PROSPECTING, DEMAND GENERATION & LEAD NURTURING
The Same Team
Here’s a riddle: Which came first, sales or marketing?
Here’s the answer: Who cares? They should both just get together and play nice.
While managers talk about better alignment of sales and marketing, in many companies, results have been frustratingly difficult to achieve. Two kinds of pressure are changing that: First, with communication between sales and marketing a key requirement for better alignment, modern technology at least makes communication possible. Second, intense competitive pressure is inspiring companies to overcome nontechnical barriers between sales and marketing.
For example, USA Financial brokers products for independent financial advisors and provides marketing products for these independents. “We give them access to the big financial companies,” explains Raeanne Huskey, USA Financial’s vice president of marketing services.
Huskey leads a three-person marketing department, plus support staff, and works closely with the sales team. Sales and marketing now work closely together as a result of changes made three years ago.
“I was on the sales team then, and we brought in a new chief marketing officer,” Huskey remembers. “He realized right off the bat the problems we were having.” The CEO was bringing in leads from events and requests for articles. “Every week he would simply divvy them up on paper and say, ‘You take these fifteen.’”
Leads, Leads, Leads
Management’s big problem was that no one knew whether or how these leads were followed up. And salespeople were not happy with the leads. “They said it was little better than going through the phone book. They were still searching for that needle in the haystack and were disheartened.”
So USA Financial worked with Silverpop to build a lead-management process. It uses lead scoring to find leads, qualifies the leads with questions, and sends the best leads immediately to reps on salesforce.com. Reps are alerted when new leads are sent.
Huskey runs the email marketing campaigns. She typically has about six lead-generating campaigns and four lead-nurturing campaigns going. USA Financial has 50,000 financial advisors in its marketing database, and each campaign usually goes to about half of these.
Interested recipients are sent to a Web form that asks five qualifying questions. “We don’t want to work with people who are just starting out as advisors; we want them to be seasoned and know how to sell,” Huskey explains. Qualified advisors must earn a certain minimum income, meet regulatory requirements, possess certain licenses, and sell a broad range of financial services.
“We ask all the questions at once,” Huskey says. “There has been no problem with advisors not filling out the form.”
Leads scoring 190 or above on these questions are sent to the sales force. Huskey’s marketing team tracks all leads that are being nurtured. In the most recent quarter, USA Financial received 2,000 new leads overall, and 14 percent of them qualified for transfer to sales reps.
Acceptance Nears 100%
“Acceptance of leads is now good by the sales team,” Huskey says. “Every once in a while a salesperson will say a lead lied about his or her income, but that is rare. There is a different attitude in the office. Reps will give me a high five and say, ‘I just got a great lead, and I think the person’s coming to visit us.’”
That visit is the next step in the sales cycle. “When we qualify leads, we want them to come to the office for what we call discovery day – to ‘kick the tires,’” Huskey says. In the second quarter of 2010, office visits rose 43 percent over the first quarter, and half of these visits brought in new clients, most likely long term. “Once we have them, they don’t leave,” says Huskey.
Huskey’s marketing team is compensated partly on sales results and meets each week with the sales team. Once a quarter, sales and marketing meet to review common goals and make any adjustments necessary in the system.
Everyone has visibility into the whole sales funnel. Sales reps can use Silverpop to see what went on before they got the lead, which Web pages or articles prospects opened, and which products they are interested in. “The conversation is different if the prospect is interested in insurance or another product,” Huskey observes. Reps can see the exact lead score and the history of the nurturing campaign.
Huskey and her CEO can look into saleforce.com to see how the pursuit is going, what steps have been taken, and what the results have been. “We don’t have to do anything. We have a dashboard into both. Silverpop and salesforce.com link up automatically.”
Huskey acknowledges that at first, reps did not always enter the necessary information into salesforce.com. “Then we reminded them, and they have been good about it ever since. I think it is mostly a matter of routine. The attitude is completely different,” Huskey emphasizes. “We are not butting heads all the time.” Future plans include better tracking of leads that have been returned by reps for more nurturing.
Tech to the Rescue
LBMC Technologies sells IT consulting, mostly in Tennessee and other southeastern states. Part of a 400-person firm, LBMC consultants help clients with high-level software and network engineering for finance, document management, security, CRM, and other functions. Managing partner Stacy Schuettler works with dedicated outbound salespeople, a marketing manager, and software engineers who do presale support.
Schuettler first works with both salespeople and her marketing manager to develop a sales strategy. Leads are gathered using buying lists, referrals, and marketing events, including Webinars, lunches, association meetings, and solution test drives conducted at the home office.
