We all need to be reminded of the basics, and in a tight economy, efficiency and effectiveness are imperative. Marketing and sales working well together is especially important now and lead management is the basis of that.
Most of us, however, pay lip service to getting marketing and sales staffs working together. It rarely happens. When things get rough, the finger-pointing begins. One of the most effective ways to increase sales results is to get both organizations on the same page. And the marketing team needs to take the first step. Marketers have a tough time getting any credibility until they start listening to what the sales team tells them.
At a minimum, sales and marketing must share goals. For example, salespeople may ask for leads, but they're really hoping to close sales immediately. That's why it's vital that the marketing team's goals focus on delivering the right leads rather than on providing a large volume of leads.
Beyond goals, marketers need to talk to sales about what they need and then build a strategy around that. Here's a good place to begin:
- Start at the top. The CMO needs intimate knowledge of the sales process.
- Let sales define for marketing what constitutes a lead.
- Not all salespeople are created equal. Talk to top performers.
- Get marketing people out in the field.
- Create a cross-department committee to be the eyes and ears for marketing.
- Present marketing's ideas to the sales team early and continue to promote the program to sales regularly during every marketing campaign.
- Marketing needs feedback. Encourage meetings where both departments celebrate wins and analyze losses.
The marketing team also can help sales create a lead-nurturing system that keeps interested prospects warm until they are ready to buy. Depending on their qualifications, you need several different plans. For example, if they indicate they have budget authority, but the timing isn't right, follow up with an incentive to take a trial anyway. If they don't have budget authority, but they are doing research for a company initiative, get on the phone with them to find out who the decision-makers are, and how you can help your lead promote your solution internally.
Ask questions each time you talk with prospects, so you know whether they should move to a different segment. As long as the content is relevant, you're not limited by how many times you can contact each level. The possibilities are endless, so it's best to start small and grow the complexity as needed. With automated systems, you can create a variety of follow-up mechanisms based on business rules that make sense for your brand.
During these tough economic times, a marketer's job can no longer simply be to bring in leads and to pass them on. To succeed now, marketers must take responsibility for:
Qualifying the responses in real time using business rules approved by sales.
Nurturing non-responders until they mature as qualified leads.
Increasing sell-through rates.
It's not just about responseit's about sales. Marketers can and should take a more powerful role in managing leads much further through the sales pipeline.