lead prospect quickly. Leaving the response until the salesperson has downtime is a sure-fire way to neglect new leads.
  • The new enquiry may not be a sales lead. It may be a technical query, vendor approach, potential employee or even spam. Have someone qualify and validate new enquiries. Then, when the person is sales-ready, assign the lead to a salesperson.

In many businesses, web to lead prospects are immediately assigned to an inside salesperson, telemarketer or marketing employee.

This person qualifies the lead. He may also add additional company or person-specific information. In short, assign qualified leads to salespeople. Deal with all other enquiries in a different way.

For more information on the process for dealing with web leads (including free process diagrams that you can download), review our blog post, The Difference Between A Lead and an Opportunity In Salesforce.

Multiple Contact Us pages

Don’t think you can only have one web to lead Contact Us form on your web site. You can have as many as you like.

For example, if your web site is in multiple languages, create a different web to lead form for each language. Send the acknowledgement email based on the language of the form.

Even if the site is in a single language, you may still have many different pages in which the customer can get in touch.

In that case, you’ve two choices. Use the same web to lead form in each location. Or go the extra mile – create a different web to lead form in each case. That way you can set the Lead Source field differently for each form. It’s an easy way to understand where your sales enquiries are coming from.

So that’s the first quick win. Get a web to lead form set up on your Contact Us page today. As always, if you need some help, go to our own Contact Us page and we’ll answer your question. Quickly, I hope!

2. Web to lead for content download

Here’s the second quick win you can implement easily using web to lead.

Use web to lead to manage content downloads on your web site.

The days of the salesperson being in charge of the flow of information with a prospect are long gone. Nowadays, with any important buying decision, prospects expect to conduct their own extensive web research. They do this research long before they’re ready to speak to a salesperson.

Businesses that generate revenue efficiently have acknowledged the buying process has changed.

Efficient revenue generation means helping prospects conduct this preliminary research. This builds trust, credibility and engagement with prospects. This happens long before a dialogue has started between the salesperson and her prospect.

Downloadable content on your web site can include eBooks, case studies, white papers, checklists and other useful material.

But here’s the thing. You can ‘sell’ your best content. The price? The cost of an email address.

Content download example

Look at our most popular blog post, 12 Charts That Should Be On Your Salesforce Dashboard.

The post gives extensive advice on using salesforce dashboards to improve visibility of the sales pipeline and sales performance.

It includes videos that demonstrate the 12 charts that we think are critical in any business. There are extensive links to related pages on our web site that give more information on each dashboard chart.

You can also download the accompanying eBook. It’s a high quality, comprehensive resource. So we charge for it. The price is an email address.

Here’s what we don’t then do. Immediately jump down their throat. Rather, we use an email nurture program to invite the prospect to look at our other content. Many people do. And some of those people subsequently engage with us on a commercial basis.

It’s an efficient and effective way to generate revenue, with the prospect being in charge of the purchasing process. Of course, to understand how this approach can apply in your own business you know what to do by now – visit our Contact Us page.

Use web to lead for content download

Here’s how it works.

Set up a web to lead form to capture the email address. Then, when the prospect completes the form, immediately send her an email that she can use to download the content.

That way, you validate that the email address is legitimate. It also means you capture all the details in salesforce. This includes linking the lead to a marketing campaign and setting the lead source.

You can implement this quick win today.

How to set up web to lead

There’s a wizard in salesforce to help system administrators set up web to lead. You’ll find it under Setup, Customize, Leads, Web-to-Lead.

Use this wizard to create the code for your web form. Then get the person that looks after your website to deploy the form on your web site.

Don’t get bogged down with it. If you need some help or advice just get in touch.

Related Blog Posts

Are Sales Right To Complain About Marketing Leads?
Should Salespeople Generate Their Own Leads?
The Mini Dictionary of Marketing Automation Terms
The Crucial Difference Between A Lead And An Opportunity In Salesforce

Should Salespeople Generate Their Own Leads?

Should Salespeople Generate Their Own Leads?

“If they were proper salespeople they would generate their own leads.”

So says Paul Rolling.

Paul commented on the LinkedIn version of last week’s blog post, “Why Sales Complain About Marketing Leads”.

The post tells the story of how the Marketing team at Modernis attended a trade show. Marketing generated lots of leads. And passed them straight to Sales.