All leads are immediately entered in Microsoft Dynamics CRM, at first as simple, unqualified leads. They then go through several stages of qualification: 1) the buyer’s vision is explored, 2) the decision maker is identified, 3) a specific solution is identified, 4) and a proposal is made. Finally, the close and win stages follow. Individual salespeople decide when each stage is reached. The sales cycle runs up to nine months, and a typical sale is $100,000 to $200,000.
The marketing manager, compensated partly on sales performance, gathers leads and plans events. Schuettler herself assigns leads to salespeople. Marketing ensures all leads are entered and tracked and that marketing messages are personalized for the titles and industries of the leads and prospects. Salespeople complete all qualification steps. Marketing supports the salespeople and attends weekly sales meetings with Schuettler and reps.
CRM data is accessible to everyone in the company, including reps, on their smart phones and laptops. The sources of all leads and each “touch” are tracked by CRM, so Schuettler can assess the close rate and value of every lead source. “CRM has been imperative,” Schuettler emphasizes.
Collaboration among sales, marketing, and Schuettler to exploit CRM has been successful. The company has just enjoyed its two best years – during a deep recession. Schuettler says having a clearly defined sales process and tight coordination with marketing has been very important.
In addition to lead and prospect information, LBMC’s CRM has product knowledge to help customers through difficulties. Customers have limited access to this CRM through LBMC’s Website, so they can enter problems, which are immediately passed to account executives or their managers for a prompt response.
Cost and Revenue Sharing
Schuettler works with marketing to calculate the costs and revenue gains of major events and marketing campaigns. Sometimes this step yields important results. “Several years ago, we were not going to do another billboard,” Schuettler remembers. “Then I learned that we had sold $80,000 because a CEO had seen our billboard while driving his daughter to the dentist.”
Schuettler stresses that having a very well-defined sales processes and ensuring that CRM is used by everyone is key. That means the CRM system contains only information that helps reps to sell and management to support selling. “Marketing must have visibility into CRM to pull the right leads. The next step is to provide the basic key performance indicators. Then you can focus on the activities that lead to success. But you can’t make it so complex that salespeople will not use it.”
Large companies have been trying to better align sales and marketing for decades, according to Steve Grossman, who leads the sales practice at Mercer Human Resources. “Some have gotten pretty good at it, especially in pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and many consumer markets. But most B2B firms are still not very good.”
Grossman says the basic problem and solution are similar to those that exist between sales and human resource departments: “You do not have people in marketing departments who worked in sales, and vice versa. People need to swap hats. That helps a lot.” Sales and marketing departments need to treat each other as mutual customers, and there must be a sincere relationship between the VPs of marketing and sales. “There is nothing exotic about this,” Grossman stresses.
Even with the right attitude, the Mercer consultant says that technology enablers are necessary to make alignment work across large organizations. Consider, for example, Cisco-Eagle, a material-handling distributor and integrator helping customers to move, store, control, and protect their materials. The company has grown to eight offices throughout Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas and has about 9,000 customers ranging from Texas Instruments to Wal-Mart to General Electric.
Good Data In
Inconsistent customer information shared between marketing and sales was leading to tens of thousands of dollars in avoidable expenses and even more in lost revenue. “We had some employees using Microsoft Access, some using Excel, some Outlook, and still others using Web-browser-based CRM tools,” remembers Chris Doyle, Cisco-Eagle’s director of marketing. “We spent many hours trying to consolidate and clean up customer information so it was usable as a whole.”
One associate spent 70 to 75 percent of her time just trying to keep various customer databases useful for outreach activities. Disparate customer databases were costing Cisco-Eagle $55,000 a year, not counting lost sales.
Management reviewed the number of sales inquiries and leads the sales team received and estimated that more than 10 percent did not receive timely follow-up. “We conservatively estimated the percentage of those inquiries and leads that could be converted into sales if we had the ability to better manage and track them,” Doyle explains. “We figured we were missing out on approximately $150,000 to $175,000 worth of gross profit per year.”
Cisco-Eagle chose Avidian Technology’s Prophet CRM, which is built into Outlook, to bring order to the chaos. About 50 people now use Prophet regularly, and 15 “power users” exploit its full potential. Implementation costs less than the annual expense of cleaning messy data alone.
“We also began capturing lost revenue, thanks to having better CRM tools and processes in place for managing sales leads that were otherwise falling through the cracks,” Doyle says. “Revenue gains were significantly greater than what we achieved in expense reductions.” •
– Henry Canaday
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