How to fix common "sales" problems
There are two types of companies: those that have a sales process operating smoothly, and those that have well, let's just call them "sales problems."
And let's face it; if you have a "sales problem," it's probably the same one everyone else has: there are not enough deals getting done or enough products getting sold. Are there other types of sales problems? Perhaps, but the simplest definition is whether revenue goals are being met or not.
Of course, if you're part of, leading, or perhaps the only person on the sales team, it might be all too tempting to blame someone else (*cough* marketing *cough*) about the root of the problem. When sales are down, the buck is often passed to the marketing department, and there's no shortage of accusations flying over the cubicle walls. The question is whether marketing is really to blame for all of them. There's plenty to go around, so let's examine a few and determine what situations indicate that marketing really is the culprit dragging sales down.
The most common accusations usually relate to the ever-precious leads:
"They're not giving us any!"
"Leads are older than my grandmother!"
"They give us leads that are colder than a polar bear's..." (I'll let you finish that one.)
"Our leads are all small time prospects!"
Let's take a closer look at some of these complaints.
Complaint #1: Not enough Leads
So is it marketing's responsibility to deliver warm, or (*gasp*) hot leads in quantities that provide ample opportunities for the sales team to close deals that measure more than a few drops in the sales goal bucket?
If those are the complaints being hurled around the sales meeting room, it's a sign that marketing isn't on the same page as sales when it comes to what a qualified lead is, and how many are needed to generate the closings required to meet revenue goals.
Marketing needs to get buy-in from the sales team about what characteristics define a lead that should be passed to sales, and how many are needed. The latter might be a point of contention, but with some historical pipeline data, an estimated close rate can be determined, which can be used to calculate the number of leads that are needed.
Complaint #2: Old Leads (and its close relative):
Complaint #3: Cold leads
If old leads or cold leads are the complaint, what they might mean is that they were forgotten. Leads don't get old if they receive continuous updates about the company and its products.
Is this marketing's fault?
Answer: Yes, but maybe no (if the process for handing over leads is ineffective).
Marketing departments in this stage will probably discover that they need to "keep" and engage leads for a longer period of time than they previously thought before handing them off to sales. That means you need a process for nurturing leads.
Which brings us to other accusations that have been heard at many a company meeting.
Complaint #4: Unqualified leads
"Prospects don't understand our products!"
"Our leads ask questions they should already know the answer to!"
"The market doesn't know (or understand) what we do!"
"The leads are too small"
Are these problems that can be blamed on marketing?
Answer: At the risk of sounding unfair to the readers who work in marketing, the answer is YES! (don’t worry, we'll get to a "no" soon enough!)
If the sales team is constantly educating prospects from ground zero, they don't have enough time to actually sell, and they're likely wasting time on prospects that might have opted out of the sales process earlier on their own, had they been better informed. [That's okay, by the way – there will always be prospects that aren't the right fit to become your customer, and the sooner you can let them go and move on to those who are, the better for everyone.]
When the matter is lack of awareness or understanding, that's either a fundamental business problem (there never was a market need or demand for what's being sold) or an ineffective effort from marketing. The marketing team needs to survey prospects entering the pipeline to interview them about the effectiveness of the messaging and channels being used. Adjusting the message, how it is delivered, where it is broadcast, and to whom, can improve the quality of the leads by educating prospects more effectively. Again, this probably involves some degree of increasing the amount of time leads are nurtured (read: educated).
Complaint # 5: Marketing is doing the wrong things
Sometimes the complaints have to do with how marketing spends its time, money and how much the product costs:
"Marketing spends too much time on Social Media."
"Marketing isn't helping us close deals."
"They spend too much money on branding."
"Our products are too expensive."
Is marketing to blame when those are the gripes that that are shot across department lines?
Those grumbles make me think that marketing is probably doing its job. It's the sales team’s responsibility to close deals, and there would be less of them if no one was spending time engaging with the market on social media or spending money on branding. Budgets should be set at the beginning of the year, and it's marketing's responsibility to find the right combination of channels and activities to deliver their message effectively, and in most cases, there's a need for branding. When it comes to product pricing, it is often marketing's research that is used to support the logic behind a product's pricing, and in most cases, it's an effort from a variety of departments that determines pricing.
Your Takeaway: Better communication and lead nurturing
In short, closing a deal or making a sale becomes much harder than it should without the legwork that marketing puts into informing the public, educating the market, and nurturing the prospects. But the accusations from sales aren't going to subside unless both teams can agree on a common definition of a qualified lead and how many are necessary to reach the goals that have been set for the sales team.
Having been on both sides, I'm in the camp that believes that marketing is there to serve the sales team. While not every marketing activity is directly attributable to making a sale, that ultimately is the end-goal. If marketing isn't willing to evaluate its efforts with respect to ROI or implement metrics that help monitor performance, it becomes all too easy to point fingers when sales numbers start to slip.
That’s why the key to any successful lead generation process is to review the definitions for “qualified” leads and set goals that both sides can agree with.
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