Guess the number of opportunities created?

None whatsoever.

What happened next?

Modernis engaged us for a customer research project 12 months later. The GSP team phoned 10 of the leads as part of the research assignment.

We found that five of the leads had since made a purchase or were in the process of doing so. In other words, 50% were great quality leads.

Yet Sales originally thought all the leads were rubbish.

I outlined the lessons that Modernis learned from this experience.

Then I published the blog on LinkedIn. And Paul made his comment.

Really, Paul?

I asked him to elaborate.

“What I mean is that if you need others to create your sales leads you are doing only half the job. If you start and finish the process yourself, you can properly qualify the prospect without wasting time with leads from someone who is simply playing a numbers game.”

You can see his point.

Proper qualification of Leads is critical to effective selling. No one wants salespeople to waste time on non-productive leads. And the salesperson knows best what represents a qualified lead.

Why salespeople should generate their own leads

Here are five ways I think salespeople should create their own leads.

  1. Referrals. Salespeople are in the ideal position to ask a customer or prospect if they can recommend anyone else.
  2. Existing customers. We all agree it is easier to sell to existing customers than new ones. Generating new leads from within the existing customer base is part of any salesperson’s role.
  3. Very specific cold contacts. Something has changed with a potential customer. Takeover, acquisition, competitor action, it doesn’t matter. In certain situations, a carefully crafted, highly targeted email or phone call from a salesperson with relevant company and industry knowledge and experience is the right approach.
  4. Networking / speaking. Many salespeople attend networking or speak at events. All legitimate ways for salespeople to generate their own leads.
  5. LinkedIn (or other social media). Keeping in touch, regularly interacting with groups, sending targeted communications, are all ways for salespeople to generate their own leads.

So Paul has a point.

There are situations when it is right for salespeople to generate their own leads.

Nevertheless, I have a but. And it’s a big but.

In most businesses, the leads salespeople generate themselves should supplement rather than replace the leads Marketing generate on behalf of salespeople.

Why salespeople shouldn’t generate their own leads

Let’s remind ourselves of the context here.

We’re talking about sales teams that operate in a B2B environment in which the sales cycle is several months or more. I’m also assuming that there is a reasonable degree of sales and marketing alignment.

1. Sales people are expensive

Salespeople are often the most expensive resources in a company. That’s even before you consider the fully loaded cost of Sales.

In many industries, salespeople need a significant degree of experience and expertise in the product area. They need to be sufficiently mature (irrespective of age) to interact effectively with experienced counter-parts on the purchasing side. That takes time and investment in people development.

This investment means salespeople have to be productive as possible.

The conflict with lead generation is that so much of it is time consuming and unproductive. Simply finding the right people to contact can take an age. Getting hold of them even longer.

This work can left reliably to lower cost employees. Having salespeople generate their own leads is an inefficient use of this expensive asset.

2. Salespeople aren’t very good at cold calling

This may come as a surprise to many people not directly involved in sales. After all, salespeople are supposed to have the ‘gift of the gab’, aren’t they?

No, not necessarily. In fact, in my experience, the most successful salespeople are the ones that listen the most and talk the least.

Calling and qualifying leads is a skill in its own right. And because they are not very good at it, for many skilled salespeople, cold calling prospects is like going on a diet or giving up smoking. Tomorrow is always a better day to start. Focus today on getting an existing deal moved along, rather than spend time being rejected on the phone.

3. Confused roles and metrics

Expect salespeople to generate their own leads and you risk confusion over priorities and focus.

Let’s say you have a salesperson that is consistently one of the top revenue performers. But she’s poor at generating leads. Is she doing well or badly? What management action do you take? If you are not careful, you risk damaging overall revenue by making her focus more time and energy on generating her own leads.

And what if she’s not very good at generating her own leads? There is a serious risk of de-motivation and resignation. Far better to have her out in the field, spending time with customers and prospects.

4. Consistent, robust approach to generating leads

Effective lead generation requires a systematic and organized approach. This means a day-in-day-out reliable process of gathering information, sending relevant communications, calling potential prospects, making appointments.

Lead generation is not an activity you can afford to leave until the pipeline is low. It is not something to do in a crisis. This is a business activity that requires a continuous, systematic approach. Use the extensive internet resources such as Siteoscope to generate more web leads.

