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Sales vs Marketing: The battle of the leads

Any C-Suite exec involved in either Sales or Marketing will bear witness to the mudslinging that goes around when revenue and growth targets have not been met. Sales accuses Marketing of not producing enough good quality, convertible leads and Marketing hits back blaming Sales for poor conversion rates, and round and round we go with the organisation being the biggest loser in this battle.

As an organisation’s front-line into market penetration and growth, the marketing team positions products and services on a one to many basis and are accountable for taking customers on a journey through a carefully crafted lead generation funnel with the objective of producing quality, convertible leads. The sales team then engage leads on a one on one basis and are responsible for converting leads into customers. Sounds simple enough but as every senior manager in one of these departments knows, this isn’t always how it plays out.

How do we streamline the hand-off of leads between marketing and sales that will result in higher conversion rates? How can we eliminate or at the very least marginalize the finger pointing between theses two critical functions?

Let’s look at some of the grey area’s managers face and how to reduce them:

Undefined Lead Generation Funnels

Undefined lead-gen funnels cause mayhem not only for the marketing team, but for the sales team as well. Leads aren’t tracked back to campaigns, so the sales team aren’t sure how to engage the potential customer and marketing can’t track back which campaigns produced the best R.O.I and worst of all most leads get lost in translation. This is a massive grey area in most organisations today and can easily be rectified by following these simple steps:

  1. Pull as much historical campaign and sales data as possible, get key players from both departments into a room and workshop the ideal funnel together. This may sound simple but often enough real data isn’t easily available or is skewed because of poor reporting parameters. Don’t let this deter you. If you’re not able to work from real data, design the perfect funnel as you would envision it – put reporting metrics in place and test, test and test again.
  2. Do competitor research. Identify your two or three biggest competitors and benchmark against their lead generation funnels. There are many ‘spy’ tools to use in order to uncover how they are guiding the general market through their funnel and producing good quality convertible leads. In the absence of ‘spy’ tools, send your teams (members from both the sales and marketing teams) to ghost shop and purchase their products. Don’t just test their digital funnels, you need to gain a helicopter view of their entire lead-gen funnels so make sure to investigate their above and below the line funnels as well. This is going to feel like a tedious task but when done right will give you massive insights into how they are ‘winning’ and gives you a chance to incorporate and test some of their strategies in your own business.
  3. Over a period of four months, you should have enough data to refine your process and embed it into your business as a standard way of operating. Having sales and marketing co-create on this project will also ensure that both departments are invested in the result and have a share of the accountability.
Unclear definition of what makes a good quality, convertible lead.

Not knowing when a lead is a lead, what takes a lead from an enquiry to a convertible lead or how to get the leads to the sales team in real time is a massive risk in any business. This is also where a lot of the frustrations between the two departments arise.

  1. The very first step in eliminating this ambiguity is to once again, get key players from both departments around a table and armed with information, define what is and what isn’t a lead. Marketing needs to absolutely understand the ‘sales’ requirement for a lead and sales need to accept that the greater the qualification parameters for leads are, the fewer leads will funnel through.
  2. Once both parties agree on the ‘sweet spot’ set of criteria for lead qualification, a period of testing needs to take place. Any time a business adjusts qualification criteria for leads, there is an impact later down the line. Lead volumes might drop causing a lack of productivity in the sales team which causes its own set of issues, however even with a reduced amount of leads, the sales revenue might increase because of the increased quality. It is a combination between art, science and a whole lot of feedback.
  3. Get the best creative strategists working on lead-gen campaigns based on the new criteria and get the best sales people to test the leads. Again, once you’ve tested, you can then bed down the parameters. (A side note here is that our markets are always shifting as customers are influenced by economic changes etc. Repeat this exercise often to avoid being blind-sided again.)
Lead Hand-off’s

No one knows more about ‘striking while the iron is hot’ than the sales and marketing teams do, yet this is often where poor automation systems and undefined processes let them down. This grey area is one of the biggest contributors in the loss of sales revenue and the upfront marketing investment spent on acquiring the leads in the first place.

  1. In the absence of a fully integrated, fully functional CRM the teams need match the lead generation funnel channels used for lead generation and build/define hand-off mechanisms and processes for each one. There are free automation programs that fulfil various sets of requirements, its best to research and test, the best ones for your organisation. The objective should always be real-time engagements with potential customers (and then automated engagement with the leads in your pipeline if the sale isn’t closed straight away).
  2. Getting leads to sales just-in-time is critical to the success of the sales team and in proving that the marketing campaigns backed by the marketing team work. In an organisation with a multi-pronged lead-gen funnel it is almost non-negotiable to have a sales team with a structure that matches that lead-gen funnel. So, if your organisation operates on live chat platforms, social media and on a one-on-one consultation basis, your sales team needs to have micro-teams trained and dedicated to each of these channels. This funnel matching technique reduces hand-off waiting periods and matches the right sales ‘skillset’ with the relevant channel in the funnel. A sales person that’s great at dealing with people face to face might not be as effective as a social media closer for instance and that brings me to my last point…
Matching Sales Agents to channels in your lead-gen funnel

Gone are the days where a fast talking, super sassy sales agent is the holy grail in the sales team. Customers are far too mature and spoilt for choice in today’s competitive climate and are able to deal with businesses and brands how they want and when they want. If they don’t like your sales agent or aren’t connecting with them…click…end of conversation and end of opportunity.

  1. As carefully as we create our campaign strategies, lead- gen funnels and hand-off mechanisms, we need to be uber ‘on-purpose’ about matching the right sales skills to the right platforms/channels and so the right customers.
  2. Customers that are buying online don’t necessarily think, operate or respond in the same way as customers that buy face to face or over a phone. Each customer psychographic needs to be clearly defined per channel. This then allows sales managers to identify the people in their teams with the same set of psychographics and match them to the correct channel. This simple exercise can dramatically increase your conversion rates over night.

Sales and Marketing departments have always been the driving force behind successful businesses even despite the challenges they face with regards to working together. It is our responsibility as leaders to remove as many of the grey areas they face and strengthen the relationship between these two departments. Not only for the massive opportunity it provides our organisations, but for the sense of purpose and accomplishment it gives our people.

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