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3 ways to get marketing and sales pulling in the same direction on lead generation

Sales and marketing can't operate in isoation on lead generation. Richard Hilton shares three tips for better collaboration between the two functions

Both sales and marketing teams use lead generation as a measurement for success, yet their approaches are often different. This is concerning, especially considering how integral the effectiveness of the lead generation process is to the future success of sales and marketing outcomes.

The recent CSO Insights report, 2018-2019 Sales Performance Report ‘Selling in the Age of Ceaseless Change, reveals that more organisations had alignment on formal lead definition in 2014 (50%) than they did in 2018 (34%). Despite a constant focus on leads, many marketing and sales leaders still struggle to clearly articulate what a lead is; where their leads actually come from; which leads are best; who should own leads; and how technology can improve lead effectiveness.

Better collaboration equals better win rates

Misalignment between sales and marketing teams is a real barrier to effective collaboration. In my experience, those organisations with better and more formal alignment find this translates into better quota attainment and win rates. To achieve better alignment, organisations need both a clear lead definition (including a scoring model) and a lead nurturing process up until customers become sales-ready.

Crucially, this approach must be built from a customer perspective, tailored to fit your ideal customer profile and importantly have clearly assigned marketing and sales responsibilities along the customer’s path all the way to “sales-ready.” It’s this nurturing and lead generation effectiveness that prevents sending “unready” leads directly to the sales force, which can jeopardise the prospect and frustrate the salesforce. 

How sales and marketing can improve lead generation effectiveness

Taking all this into consideration, here are my three key pointers for how sales and marketing teams can collaborate better to improve lead generation effectiveness:

1. Achieve greater visibility and customer-centricity

The most successful organisations connect every sales and marketing process to the customer. Organisations worry too much about aligning sales and marketing. They need to worry more about aligning them both with the customer. This alignment drives integration by default.

Collaboration doesn’t occur naturally. It requires an objective and a clearly defined strategy to measure success. A dashboard that reports a combination of leading indicators such as conversion rates per lead stage, and lagging indicators such as revenue contribution, increases visibility and awareness of lead generation effectiveness.

2. Establish new definitions and processes

Make sure you define what a lead is compared to an inquiry or an opportunity that has several maturity stages. Terms like 'marketing-qualified' or 'sales-qualified' can take away the focus from the customer. Instead, look at different lead maturity stages through the lens of the customer’s path. Next, develop a scoring model for the qualification and lead nurturing steps. Develop models that reflect the specifics of your industry as well as the complexity of your buying/selling scenarios. Once completed, integrate these models into your processes and ensure that the technology you use is based on your definitions and models, not the other way around. 

3. Overhaul prospecting

With the solid foundations of the above, marketing and sales leaders can then improve lead generation effectiveness by:

  • Making preparation and research for tailored campaigns based on lead definition mandatory. This will ensure that no cold calls or one-size-fits-all messages are sent to recipients.
  • Ensuring that value messages are consistent and personalised in all relevant enablement services for lead generation. In turn, sales teams have a solid and consistent messaging approach for prospects and customers alike.
  • Driving the adoption of desired lead generation behaviours from frontline managers in marketing and sales, which leads to consistent coaching on lead generation and prospecting practices.
  • Measuring success based on leading indicators, such as conversion rates, which allows for quick adjustments based on changing buyer behaviours.

Long gone are the days where the primary responsibility for lead generation sits with marketing. Sales, marketing, and, to a lesser degree, service and referrals, are all common lead sources. Success comes from collaboration. It isn’t about the number of leads, but rather each lead’s revenue contribution, regardless of its origin. This makes effective lead generation about nurturing long-term partnerships with buyers and not the end result of any one deal. Sales and marketing teams have no time to lose in improving sales success with a new and consistent approach to lead generation processes. 

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