Generating leads is too important to be left to times when a salesperson has a quiet moment (there’s never a quiet moment). It requires dedicated commitment from a properly trained, organized and managed person or team.

5. Technology is re-engineering lead generation

Once, cold calling and adverts was primarily the way to generate leads. Not anymore.

Prospects are devouring content. B2B buyers research extensively online before deciding on which suppliers to contact. They decide when, how and on what terms to interact with the selling organization.

Companies effective at generating leads are increasingly using technology, not people align with this buyer-led approach. Applications such as Pardot and Marketo allow vendors to nurture, prioritize and monitor leads. They perform these activities on a scale and sophistication that no human can achieve.

So let marketing automation technology do its thing. Only then, when the technology highlights a sales-ready lead, should the salesperson get involved.

In summary

Every sales team rightly expects salespeople to generate their own leads. These leads come from sources such as networking, carefully targeted email, referrals and extensions into the customer’s own organization.

In many businesses though, it is counter-productive to ask salespeople to focus heavily on generating their own leads.

Far better to let technology and automated business processes do the work of lead nurturing and prioritization. It means getting lower cost employees with specialist skills to do the hard work of identifying and qualifying leads.

Further Reading

5 Compelling Recommendations For Sales And Marketing Alignment 

5 Proven Lead Conversion Best Practices

7 Lead Conversion Metrics You Should Be Tracking (But Probably Aren’t)

Related Blog Posts

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5 Mistakes To Avoid With Salesforce Leads

12 Must-Have Salesforce Dashboard Charts | With Video And Examples

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Are Sales Right To Complain About Marketing Leads?

Are Sales Right To Complain About Marketing Leads?

Marketing leads given to Sales are rubbish, says Dave Apthorp.
Sales don't bother to phone Marketing Leads, says Maria Smith
We wanted to know more about the quality of marketing leads.
Are marketing leads so poor it's not worth salespeople calling them?
We conducted a short experiment to investigate the quality of marketing leads.
12 months ago the team attended a trade show to increase the number of marketing leads.
The aim was to create sales opportunities from these marketing leads.
Sales called all the marketing leads but no new opportunities were created.
That produced a lot of conflict between sales and marketing.
12 months later, GSP did some research by calling all the marketing leads.
The findings from this research might surprise you.
Two marketing leads had subsequently made a purchase.
Two other marketing leads were in the middle of a purchasing process.
One marketing lead was planning to make a purchase next year.
4 marketing leads were not planning to make a purchase anytime soon.
1 marketing leads will never make a purchase.
In summary, half the marketing leads were good quality.
We contacted the marketing leads to find out why they hadn't spoken to salespeople at the time.
Based on our research, the marketing leads told us they weren't ready to speak to salespeople.
The leads were good quality but they were not yet sales-ready.
After the trade show, the activities of these marketing leads were invisible to salespeople.
No-one knew when the marketing leads would be ready to speak to salespeople.
There are six lessons from this research into the quality of marketing leads.
Lesson 1 - marketing leads in the invisible sales pipeline needs to be managed proactively.
Lesson 2 - marketing leads need to be managed over the long-term and this requires patience.
Lesson 3 - lead nurturing is essential to produce sales-ready leads from cold lists.
Lesson 4 - create high quality, useful content to feed lead nurture campaigns.
Lesson 5 - engage with marketing leads only when these prospects are sales-ready.
Lesson 6 - creating high quality marketing leads requires a process driven approach supported by technology.
Apply these 6 lessons to create sales-ready opportunities from your marketing leads.

Let us know what you think about this blog post by filling out the form below – we greatly appreciate it!

 

“Most Marketing leads we get are rubbish,” complains Dave Apthorp, sales executive at Modernis.

“How can Sales possibly know this?” says Maria Smith, marketing manager at Modernis. “They never phone any of the leads we DO give them!”

But where’s the truth? Are Marketing leads so poor it’s not worth Sales following them up? We wanted to find out.

Twelve months ago the Modernis marketing team attended a trade show. Sales immediately called up the leads. And how many opportunities were created? None. Absolutely none. Which led to a lot of sales complaints about the quality of leads. And one heck of a lot of friction.

