Marketing & Sales Alignment: A Prerequisite for Effective Lead Generation

Why is no one following up on my sales leads?

Your lead generation activities can result in hundreds of leads. Whether these leads are generated through inbound marketing, banner ads, social media promotion, or tradeshows, they are useless unless someone follows up with them. Many companies experience this problem where leads are generated then subsequently ignored.

Why do so many companies fail to close the loop on their leads? There’s no single answer to this question, but it’s safe to say that when marketing and sales are aligned, the risk of missing sales opportunities is reduced and the productivity of both teams increases.

Marketing says Qualified; Sales says NOT Qualified

Lead qualification is subjective; a lead that one person or group might consider qualified, another would reject. Sales would prefer to receive leads that have been vetted to ensure that their time spent on follow-up will likely result in a closed deal. Marketing may believe a lead is qualified because of an action taken (downloading a white paper or visiting your tradeshow booth), but it’s often difficult to be sure. Establishing criteria and process for qualifying leads can help marketing make more educated guesses that provide sales with better quality leads.

sales marketing alingment

Getting acquainted

If your company has a competitive culture, or if sales and marketing don’t really work together, creating alignment may first require some trust building steps. Fortunately, with support from leadership, common ground regarding revenue, profit, and other strategic business goals is almost always within reach.

Typically a couple of workshops with leadership support and involvement yield positive results. During these workshops you will work on mutual understanding, lead generation process definition, and specific lead gen activities, among other goals. Here are some starting thoughts on what you might cover during these workshops.

To “keep it real” we suggest you collect a batch of recent leads from each of your primary lead generation sources (e.g., website, tradeshow, advertising) to process them together.

Define and agree on lead qualification characteristics

  • Sort through your leads and place into good and not so good piles; do this for each batch of leads (e.g., website, tradeshow, advertisement).
  • Discuss why a lead is good or not good.
  • Document the top lead qualification factors and what additional information sales would like to know about them.
  • Define the process and criteria in which a lead remains with marketing and when a lead is qualified enough to justify direct sales involvement.
  • This article from ClickZ suggests several terms that sales and marketing should work together to define.

Understand what happens when sales follows up on marketing’s leads

  • It’s possible that lead quality is so low that finding the sale has become the proverbial needle in a haystack. Marketers need to understand what is and isn’t working for sales and, as MarketingProfs suggests, “pick their brains about why they have won, what changes they see in the marketplace, and which marketing tactics work best.”
  • At the same time, sales should be made aware of current messaging, campaigns, and tactics that marketing is using to generate and follow-up with leads. Taking stock of your content and linking relevant pieces with sales activities can also help sales connect more effectively with leads.

Systematize lead generation activities

  • If using a CRM like Salesforce, create a lead scoring scheme that increments a lead’s score based on interactions with the company and on the criteria you defined above. For example, downloads from the website, visits to the tradeshow booth, opening /clicking emails sent, and social media interactions (e.g., retweet & follow). Once a lead reaches a score threshold (agreed upon by sales and marketing), that lead is then considered a sales qualified lead. This is the hand-off point.
  • It’s fine if you don’t use a CRM to track sales activities and opportunities, but it will take a concerted effort to track metrics each month and after each campaign or event. You can use a spreadsheet to track the numbers. For example, you might simply rank order leads as A (hot/sales ready), B (warm/marketing qualified for further development), or C (cold/not qualified) based on key criteria you defined.
  • When a lead is handed off, sales then initiates direct contact with the lead. If sales learns that the lead is not qualified, the lead can be returned to marketing for further nurturing such as placing them on a targeted email list to send them relevant content. This lead may not be a dead end, just not ready to buy.

Get through these first steps and you’ll be ready to refine and optimize your lead generation engine. In our next post we discuss how the right lead generation metrics and automation tools can help you reach your goals.

To learn more, check out our guide:

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