3 Marketing Operations Mistakes That Will Break Your Sales and Marketing Alignment


Author: Tanya Chu

What do the marketing leads look like? Where are all our leads going?

On the marketing operations team, we get asked these questions often by the demand generation and sales teams. Lead management is a critical piece to effective sales and marketing alignment, and without proper planning and execution, leads cannot move smoothly through the funnel. Marketing operations is responsible for this on both a tactical and strategic level, and we need input and feedback from demand generation and sales.

However, things do not always go as planned. We get asked all the time about the validity of a lead or why a lead was routed to a certain person or team. In this blog, I’ll share some common marketing operations mistakes I’ve come across. If you’re interested in learning about more, you can register for my upcoming webinar (tomorrow), 8 Biggest Mistakes Marketing Operations Makes and How to Avoid Them.

Let’s take a look at three big marketing operations mistakes and how you can avoid them:

Myopic Lead Scoring

One of the biggest mistakes in marketing operations happens when leads are not properly qualified, or prioritized, as they enter the funnel. This is often the result of faulty lead scoring. For one, scoring can be done on an ad hoc, as needed basis, but it will lead to inconsistent results. Another pitfall is that lead scoring may be designed through the lens of marketing without critical input from sales.

To combat these issues, follow the recommendations below:

1. Centralize global scoring. Regional demand gen marketers may feel that scoring should be localized because of their unique understanding of their markets. However, regional scoring may lead to fluctuating lead scores and confusion about lead performance globally.

At Marketo, we work with our global demand generation teams to determine how we want to score based on demographics and behavior. For example, we normalize how leads are scored based on their job title. We set up a rule that recognizes a job title containing “gerente” for the European Spanish version of “manager and then scores the lead accordingly. On the behavior side, we have matrices that dictate scoring by program channel type, investment level, and lead response action. This centralized approach has greatly helped us evaluate the quality of top-of-funnel leads coming in and understand our program performance.

2. Align scoring with sales efficiency and incentives. While systematized lead scoring provides invaluable metrics to the demand generation team about which programs to drive more of, the lead score should also resonate with the sales team as well. Too often, we hear that sales distrusts the lead score, which leads to them not utilizing the scores at all. To curb this, it’s important to ensure that the scoring is valid and works to support sales.

One way we have done this at Marketo is by bumping up lead scores for those who fill out a “Contact Me” form. We also score accounts, which aligns with an account-based marketing strategy for both marketing and sales. We built in a component of our scoring that takes into account (pun intended) the lead’s account score, and sales is incentivized to go after accounts with a higher propensity to buy.

As our business has grown, there has also been a greater need to drill down on scoring granularity. Two years ago, we started scoring on product interest to give our internal sales team an idea of the products a lead was researching. This year, we did a deep dive on looking at leads in specific industries that we wanted to grow sales in.

Unorganized Lead Routing

After you properly qualify inbound leads, you’ll want to decide when they should be routed and to whom. Lead routing can vary from being quite simple to fairly complicated depending on the needs of your organization.

When I started at Marketo more than three years ago, the company was much smaller and our lead routing requirements were much simpler in both scope and magnitude. It was fairly easy to update teams and territory assignments. Fast forward three years—our sales team has more than doubled, there is a strategic shift to an account-based marketing strategy, and our international teams have expanded. Our lead routing needed to change accordingly and we had to have a solid plan in place from start to finish.

From my experience, lead routing mistakes manifest in three ways–unknown processes, the question of fairness, and lack of agility. All three issues lead to inefficiencies in delivering leads to sales.

To address this, follow these steps:

1. Communicate processes with sales. It sounds simple, but if you lift up the hood of your marketing automation engine, you may find that marketing says “Here!” and sales says “Where?” Sales teams are often unaware of the process in place for follow-up and how certain steps need to be followed in order for activities to be logged.