So, 12 months later we called 10 of the marketing leads. We wanted to find out what had happened in the intervening 12 months. Here’s what we discovered:

  • 2 had purchased products from a competitor of Modernis.
  • 2 were actively engaged in a purchasing process to select a supplier. Sadly Modernis wasn’t one of the candidate suppliers.
  • 1 hadn’t started a formal purchasing process. But they fully expected to make a purchase in the next 12 months.
  • 4 of the leads had taken no action following the trade show. They didn’t anticipate starting a purchasing process any time soon.
  • 1 wasn’t in Modernis’ market place and is unlikely to ever make a purchase.

In other words 5 of the 10 were great leads. Two had already bought from a competitor. And yet these leads were all rejected as rubbish by Sales.

So why didn’t these prospects engage with Sales at the time? Here’s what they told us:

“We weren’t ready”.

” We didn’t have stakeholder support”.

“I didn’t have a budget at the time”.

“We weren’t sure what the right solution was. The last thing I needed was a sales pitch.”

“We hadn’t decided which vendors we wanted to talk to”.

The prospects were legitimate buyers. But they simply weren’t  sales ready. They were at an earlier stage in the buying process. They didn’t want to speak to a sales person. Yet.

Which is why Sales thought the marketing leads were rubbish. “That’s why we don’t bother to ring them”, says Dave.

But what’s worse, after the trade show the activities of these warm prospects were invisible to Modernis. Which meant no-one knew when they were sales ready. And led to lost sales for Modernis.

It was a classic case of a lack of sales and marketing alignment.

So what what can we learn from this research. Six things.

1. Manage the invisible pipeline pro-actively

Customers start their buying process long before Sales get involved. These early stage activities form an invisible pipeline. Yet this invisible revenue pipeline can – and must – be managed to drive sales income.

2. It pays to be patient

Modernis has a sales cycle of 2 – 3 months. But that’s Modernis definition of the sales cycle. That’s how long it typically takes an opportunity to pass from Created to Closed in the CRM system. But looked at from the perspective of the customer, the buying process is much longer.

3. Lead nurturing is essential

Traditionally prospects had to rely on sales people for their information. Not any more. There’s a wealth of information available on the internet on every product on earth.

And ad hoc marketing campaigns – delivered only when time permits – have only a short term impact on sales revenue. Effective lead nurturing means a structured process of communications throughout the buying process.

4. Useful is the new cool

The creation of content that is highly useful to prospects is critical to lead nurturing. The leads we spoke to were hungry for information. Highly useful content satisfies this hunger. It helps leads narrow choices. In your favor.

5. Engage sales when prospects are sales ready

Prospects don’t mind talking to sales people. But only when they’re ready to do so. And only with the relatively small number of vendors with whom they’ve decided to engage. And the challenge for Marketing? Track human behavior to gauge when leads are sales ready.

6. Marketing is becoming increasingly process and technology driven

It’s hard to know when a prospect is sales ready without knowing if they open your emails. Read your blog posts. Visit your web site.

Lead nurturing cannot be done in an ad hoc fashion. And it can’t be done manually, at least not effectively. It requires planning and well defined processes. Together with the marketing automation tools necessary to make the whole thing scalable and efficient.

Recommended Reading

5 Sales And Marketing Alignment Recommendations That Nail It

And finally… you can also access this blog on Slideshare – Stop Sales complaining about the quality of Marketing Leads

Related Blog Posts

Why You Need To Compare Average Closed Won Opportunity Size

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5 Nifty Ways To Use Salesforce Campaigns

5 Nifty Ways To Use Salesforce Campaigns

Unless you’re exceptionally lucky, every business has to put effort into creating new leads and sales opportunities.

But if you’re not using salesforce campaigns to measure and manage your marketing activities then the chances are you’re missing out on many benefits.

Using salesforce campaigns means you can:

  • Compare the effectiveness of different marketing initiatives.
  • Manage marketing activities more efficiently.
  • Track the source of leads and opportunities.
  • Make it easy for sales people to contribute to marketing activity.
  • Drive sales activity based on the marketing history of each lead or contact.

This blog explains 5 examples of different ways you can use salesforce campaigns to achieve these benefits.

We explain how to use the campaign member status picklist values for each type of marketing initiative. This underutilised feature is the secret ingredient to using campaigns in salesforce successfully. It hides behind a button called Advanced Setup. Which is the reason many people are put-off from using it. But this simple and easy-to-use function adds huge value to your marketing activities.

Here’s what the campaign member function does.

