Speed Is The Key to Improving Sales Relationships

sales_and_marketing_relationshipIf you Google “sales and marketing relationship,” phrases such as “love/hate,” “ending the war” and “sales turf war” all come up on the first page. Numerous articles discuss the turmoil of this on-again, off-again fling between these departments; however, many miss a key point that’s resulted in more inter-departmental love than an open bar at the company Christmas party.

An example of damaged sales-marketing relations

A prospect shared this story of slow lead velocity hindering the sales-marketing relationship: A sales rep called on a lead who downloaded a piece of their content. The prospect informed the rep that he had downloaded that white paper two weeks prior along with one from a competitor. The competition called back the next day and they were now in procurement for their product offering. Sales was unable to close a very viable prospect because the lead took two weeks to get in sales’ hands, and during that time spoke to a competitor who won the deal.

In this relationship speed is the key!

Lead velocity is the measurement of how quickly lead data moves through the customer acquisition funnel from the demand gen stage through lead nurturing and on to sales for follow-up. The ability to increase lead velocity and deliver leads to sales quicker will improve lead quality, lifting both conversion rates and sales’ opinion of the marketing department.

During many discussions with prospects and customers, it has become apparent that the biggest challenge to velocity is the lagging “hand-off” between lead capture and lead importation into marketing automation for nurturing and/or CRM systems for sales follow-up. It’s not uncommon for time between these events to extend longer than 10 days – that’s long enough for prospects to lose interest in your products or services or engage with a competitor.

So, what are the causes of this lagging hand-off? Ironically, much of it has to do with the sophistication of marketing’s technology. As we marketers have invested time, money and effort into evolving operations and implementing technology to achieve specific objectives, we’ve unintendedly created operational siloes and established hard-to-change processes.

Within such siloes, data moves and is used efficiently and effectively, but the movement of data between systems largely remains a patchwork of manual tasks and workarounds – it’s a pain in the ass that we’ve learned to just deal with using established tasks.

But why is this? Why is it often so difficult to transmit data between systems that were created to automate marketing processes? Several causes have come to light: 

Lack of standardization

Third-party media partners, trade shows, content syndication, webinars…. The list goes on and on for the ways the modern marketer is generating leads today. And all of these methods rely on technology to generate leads more effectively. This diversification is great except for when the time comes to import leads into marketing automation or CRM systems.

Everyone’s format is different, causing either disparate data in your marketing automation or, in most cases, the manual formatting of the data by a member or members of your team. Without standardized data formats across your partners and campaigns, the task of merging that data into a unified format is one that takes days and usually requires leads to be sent all at once, otherwise more time is used to gather them before manual standardization can occur. This obviously slows down lead velocity for many marketing organizations.

Process owners

Almost every organization has a “power user” for the specific technologies in which it has invested. There’s nothing wrong with this, specialization is great thing, but again, it comes at a price – siloes. These users often handle high-performance race cars that no one else could even start, even if they had the keys.

For example, I’ve heard often heard this comment: “Jon, our marketing automation power user, uploads all of the leads into the system.” This invariably causes a massive delay because there’s a limit to how much a single person can do – it creates a bottleneck. The typical sentiment toward this problem: “We deal with it because no one else knows how to format and upload the leads to the system.” Ideally automating the upload process to remove it completely from the power user’s plate would solve this issue. If this seems more long term you should at least train a few others to perform that task so that the lead sheets don’t pile up on Jon’s desk and cause leads to become cold before reaching sales.

Mistaking "functional" for "acceptable"

While on a call with the marketing department of one of the top players in the marketing cloud race, I heard, “We’ve done it this way for a while now.” That sounds like nails on a chalkboard for any innovative, modern marketer. Outhouses were used for a long time, but once indoor plumbing was made widely available, people abandoned their outdated yet functional outhouse habits.

In today’s world, especially in marketing, we need to evaluate systems, processes, channels, tactics, budget allocation, etc., on an ongoing basis to ensure we’re achieving at the highest possible level. If you rest on your laurels, expect to find yourself behind the times (and competition) sooner than you think.

This is especially true with regard to finding ways to improve lead velocity. Along with lead quality, velocity is likely the biggest barrier to a good relationship between sales and marketing. And if sales doesn’t trust, communicate with and leverage marketing, your organization is in a bad way, because you simply can’t provide a good customer experience without the two working in harmony.

Keep an eye out for slow velocity. The lack of speed could be placing undue strain on the relationship between you and your sales team. 

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