There’s no more epic and unrequited love story on Earth than the one between sales and marketing.
Friends since birth, constantly quarreling, ever in need of one another’s help – it’s like a fated romance novel and yet it’s in this great similarity that they find so much to bicker about. They’re the Capulets and Montagues of revenue-ville.
A true love between them takes work (or at least that’s what my wife reminds me when things are tough). When you can pull your head out of your work and really invest in building the relationship between them, it pays dividends. Yet, we’re all human and we fall victim to habit. It’s all too easy to get comfortable and find yourself slipping, and that’s when marketing and sales stop listening to each other, and we get the environment that we’re in today:
- Only 8% of companies say they have tight sales and marketing alignment – Forrester Research
- Only 1 in 2 companies have a formalized definition for a lead – Marketing Charts
- Misalignment between sales and marketing costs companies 10% of revenue – Hubspot
If you ever arrive at a place where you look at your partner and see a problem, you’re in trouble, and it’s time to talk.
Today, let’s pause for a little pre-crisis counseling intervention! Marketers, we’re going to delve into a little empathy training so that you can better spot when your sales partners are being triggered, and know what you can do on your end to fix it.
Here’s how to tell if the sales team thinks your leads stink
1. Sales leaves leads untouched
Sometimes the worst thing that can happen in a relationship is a dearth of talking. Imagine you’re at dinner and your significant other hasn’t touched their food – at a certain point, you have to be the bigger person and ask what’s bothering them. If your sales team exhibits any sort of delay in dealing with leads, same issue. It’s likely because their work/excitement ratio has become unbalanced – leads sound like more work than they’re worth, which isn’t good.
This can happen for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they’ve been burned one too many times with leads that they felt were unqualified or resistant to talking to them. Perhaps they’ve started to see a bad pattern in the type of company or role that they’ve been talking to. The result is that when new leads come in, they place them on their to-do list rather than dive right in.
I know this feeling firsthand. As a former salesperson at a gigantic telecommunications company I received leads that I gladly passed to others because I felt that they were of dubious value. That’s bad.
How can you fix this?
Simple: start the conversation and agree upon a definition of what’s an exciting lead. In my experience, sales teams are almost invariably more excited about leads that are more engaged, which is to say that they’re talking about the right topics and sharing them on social media. You can use tools like Socedo to track this and engage them while they’re hot.
2. Salespeople recycle leads for the same reasons, over and over
If your significant other was ignoring their food before, now they’re just playing with it. If you see that your sales team recycles leads in the CRM with the same reason every single time, that’s a clue. If they do it in batches, such as 10-15 leads all within a few minutes of each other, what you’re seeing is just general disenchantment. They find the leads so useless that they aren’t even taking the time to give you real feedback. That’s the worst case scenario.
If, however, they’re recycling them one-off, but always for the same reason, such as “too early” or “under-qualified,” it’s more likely that that’s a valid reason that needs to be explored.
How can you fix this?
No surprises here: just talk it out. Get their sales manager to schedule a team meeting to discuss lead quality. Many times, the pre-set options for recycling leads in your CRM such as Salesforce aren’t adequate, so you should ask them to brainstorm the reasons that they’d like to give for why leads aren’t good and get to the bottom of what’s really bothering them. This information is worth more than gold to a marketer, and is a key component to an iron-clad sales handoff process.
3. Lots of calls for “out bounding”
Salespeople are perennial self-starters. The job practically demands it, after all. Let’s take a peek inside their role so that you can see: For salespeople, their paycheck is their own responsibility and any time a wrench is thrown into a deal’s workings they’re the ones who have to get their hands greasy fishing it out. If the client wants to do an onsite visit, the salespeople are the ones who have to fly out there. If the client asks tough questions, they’re the person who burns the midnight oil with the product team answering it. And if at any point the wheels start to fall off the deal, they’re the ones shouldering the burden, picking it up and carrying it by hand.
Given this proclivity to “I’ll just get it done myself” solutions, is it any wonder that their first instinct is to go find leads on their own? That’s just fine. However, any mass call for more sales outbound activity from sales management is actually a masked criticism of the overall lead generation process. It’s a sign that the sales team doesn’t feel that they’re being “fed.”
And sure, every company is going to have to strike the appropriate balance for their organization between inbound and outbound, but if you hear that salespeople are given different quotas for outbound/inbound leads, are paid differently on them, or you’re ever asked for lists of cold leads so that they can do “call blitzes,” this is what’s going on.
How can you fix this?
Engage sales management right away. They’re the ones most under the gun because they carry the biggest bag, and if they haven’t already approached you about why they’re emphasizing outbound, that’s your first problem to tackle. Very likely, they’re going to tell you that they have a big number to hit (who doesn’t?) and they’re concerned. This is your chance: come up with a mutual plan to tweak lead quality or volume to help them get closer to where they need to be. As FunnelWise, a sales analytics firm puts it, “Revenue generation isn’t a marketing or sales thing, it’s an everyone thing.”
4. New salespeople come around asking about the lead process
Have you ever had any new salespeople knocking on your door to ask about how the lead process works? That’s a symptom of a larger problem! Something is going wrong during the on-boarding process where either their sales peers don’t understand it well enough to explain it or they don’t think highly of it and have said disparaging things. These trainees are innocently seeking a firm understanding and they’re your canary in the coal mine, if you will.
How can you fix this?
Interrogate them, nicely, perhaps with cookies. Gather all that they’re willing to tell you and get a rundown of where the communication roadblock lies so that you can address it. You may need to meet with the sales operations team to tweak their on-boarding to do a better job, or if necessary, re-work your lead generation based on what comes up.
What’s the common theme here?
It all comes down to communication! Talking it out is the best way to build a really strong relationship and when sales and marketing align, it’s a marriage made in heaven. Isn’t that worth a little listening? What’s your experience with feedback on sales leads? Share in the comments below!
Author: Chris Gillespie is a freelance writer and founder of content marketing agency Find A Way Media. He’s a media, culture, tech (and let’s be honest, coffee) aficionado who believes that improved communication makes for a better world – pick up a pen and have a voice!