It lets you accurately define the relationship between a Lead or Contact and a marketing Campaign at any point in the lifecycle of that campaign.

For example, let’s say you’re running an event. How could you describe the relationship between Leads and Contacts the Campaign that represents the event? How about Not Invited, Invited, Attending, Attended, No Show, Declined.

In other words, the Campaign Member describes the relationship between a person (Lead or Contact) and a single Campaign at any point in time.

It’s such a key concept that we’ve written an entire blog post about using Campaign Members. The rest of this blog post describes the different ways salesforce campaigns can be used and we’ve suggested Member values for each example.

So here are 5 ways you can use salesforce campaigns in your marketing activities.

1. Website Contact Us / Downloadable Content using Campaigns

Every business that uses salesforce should take advantage of the web-to-lead functionality on their Contact Us page.

Rather than asking potential customers to send an email, web-to-lead enables you to publish a form. The respondent details are automatically populated into salesforce as a lead.

This means the web site visitor can be automatically sent an email thanking them for their enquiry. It also means the lead can be immediately routed to the person best able to deal the new enquiry.

The same approach can be used for any downloadable ‘gated’ content on your web site. So, for example, if you offer a white paper, case study, presentation or other valuable material for download, create a web-to-lead form. Deliver the content in an auto-response email that is triggered when someone completes the form. It’s a great way of capturing the details of someone that’s interested in what you offer.

Use a salesforce campaign to manage the various web-to-lead forms (one campaign for each form). That way you’ll capture metrics on the number of people that have completed each web form or requested downloaded content. Associate any resulting opportunities to the campaign to gather valuable information on the contribution each form or content item makes to sales performance.

Suggested Member Status Values: Responded.

2. Christmas Cards / Christmas Gifts using Campaigns

OK it doesn’t need to be Christmas. But if you’re delivering any form of seasonal message or gift to a group of customers and prospects then using salesforce campaigns is a good way to do it.

Too often his sort of activity is managed on spreadsheets and email. If it’s a gift, sales people might be asked to nominate by email the people that should receive the gift.  As with hospitality events, often a manager must approve or reject the nominations made by each sales person. Very quickly it becomes a time consuming muddle of emails and spreadsheets.

So instead, use a salesforce Campaign to manage the process.

Sales people add their Leads and Contacts to the Campaign, selecting a campaign member status of Proposed. Managers can easily review the list of people associated with the campaign, and update the campaign member status of each Lead or Contact to Approved or Rejected. When the greeting or gift is dispatched, change the campaign member status to Sent.

This also solves one other fundamental problem when it comes to Christmas gifts. Trying to find the spreadsheet that contains the list of people who received a gift last year!

Suggested Member Status Values: Not Sent (or Proposed), Approved, Rejected, Sent.

3. Business development initiatives using Campaigns

Let’s say you’ve a new product to launch. Or planning to visit a segment of existing customers to build or expand relationships.

Use a salesforce campaign to manage this targeted business development initiative. Link the Contacts that you plan to visit to the Campaign, and use the Campaign Member function to manage the series of meetings you intend to undertake.

Be sure to define a successful outcome from the initiative. Most likely it will be to generate sales. So link the Opportunities back to the campaign. That way you’ll have a clear view of the efficacy of the overall business development drive. You’ll also be able to clearly see which customers and prospects were involved the initiative.

Suggested Member Status Values: Awaiting Meeting Invite, Invited, Meeting Held, Declined.

4. Trade Shows using salesforce Campaigns

Unlike events that you host, in a trade show, you’ve no idea who is going to walk up to your stand next.

Typically the names of people visiting the stand are captured using a scanning device. At the end of the show, the organisers provide a spreadsheet containing the list of people that you’ve scanned.

Use a salesforce campaign to manage the trade show. Associated the list of people you’ve scanned to the campaign by importing the data using the Manage Member button on the Campaign page layout (select the option, Add Members – Import File). Set the Campaign Member status value to Attended.

The imported records will appear as Leads in salesforce.

Click the Find Duplicates button on each Lead to see whether the person already exists in salesforce as Lead or Contact. Use the Merge Leads or Convert button to de-duplicate against the existing Leads or Contacts. That way the Campaign History of the merged records will be combined and you’ll have a full view of marketing activity for each person.

Suggested Member Status Values: Attended.

