We have all experienced the long hard slog to year end to squeeze every pip out of the pipeline to hit/exceed the year-end number. Some years back, I remember one particularly tenacious MD who insisted on face to face meetings with each business manager every day in December and the questions were always the same.
- What is going to close today?
- What have you added to your pipeline since yesterday?
- What will your final number be?
It was always the middle question that bemused me the most – the idea that there were loads of IT decision makers sitting at their desks just waiting for a sales guy to pick up the phone and ask them to spend over a hundred thousand pounds on a new IT solution that they didn’t even know they needed – oh, and could you do it before year end please? Yes this year end…
Not only did it burn around 50% of every day for the entire sales management team focused internally chasing their sales guys and providing reports ready to receive a kicking for not finding a bluebird, it also demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of sustainable pipeline management and lead nurturing.
Of course, times have moved on now. There are sophisticated CRM systems with integrated pipeline reporting and digital marketing solutions which provide end to end visibility from an initial unidentified website visitor, through visitor identification, to qualified prospect, a forecasted opportunity through to a converted sale.
Well at least the tools exist to make the job easier now. But is your organisation taking advantage of the opportunity to find new organic leads and gain early visibility of potential buyers? And if you have more level 1 leads than you know what to do with, how well are you nurturing those leads and prioritising how to qualify and engage with them? Having got to your “best few”, how many do you convert, or are your competitors getting the lion’s share?
With the adoption of the internet as a fundamental tool for both buyers and sellers, the line between sales and marketing is more blurred than ever. Organisations which deploy a joined up and aligned approach to sales and marketing are able to engage early in the buying cycle and deliver highest sales conversion.
Here’s 6 top tips adopted by organisations with best in class B2B sales and marketing processes:
- Consider the end-to-end sales cycle process from finding the lead, through nurturing the lead to closing the sale. Do the marketing initiatives support the sales function in providing valuable leads and sales enablement assets that align to your sales focus? Similarly, does the sales function give priority to qualifying and nurturing marketing ready leads?
- Establish a two-way, closed loop process for engaging the lead, which moves the responsibility between sales and marketing in line with the buying cycle. The lead owner is responsible for employing appropriate engagement activities which best support the lead nurturing process to qualify the lead and move it through the sales funnel (or back to marketing to nurture).
- Align the objectives of sales and marketing personnel to ensure they are all driving for the same goals and measured against the same metrics. After all, it doesn’t matter how many marketing leads are generated if they are opportunities for deals the sales team can’t convert! Both groups will consider the other to have added no value to the overall goal.
- Measure the end to end revenue cycle from initial identification of a suspect through to closing the sale – what is the revenue potential at each stage of the process from identification, nurturing, qualification, quoting, conversion?
- Establish joint accountability around the aligned objectives to support the common outcome of increased revenue with a focus on measuring marketing ROI as a percentage of revenue.
- Gradually develop a collaborative and symbiotic culture between the two functions which creates common goals and vocabulary, rather than misaligned targets and miscommunication.
Organisations which recognise the benefits of joined up and collaborative sales and marketing systems and processes, will be in the best position to find new opportunities and convert the highest proportion of sales.
Is your organisation embracing the opportunity for finding and winning customers? Or are you already lining up for a kicking next year-end, too….