One thing which strikes me as I speak to sales and marketing superstars across various organisations, is the wide variety of terms and definitions used to describe sales prospects and the stages which they move through as they are qualified. “SQLs”, “suspects”, “prospects”, “opportunities”, “responses”, “conversions” – these terms can all mean different things in different organisations and different CRM systems.
Now – the following baseline is pretty clear:
- We can’t achieve return on our Marketing investment unless we manage leads effectively.
- We can’t manage leads effectively unless we have clear definitions.
- We can’t have clear definitions unless we understand the sales engagement.
“Sales engagement? But – I’m in marketing!”
Let’s face it, we all know we rely on each other, but we often fail at being aligned. If you’re a marketer, when was the last time you listened in to a sales call or a prospect meeting? If you’re in sales, when was the last time you invited your marketing manager to join you at such a meeting? If we follow the musty tradition of ostracising sales and marketing, we are missing a vital trick and one which may well cost us more than revenue dollars (or euros, whatever floats your business boat).
One thing which often strikes me is how frequently Sales and Marketing use the corporate definitions differently. We often have clear guidelines for qualifying a sales lead by using the BANT criteria (Budget, Authority, Need & Timescale) – but what about the stages before that?
See the person behind the lead
Working in marketing, lead management can easily become all about the numbers. We may chase leads through the funnel without necessarily understanding the journey from one stage to another. What is the customer experience of being a ”Stage 1 Lead”, or a ”Prospect” or a ”Highly Qualified Sales Lead”? Does the prospect feel hassled when they’re on an email drip program, for example? Do they get too many sales calls when they’re at a certain stage – and not enough when they’re at another?
Successful lead management requires both sales and marketing to have clarity of the definitions used and provide constant input into the evolution of lead management.
The technology trap
Add then into the mix the various temperaments of The Marketing Automation System. If you have such a system in place, you know that it – or the people who run it – will occasionally fail and produce leads with the wrong definition. This is why it’s fundamentally important that all teams understand the logic and the ethos behind the definitions, so as to not rely on technology to place everything on the right shelf.
So, in summary: Whether you have 15 stages of lead development or just three, make sure that the definitions of those stages are crystal clear to all sales and marketing teams.
Oh – and if you get it wrong from time to time, don’t worry about it.
After all, you’re just like your leads: A human being.