5. Training courses using salesforce Campaigns

In many technical industries, it’s common practice for vendors to provide training courses that count towards the Continual Professional Development (CPD) of specialists in that field. Other companies run training courses as part of the chargeable range of products and services they offer.

But often, attendance at each course is recorded in a checkbox on the page layout of the Lead or Contact. This doesn’t reveal the date the person went on the course, which sessions they attended, or whether they passed any exam associated with the course.

Instead use salesforce campaigns to manage training courses.

Create the overall training course as a Campaign. Then create child campaigns for the physical delivery of each training course.

Record the attendance of Leads and Contacts at the training courses using the campaign member function. You can even create custom fields on the campaign member record to reflect certification information or other data relevant to the individual person’s relationship with the training.

This way, when you look at the parent campaign (the name of the training course) you’ll see summary information for all course attendees. Drill down to a child campaign and you’ll see the specific people that attended a particular training delivery.

Suggested Member Status Values: Not Invited, Invited, Attending, Attended, No Show, Declined.

So there’s a wide variety of ways to use salesforce Campaigns – dive in and get started! And as you’ve gathered from this post, it’s essential to get the right member picklist values correct in each case – so here’s where you can find more on how to use campaign member status picklist values.

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The Mini Dictionary of Marketing Automation Terms

The Mini Dictionary of Marketing Automation Terms

Getting the sales team to cold call an unqualified list of leads is like giving up smoking or going on a diet.

There’s always something that gets in the way. Tomorrow is always a better time to start than today.

And in any case, it often turns out to be an unfruitful waste of valuable time.

But how do you increase the flow of sales-ready leads and opportunities to the sales team?

The answer, increasingly, is marketing automation. Thousands of B2B organisations – and quite a few B2C ones – are investing heavily in marketing automation systems from vendors such as Hubspot, Pardot and Marketo. These systems provide scalable and automated marketing processes that boost the number of warm leads and drive opportunity conversion rates.

So what exactly is marketing automation? And what are the essential marketing automation terms that matter in any discussion on lead generation? Terms such as content marketing, lead nurturing, lead scoring, sales qualified lead and marketing qualified lead.

(more…)

The Crucial Difference Between A Lead And An Opportunity in Salesforce

The Crucial Difference Between A Lead And An Opportunity in Salesforce

If you want to start an argument, ask a room full of Sales and Marketing people to explain the difference between a Lead and an Opportunity. You’re guaranteed a bun fight.

But why does the difference between a Lead and an Opportunity matter?

It matters because every business wants to generate more Leads in order to drive revenue. Consequently organisations are focussing increased attention on the effectiveness of their lead management process.  And to implement an effective lead management process, Sales and Marketing must agree on the difference between a Lead and an Opportunity.

But that can be harder than it sounds.

However if Sales and Marketing can’t agree on the difference, then how can they agree on when a Lead should become an Opportunity? And if they can’t agree this, then it’s simply not possible to implement a robust, end-to-end Lead and Opportunity management process across the organisation.

It’s a challenge we’ve helped many businesses resolve. So here’s our definitive guide to the difference between a Lead and an Opportunity.

Sales person’s definition of a Lead

Why is there so much confusion in the first place? After all, most Sales and Marketing people will acknowledge that a Lead is the first step in the sales cycle.

The reason is that to a sales person, a Lead can just as easily come from an existing customer or known prospect, as a brand new one. It’s simply the start of the sales process. The process may not be sufficiently advanced to warrant creating a formal Opportunity in salesforce.com. But it has at least started.

So from a sales person’s perspective, a Lead reflects a broad range of early stage, potential opportunities that require action. It’s these opportunities, both early and late stage, that show on the salesforce dashboards that focus on sales performance and funnel visibility.

Marketing person’s definition of a Lead

A Marketing person’s perception of a Lead can vary in two important ways in the absence of an agreed organisational definition.

First, a Lead is often a person or business that will potentially make a purchase at some undetermined point in the future. Marketing may hand the Lead to Sales, but not necessarily with the expectation that a sale will immediately result. The Lead is a potential customer that may engage in a future sales process.

Second, Marketing often defines a Lead as being a brand new company or person. The business or contact didn’t previously exist in the database. Indeed the role of Marketing in many businesses is to increase the overall prospect base for long term benefit, rather than directly impact immediate revenue over the next month or two.