Organize a training with sales so they understand the processes that you have created. If there are certain views or reports that you are using to identify leads that are passed to the sales team, make sure they have access to identical views and reports. You’ll also want to explain how leads should be prioritized for follow-up. It’s a good idea to create a feedback loop and ask the sales team if they are seeing patterns in how the leads are coming into their views. There could be better ways for you to automate the flow that reduces manual work done by the reps when they see misrouted leads.

2. Drive fairer distribution of leads. The question of fairness always arises because sales teams are under pressure to deliver based on the leads that get assigned to them. A key marketing and sales exercise is to investigate the quality and quantity of lead flow in each territory. Sales coverage and performance results should reflect varying demand. In some territories, a round robin may be the easiest and most balanced way to distribute leads. However, in the example of our lead routing in Europe, language preference is used for distributing leads.

Make sure that you have the proper data to support your organization’s routing needs. One area of lead routing that we’ve been optimizing at Marketo is passing more highly qualified leads to more senior members of our sales team. This strategy gives more junior members experience with working leads and allows senior members to follow up with “hot” leads more efficiently.

3. Understand tradeoffs. When it comes to maintaining your lead routing, there are tradeoffs. The first consideration is quality vs quantity. Routing can be designed to filter out leads that do not meet stringent criteria. Are your sales teams trained to quickly sift out junk leads? If they are, are there just too many leads coming in daily to get through all of them? It’s up to marketing operations to understand the sensitivity of sending too many leads versus only delivering the most highly qualified leads to sales.

A second consideration is between volume and velocity. Even with the volume of your leads determined, there are still leads that need to be channeled very quickly to the sales team, such as a lead who fills out a “Contact Me” form. This means that leads with “less” scrubbing may move into a sales view rapidly.

The last consideration is designing an articulate lead routing engine and having enough resources to manage it versus a simpler routing engine with less maintenance overhead. Do you and your team have the time to manage complex rules, along with understanding edge case scenarios? Make sure the tradeoffs are understood between your marketing and sales teams.

Undefined Marketing and Sales Handoff

Once you have your lead routing and lead scoring in place, it’s also critical to have a workflow for handing qualified leads off to sales. Mistakes with the handoff lead to lost time and money and could even jeopardize a sale. Because there are gray areas of ownership and contention, we’ve learned to do the following:

1. Agree on definitions. Agreement on what is a marketing qualified lead is the first step in the marketing to sales handoff process. A marketing qualified lead, or MQL, must meet certain criteria in order for sales to begin follow-up. This should be aligned with lead scoring, as mentioned above. An MQL must also be easily identifiable as one and there needs to be a process in place for the sales team to follow up so marketing knows that the lead is being worked on as well.

2. Monitor accountability with SLAs. Enforceable SLAs (service-level agreements) should be put in place so sales can be accountable for leads that have been passed over. SLAs help ensure that sales is following up with given leads in a set amount of time. While marketing drives MQLs, sales also needs to take responsibility for giving feedback on the quality of MQLs and timeliness. SLAs help with improving lead management alignment, which includes understanding issues with lead routing and lead data and assessing if you have the right tools in place for measurement.

3. Run uniform reports. You should create official reports to run metrics on MQLs and sales performance. Even though data can be sliced a number of ways to support managing teams, the source of these reports should be the same. Oftentimes, sales will run their version of reports and marketing will run their version, and meetings will be about the data source and not about improving the business itself. Instead, public reports should be shared and vetted by both marketing and sales. Here at Marketo, we share the marketing operations-approved dashboards and the fields that we use to report on MQLs across both teams.

Marketing sales alignment is a never-ending process because it is ever-changing. However, the best way to consistently meet business demands is to make incremental improvements and constantly evaluate how you’re building processes.

If you want to learn more about the challenges that marketing operations faces, register for my webinar, 8 Biggest Mistakes Marketing Operations Makes and How to Avoid Them.

