As we said in our first post in this three-part lead conversion series, nurturing a prospect through a buyer’s journey from an initial expression of interest to a point where a lead becomes a MQL and a sales conversion could occur, has long been the holy grail of B2B marketing. But accelerating this time to revenue is the icing on top of the cake, and a cursory Google search on how to do this will reveal an overwhelming number of results, each claiming the secret sauce for success.
According to the latest studies, only 10% to 15% of sales leads make it to the bottom of the sales funnel and convert into deals, and only 5% of sales reps say that leads acquired through the company’s marketing efforts are high quality.
So what are the potential hazards to pipeline velocity and, ultimately, accelerated time to revenue?
- Sales and Marketing Alignment:
As we mentioned in our first post in this series, we at Agent3 believe marketing functions need to address the increasing number of conversations with sales teams about the lack of value in individual MQLs, rather than trying to compensate by delivering ever higher volumes.
In his bestselling book, ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’ author John Gray described how the two genders are so used to their own planet’s society and customs, they have not taken sufficient time to understand those of the other, often giving rise to communication problems in male/female relationships. And this also applies to sales and marketing functions within B2B organizations: the planet that sales lives on has traditionally been revenue-focused and short-term in nature, while marketing’s planet has been characterized by a focus on creative brand, a longer-term view on campaigns and a reticence to tie activity directly to revenue generation. Sales enablement has traditionally been viewed by marketing teams as “beneath them.”
Clear lines of communication between these two departments will not only ensure clear expectations are set from the outset but, according to research, companies with aligned marketing and sales teams are 67% more efficient at closing deals and could lead to 209% more revenue from marketing!
2) Targeting accounts:
Ensuring that Sales and Marketing are singing from the same hymn sheet starts with an agreement on which accounts and prospects they’d like to target together. Naturally, sales teams have a keenly-trained eye on their target accounts and the market they operate in, so having marketing teams send across MQLs from accounts that don’t fit the correct profile only leads to greater distrust in the process and lots of wasted time. To avoid a delay in pipeline velocity, Sales teams should ensure Marketing teams are provided with their list of target accounts and, preferably, include Marketing teams in QBRs, and pipeline reviews. In short, the structure should be such that the two teams work together on lead generation and conversion,
3) What is the definition of an MQL?
Although the exact definition of what constitutes a ‘qualified lead’ for marketing folks differs somewhat between organizations, by and large the industry definition of a ‘Marketing Qualified Lead’ – or MQL – is the details of a person or organization who has indicated an interest in your brand by engaging on some level. Perhaps they have visited particular web pages, downloaded some content or opted into a program but, either way, they have voluntarily shared their contact details and are therefore more likely to become a customer than other leads.
The blockage that this can cause in pipeline velocity, is the way an MQL is defined. Often working in a silo, Marketing takes the lead on what they deem to be ready for the Sales team’s attention, aided by rudimentary lead scoring systems with an over-emphasis on very specific actions like event attendance and whitepaper downloads. With an under-appreciation for content categorisation and both demographic and firmographic indicators, the ‘MQL’ rarely becomes a ‘SQL’ because a form-fill in itself is only a relatively weak expression of interest. Instead, when driving demand we might define a lead as someone who has interacted 5 or 6 times with the website, or perhaps has downloaded a number of assets or even called to ask a question. By knowing that the quality of the lead is likely to be higher as a result of more touchpoints along the buyer journey, the confidence to pass to sales and potentially conversion, will be significantly higher.
Be braver during the targeting process, commit to pipeline targets vs MQL volumes. Marketing is responsible for demand, but targets are arbitrary and all too easily it can become a numbers game, rather than true demand. Under increasing pressure to hit growing ‘MQL’ targets, marketing teams often revert to quick-fix methods to generate volume. Certain low-touch channels are pilfered, scoring thresholds are tinkered with and sales are inundated with leads from people who may not even have heard of your organization! You may hit your arbitrary target but throwing unqualified demand over the fence has a long-lasting impact on alignment between functions and rarely provides the intended results. Remember: only 25% of leads are legitimate and should advance to sales. [Source: Gleanster Research]
5) Operational issues
When a prospect reaches out to tell you they’re interested in your products and services, the speed and accuracy of you routing that interest to the correct person has a direct impact on the likelihood of you turning the lead into actual pipeline for business. Timing is everything: research shows that 35-50% of sales go to the vendor that responds first. Similarly, If you follow up with web leads within 5 minutes, research would suggest you’re 9 times more likely to convert them. [Source: InsideSales.com] If you wait too long after a lead has been generated, people will start to disengage. Put yourself in the shoes of the lead; if you had shown a digital interest in a particular product or service, you would reasonably expect, or want, that company to approach you soon afterwards to find out more. As a vendor, if you can’t respond quickly enough to progress or secure a sales opportunity, it’s unlikely your prospects will have confidence in your ability to be proactive if they did purchase from you. The importance of the speed with which a sales or business development representative (BDR) can respond to a lead cannot be underestimated has a significant impact on conversion rates. Organizations need to ascertain whether the process of routing a lead to the right person is the well oiled machine it needs to be.
Ensuring the sales person following up on a lead has a full understanding of the context and background to the lead is crucial. Providing the Sales team with a clear view on why a prospect is sitting in their ‘in-tray’ may sound obvious, but is arguably as important as creating the demand in the first place and yet often gets overlooked. Before a salesperson can pick up the phone or send the first email, they must have the necessary context on what interest the prospect has shown to date and who they work for
7) Feedback loop
Ensure your program is set up for testing and learning. While this may sound like an obvious point, it is surprisingly often overlooked. As a marketeer, if the MQL isn’t ready to engage further, or purchase, how easy is it for the sales team to feed that back? Even if a lead fits the required profile, for a multitude of reasons, they may not be in a position to progress further with your company at that particular time, so creating a feedback mechanism for reporting back on which of the MQLs provided were strong and which weren’t – and in which case, why? – can be invaluable. For marketing teams, it’s useful to get feedback on why a lead didn’t work, despite hitting all marketing thresholds, to allow them to go back and tweak the lead scoring configuration. Sales teams are the people getting first hand feedback from their conversations with leads, so it’s crucial for future activity that a feedback mechanism is put in place in order to tweak the model so that higher quality leads are passed to sales in future.
Investing the time up front to ensure careful consideration has been afforded to each of these foundational activities will ease operational challenges and, ultimately, increase time to revenue from lead conversion efforts.
In our next and final blogpost in this lead conversion series, we’ll be looking at some practical solutions to accelerating your lead pipeline. In the meantime, if you have any questions or would like a no-strings chat, please feel free to contact us at email@example.com