Sales are under pressure to close deals in the short term. Marketing want to nurture the Lead. It’s this contrast in expectations that frequently results in Sales to complaining about the quality of Leads created by Marketing.

Definition of a Lead in salesforce

These differing definitions of a Lead mean Sales and Marketing fail to agree on the difference between a Lead and an Opportunity. This directly obstructs the implementation of an effective Lead management process in salesforce.com.

So what constitutes a Lead in the salesforce.com CRM system?

In fact, salesforce uses the term Lead in several different ways. Let’s take them step by step.

1. Lead as a brand new enquiry

Start by thinking of a Lead in salesforce.com as a brand new enquiry, from a business and person you’ve never previously heard of.

For example, let’s say you’ve a Web-to-Lead form set up on your web site. Web-to-Lead is an easy, standard way to integrate salesforce with your web site. It means anyone that fills in your Contact Us form will be automatically inserted into salesforce.com as a Lead.

What’s the first thing you’re going to do? Click on the Find Duplicates button on the Lead page layout. This will identify any matching Leads or Contacts that already exist in your salesforce database. Let’s assume you don’t find any.

Now you make an outbound telephone call to the Lead. Essentially, one of three basic outcomes is going to result from the conversation:

  • The Lead is a dead end.
    It turns out the person isn’t interested in any further dialogue. Or perhaps it was a student simply looking for research information. Either way, set the Lead Status to Closed. You don’t necessarily delete the Lead from the database, but no further action is anticipated.
  • The Lead is a definite maybe.
    The Lead is moderately interested in your products and services. He doesn’t want to speak to a sales person – at least not yet. But you agree to send a brochure, product specification or price list.So this time set the Lead Status to Contacted. You might also create a follow up Task to call the Lead again in the future.
  • The Lead is a sales Opportunity.
    The Lead agrees to a meeting or phone call with a Sales person. Or he requests a quote. In other words, he gives you some indication that he’s a legitimate potential customer. He’s a Qualified Lead.

This time leave the Lead Status alone. Instead, click on the Convert Lead button. Salesforce will convert the Lead into three separate records; an Account; Contact; and Opportunity.

Here’s the process in a flow chart diagram.

Process diagram for qualifying a new Lead in salesforce

The Account represents the business or organisation. The Contact is the person employed by that organisation. And the Opportunity represents the potential sales deal.

It’s this early stage Opportunity that many Sales people will regard as a Lead.

Indeed Sales people may be reluctant to use the term Opportunity. It raises expectations about the outcome. It creates visibility of the deal in the sales pipeline dashboard. And from the sales person’s perspective, the Lead may – or may not – have been properly qualified before it was converted to an Account, Contact and Opportunity.

All legitimate issues. Before we address them, let’s deal with several other ways salesforce.com uses the term Lead.

2. Leads that match existing Lead records

Let’s go to back to our person that filled in the Contact Us form on your web site.

In our example we assumed that there were no existing Leads or Contacts that matched our new Lead. We established this by clicking on the Find Duplicates button on the Lead page layout.

What if one or more matching Leads had been found?

Search for duplicate leads in salesforce

No problem. Use the Merge Leads button to merge the various Leads into a single record. Then make your qualification call.

Here’s the process diagram.

Lead qualification process diagram with duplicate lead records

3. Leads that match existing Contact records

How can an existing Contact be created as a Lead in salesforce? Well, there’s a number of ways.

For example, Leads can be created by importing the spreadsheet that contains a list of people that came to a booth at an exhibition. Some of those people may well be existing Contacts.

Or say you’ve a Web-to-Lead form on your web site that allows visitors to register for an event. When an existing Contact registers he’s created as a Lead. The same thing happens if you’re using Web-to-Lead to enable visitors to download a document from your web site.

In any of these cases, when you click on the Find Duplicates button you may find there’s a matching Contact.

Click the Find Duplicates button to find Leads that match existing Contacts

Here’s three ways to deal with the Contact-as-a-Lead situation.

