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Helping sales and marketing work together for lead generation

May 29, 2013

There’s often a degree of tension between sales and marketing folk in most organisations. Sales are at the sharp-end dealing with potential customers and carrying the responsibility of a sales target. Marketing are trying to create opportunities but reliant on Sales to follow-up and convert.

Lead generation and pipeline development is crucial for all businesses. Getting Sales and Marketing working together and sharing a common language goes a long way to making the new business machine work smoothly. Both Sales and Marketing have to recognise that not all leads are ready to buy straight away and handling this within the process will lead to better results in the long term.

Focus on lead quality and quantity

Only a small proportion of the ‘leads’ that your website and inbound marketing activity generates are going to be ready to engage with you straight away. In my experience, only 10-20% of ‘leads’ are prospects who are immediately looking to purchase.

The new contacts that you generate should be relevant – based on the well-crafted content you’ve converted them with – but they don’t have an RFP or immediate purchase in mind. They may be thinking about the long-term development of their business. If you’re lucky, they might be starting the research process for an RFP or internal project.

Effective inbound marketing requires scale and focus. We need to cast our net as wide as possible to reach people who need our services. We then need to consider how we move these leads from initial interaction to maintain contact and ensure that, as they become ready to engage on a specific requirement, we maintain their interest. From Marketing-qualified lead (MQL) to Sales-qualified lead (SQL) in essence.

Nurture leads that aren’t sales-ready

Often Sales professionals will become frustrated when leads they’re passed aren’t Sales-ready. This can undermine the relationship between Sales and Marketing and mean that future leads are met with some scepticism.

It’s important for marketing to, as far as possible, ensure that leads are passed to sales when the lead is ready. Lead nurturing builds the prospect’s understanding of your proposition and credentials and can also help to qualify what it is that the prospect is looking for while maintaining contact.

To nurture leads, firstly map out the sales cycle and think about the kinds of useful, educational content that will help prospects. It’s important not to see nurturing as an opportunity to repeatedly pitch the prospect.

From experience, it’s likely that this will just lead them to unsubscribe and/or become less receptive when the time comes for a sales call.  After all, they’ve opted-in to receive communication from you when they downloaded your key content or subscribed to your blog. Nurturing should be focused on informing, educating and delighting. The prospect is more likely to contact you when they’re ready to talk about requirements and solutions if you’ve helped them.

Use multiple channels – social media, email, on-site content – to nurture them and combine different types of content to inform and engage. How-to guides, templates and planning tools, case studies and blog content are all great ways of nurturing. By mixing up the types of content you can also start qualify and segment – which content led to a click-through or response?

Share lead intelligence with Sales

Marketing should provide as much information as possible when handing over a lead to Sales. Which pages has the prospect looked at? What documents have they downloaded? When was their first contact? The most recent? Are they active on Twitter or LinkedIn? What topics seem to concern them?

This level of intelligence helps the Sales professional prepare their approach and understand the prospects world. It also gives them more confidence in Marketing’s ability to qualify the prospect.

When a lead is successfully converted into an opportunity, it’s important to share this insight. However, it’s also important that ‘dead’ leads are also passed back to Marketing, again, with as much intelligence as possible. This will help Marketing understand which channels, content and activities lead to the most promising leads.

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