Leaky leads: How marketing/inside sales partnering across the customer life achieves quota

As more companies jump on the bandwagon to adopt a customer-centric approach, new opportunities for generating revenue are emerging. One such area is optimizing the relationship between marketing and inside sales. This may not appear new since marketing has been supplying MQLs to this team forever; however what is new is the impact of adopting a customer-centric strategy. To better understand this phenomenon, let’s explore:

  • The problem with current lead generation management practices
  • Customer lifecycle as a bonding agent
  • Skilling-up the inside sales team
  • Leadership for the inside sales team.

Current lead management practices

A better name for lead management should be The Leaky Faucet Practice because it's so consistently problematic. Drip, drip, drip. That's the sound of money leaking out of your business. Honestly, how many people do you know who don't have a lead leakage problem? Can you imagine the return of stopping only a small percentage of these leaks? For many companies, it's a significant number. Yet, here we sit in 2017 and I still hear… drip, drip, drip.

Part of the problem is we have compartmentalized every part of the customer journey without also having one agreed upon view and response plan to that journey. For too long, B2B marketers worked to influence only a sliver of the customer journey – mostly the awareness stage. As a result, marketing was largely responsible for passing MQLs to sales with the hope that sales would actually follow up. Drip, drip, drip. There was no unifying element or bonding agent to this process – each group just did the best they could.

Customer lifecycle as a bonding agent

Imagine gathering representatives from every part of your company – sales, inside sales, marketing, demand gen, product development, IT, executives, etc.. Picture having them all in a room for one week.  Visualize having one person in the center of the room for that week playing the role of the customer. This one customer person is responsible for pulling the team out of their own department-centric way of thinking to thinking through the lens of the customer. This real-life example was provided by Kelly Dickson, global revenue marketing operations manager and inside sales leader at CommScope and is one of many ways to begin to create and operationalize a customer-centric approach. However you do it, once you do it, you've created the bonding agent for a more effective and revenue-oriented relationship between marketing and inside sales. 

The customer lifecycle is now defined as a holistic process, occurring across multiple touchpoints and across many different departments within a company. As a result, roles, responsibilities, technology and coordinated response mechanisms all serve to create a greatly improved customer experience with your company. I’ve often said that B2B customers are looking for a B2B experience and this is the way to get it done.

Skilling up the inside sales team

Working with the newly defined holistic customer lifecycle often exposes serious gaps in the current processes. One such gap is the marketing and inside sales working process (although there are many others as well). Once the gap is identified, creating new processes and re-training the inside sales team becomes the top initiative. The number one new process concerns the quality of communication between sales and marketing; including communication flow, type and frequency. There's real value, real data, and real insights being passed back and forth.

Training for inside sales includes product knowledge, how to use CRM and how to most effectively use all the intelligence provided by marketing. It also includes how to use sales-focused aspects of the marketing automation system, such as tracking email responses and using pre-done materials and campaigns for prospecting.

Most inside sales professionals are amazed at what they've been missing once exposed to what marketing and marketing systems can do. However, change can be challenging and you may not see an initial enthusiastic reception for the new model. That’s okay – change is hard. Stay the course and over time, you'll convert them into enthusiastic advocates.

Inside sales team leadership

So, who's best to lead a quota-carrying inside sales team in this new model? How about a marketer? I'm seeing more and more marketing executives assume responsibility for some part of sales, and in the case of inside sales, it makes a lot of sense. A marketer, especially one with marketing ops experience, understands how the systems work and is able to comprehend the power of the systems to a sales organization. This marketing/sales leader will need to learn how to think, plan and execute through a sales lens, while the inside sales team will need to think, plan and execute through a revenue marketing™ lens. It’s a win-win-win for sales, marketing and the company. And, for the marketer, it makes for a nice career progression, while adding value to the organization.

Final thoughts

I see the holistic customer journey map as a bonding agent in many companies. These companies understand the value of a customer-centric strategy in terms of revenue, profit and growth. Mapping this journey often exposes serious gaps in meeting customer needs and one such gap is the marketing and inside sales relationship. This is a perfect gap to address first as it's more containable and controllable than an outside group. Wherever you begin, the key is to start today. Companies that go to market with a customer-centric strategy will win.