  • Convert the Lead without making a Qualification call.
    During the Lead conversion process, salesforce will help you merge the Lead into the existing Contact record. If the Account Owner is already actively engaged with the Contact – on an existing Opportunity for example – then perhaps it isn’t appropriate to make the qualification call.
  • Convert the Lead and then make a Qualification call.
    This is the common approach when it’s the Account Owner that is dealing with the Lead. He or she merges the Lead into the Contact record and then makes a call to the Contact.
  • Make a qualification call before Converting the Lead.
    This approach is used most frequently when Marketing or Inside Sales is dealing with the Lead. They make call to the Lead, cognisant of the fact that the person already has a relationship with the company. Following the conversation the Lead is converted, but Marketing or Inside Sales make a human decision on whether to simultaneously create an Opportunity.

Here’s the process diagram for the last of these scenarios.

New Lead Qualification Process Diagram with Matching Account and Contact

To Convert a Lead without creating an Opportunity, check the box “Do not create Opportunity upon conversion” during the convert process. It’s underneath the Opportunity name on the Convert Lead page layout.

When to Convert a new Lead into an Opportunity

Let’s go back to our first example. The one in which we found no matching Leads or Contacts. At what point should we convert the Lead to an Opportunity?

In fact, salesforce doesn’t mandate when you should do this. It’s up to you. The conversion point in the lead management process will vary from business to business. The key is to define the Lead Qualification criteria with the Sales team and convert the Lead when it meets these agreed criteria.

Defining who should convert a new Lead into an Opportunity

If new Leads are assigned immediately to Sales as soon as they arrive, then it will be the Sales person that converts the Lead to the Opportunity. This is the case in many businesses. There simply isn’t the resource available to have someone other than the Sales person deal with new Leads.

This is a high risk approach though. Remember, Sales are under pressure to meet short term revenue targets. If new Leads require patient nurturing in order to become sales opportunities, there’s a significant risk Sales will quickly start ignoring the Leads passed over by Marketing. Better to use a marketing application such as Pardot, Marketo or Hubspot to automate the nurturing process and transfer the Lead to Sales when the agreed qualification criteria are met.

What if Marketing or an Inside Sales team qualify the Lead before it can be converted? As a general rule, the team that performs the qualification activity should convert the Lead to the Opportunity. But to make this work, a robust Lead qualification process needs to be in place, with agreement between the qualification team and Sales on the criteria that will allow an Opportunity to be created. Again, a marketing application can add power and sophistication to the lead nurturing and lead qualification process.

If there’s ambiguity on the definition of a qualified Lead then it’s better to have Sales perform the conversion process.

The difference between a Lead and an Opportunity in salesforce

So, a meaty answer to what seems like a straight forward question – what’s the difference between a Lead and an Opportunity? At least now you’re ready to referee the argument that breaks out when you ask the question!

Whichever way you look at it, Leads are the first step in the sales process. An effective lead management process requires the difference between a Lead and an Opportunity to be clearly articulated and agreed between Sales and Marketing. What’s the first step in achieving this? Agreement on the qualification criteria that determine when a Lead can be converted into an Opportunity.

Free lead management process diagram download

Want to get your hands on the diagrams used in this blog post? No problem, fill in the form to download the diagrams in Powerpoint. Use them starting point for creating your own lead management process.

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Get in Touch

We’ve worked with many businesses to define and implement detailed Lead management processes. We also help companies implement salesforce.com and marketing automation applications including Pardot, Marketo and Hubspot. Simply get in touch for an informal discussion on how we can help your business innovate your sales and marketing process to boost revenue.

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Innovate marketing to boost sales ready leads: Event 11th December

Innovate marketing to boost sales ready leads: Event 11th December

Register Event CTA MiddleBoosting revenue means increasing the number of high quality leads given to the sales team.

Simple to say. But how do you achieve it?

Join us on 11th December and we’ll show you how. We’ll demonstrate how to innovate marketing and lead generation activities to drive sales ready leads.

We’ll cover:

  • How marketing automation tools such as Marketo, Pardot and Hubspot are radically transforming marketing and lead generation.
  • How to create and use high quality content to attract new prospects and increase leads.
  • How to integrate with salesforce.com to create a powerful, end-to-end sales and marketing process.

We’ll demonstrate exactly what terminology such as lead nurturing, content marketing and lead scoring actually mean. And we’ll do it all using live examples and practical demos.

Date: 11th December 2014
Venue: 9 Devonshire Square, London EC2M 4YF
Start: 9.00 for 9.30 AM
Finish: 12.30 followed by light lunch.

It promises to be an action-packed event. We’d be delighted to have you join us. Simply fill in the form below.

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