Overcoming Marketing-Sales Tension
Tension between the sales and marketing departments plagues companies of all shapes and sizes. One of the biggest sore spots is the feeling among sales personnel that the “leads” delivered by marketing are worthless.
Typically, this is not entirely true, but an impression that develops as sales reps grow tired of chasing inquiries that turn out to be dead ends. Nevertheless, even the impression is bad; when reps sour on marketing leads, they may overlook or go through the motions on terrific leads, thinking they are more “junk.”
If marketing adds lead validation to the process, this tension not only can be eliminated, but also can result in tremendous gains in lead follow-up efficiency and new business production.
What Is Lead Validation?
If you are not familiar with lead validation, do not be worried — few marketers implement it. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on lead validation or lead qualification for online marketing inquiries, but the same techniques can be applied to other campaigns.
In online marketing, form submissions and phone calls generated by marketing campaigns (SEO, PPC, email, display advertising, etc.) are generally lumped together and called “leads.”
This is a massive error. Form submissions and phone calls can be leads, but they can also be:
- Personal phone calls
- Sales solicitations
- Customer service inquiries
- Inquiries from job applicants
- Internal phone calls
- Irrelevant inquiries (e.g., someone looking for a product the company doesn’t sell)
Lead validation or qualification can be defined as
The process of sifting through form and phone inquiries, to separate true sales leads from non-leads like the ones listed above.
Lead validation is a laborious job, for the highest accuracy requiring someone to listen to recordings of every phone call and read every field of every form. Although Marketing Automation promises to reduce the manual intervention, automated rules may miss some good quality prospects. This infographic illustrates the process.
The effort is well worth it, however. Having validated hundreds of thousands of leads for clients, we have found that as much as 45 percent of all inquiries are not sales leads.
So, if the marketing department is passing on “leads” to the sales department that are 45 percent non-leads, the stage is set for inefficiency and ill will.
The Many Benefits of Lead Validation
Sales Department Benefits
Let’s examine the benefits of lead validation in more detail, starting with the sales department.
- With validation, sales managers have fewer leads to assign.
- With fewer leads to assign, sales managers can put more time into directing follow-up activity on those leads.
- With more time to do the follow-up, sales reps put more thought and skill into what they are doing.
- With more thought and skill going into the follow-up, more sales are closed.
- If lead validation is done in real time or near real time, as it ideally should be, extremely promising leads are identified immediately, giving sales managers an opportunity to strike quickly, allowing no chance for the lead to grow cold.
- As sales managers and reps realize, through experience, that lead quality is extremely high, they become eager to get leads, attack them and work with the marketing feedback. As marketing gets feedback and ideas from sales, it in turn can improve its techniques and messaging, creating an atmosphere for continuous improvement.
Marketing Department Benefits
On the marketing side, the benefit just mentioned — continuous improvement — is certainly a big one. But the lead validation in and of itself allows for rapid continuous improvement of Internet marketing campaigns:
- When tweaks are made to Internet marketing campaigns based on inquiry production rather than validated lead production, data can be misleading — by as much as 45 percent.
- For example, if PPC ad “A” generates 100 inquiries and ad “B” generates 50 inquiries, more emphasis will go to “A.”
- However, if it turns out after validation that “A” generates 20 validated leads and “B” generates 40 validated leads, more emphasis will go to “B” — a complete reversal!
Smarter Company Investments
Beyond gaining all of this tactical efficiency in sales and marketing, lead validation enables company leadership to make budgetary and personnel decisions based on accurate ROI data.
Consider marketing. It is one thing to ramp up or ramp down investments on Internet marketing (or traditional marketing) campaigns based on vague inquiry data. It is another thing to be able to judge a campaign based on the actual number of leads it is producing. Without validation, marketing will tend to believe that those campaigns generating the most inquiries are doing the most good.
Consider sales. Evaluating sales rep performance is never a black-and-white proposition. However, if the excuse of “bad leads from the marketing department” is removed, there is less gray area in evaluating the lead follow-up ability of a given rep. New business production is the lifeblood of any business; bringing greater clarity to the pursuit of it is of great value to small and large organizations.
Brad Shorr is the Director of Content Strategy at Straight North
, an online marketing agency that offers SEO, PPC and web design services. With over 25 years of marketing experience, Brad’s work has been featured on sites such as Forbes, Moz and Salesforce.