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3 Marketing Operations Mistakes That Will Break Your Sales and Marketing Alignment was posted at Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership. | http://blog.marketo.com

The post 3 Marketing Operations Mistakes That Will Break Your Sales and Marketing Alignment appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

4 Life Lessons I Learned (So Far) From a Career in B2B Sales

4 life lessons I learned from a career in b2b sales

Author: Alexandra Nation

I’m cursed.

Play me a tune: any tune, from any decade. If I don’t already know the song word for word, I’ll pick up the tune and the lyrics in a listen or two. Maybe there’s a parallel between my ear for music and my knack for languages. (Growing up, I spoke fluent Farsi and picked up enough French to score top marks on my high school AP exam without actually taking the AP class.) I’ve loved music my entire life, but my curse is this: I am the most terrible singer you’ve never heard.

Because of this, I also decided at a young age that I would be equally useless at playing any musical instrument and never even tried. However, I love studying the habits of professionals at the top of their game in any industry, especially because my own career has taken quite a non-traditional path. Imagine my delight when I came across piano salesperson Erica Feidner, who was named one of the top 10 greatest salespeople of all time by Inc Magazine. The piano happens to be one of my favorite instruments, and if you’ve never listened to The Piano Guys, a group that covers everything from Beethoven’s 5 Secrets (a favorite of mine) to Rolling in the Deep, you need to stop what you’re doing right now and pull up their YouTube channel.

Back to Erica. She is a classically trained concert pianist who insists that she’s not in sales (despite selling $3.5 million worth of pianos in one year), but prefers to think of herself as a ‘piano matchmaker.’ Upon discovering Erica, I found myself reading everything I could possibly find about her. It got me thinking about how what I’ve learned as a salesperson translates to my everyday life, and also served as a great reminder of how I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of sales and industry expertise.

Whether you’re a seasoned salesperson or just starting out as a mighty business development rep, read on for four life lessons I learned in sales:

1. You’ll develop ninja-like observational and communication skills.

Have you ever told someone something she didn’t want to hear, only to hear these two deadly words?

“It’s fine.”

Not only is it most definitely NOT fine, but I bet her face and tone betrayed her actual meaning.

The point is this: every spoken communication has three components: face and body, tone and volume, and actual words said. Depending upon which study you consult, you will find these approximate ratios: 55% of a message is generated by the face and body, 38% from tone and volume, and only 7% from words said. So it’s no surprise that in a sales cycle, the ability to observe and respond to nonverbal communication separates average salespeople from top-notch ones. It is hands down the most valuable skill to hone.

Over the years, my fellow sales warriors and I have developed preternatural capabilities for observing tone, body language, and interpreting what people say versus what they mean. The most common example happens in a customer meeting when you explain a technical concept to a customer, only to hear them say “That makes sense…” with a furrowed brow. In these situations, I often gently meet their eye, smile, and say “Are there any parts of what I just explained that we should revisit?” I usually get a huge relieved grin and an “Actually, yes…could you go back a screen? I’m sorry, that was totally over my head.”

2. You will learn to say no when needed.

The best salespeople are not the ones who drive towards a yes–they’re the ones who ask the right questions and then have the courage to say, “Wait a second. Based on what you’ve told me, I don’t think this product makes sense for you.”

This is not the same thing as reverse psychology, although that can also be effective when deployed judiciously (“This is a great book, but you probably won’t like it”). Rather, saying no is a fantastic life skill. Think of every time that you’ve wanted to say no in your personal life, but didn’t–you were probably worried about offending the other person, to the point where you would consider compromising your own needs just to make them happy. This also includes saying no to people asking for a chunk of your time that you simply don’t have to give. If you know how to politely say “no,” you’ll find yourself with renewed control of your life and future.

3. Everyone’s favorite subject is themselves.

When Erica Feidner meets a new client, the relationship begins with an hour-long conversation. She patiently uncovers not just what the customer is looking for in a piano, but their musical background, favorite songs, and preferred pieces to play.

After her thorough questioning, she takes a piece of paper and writes down a series of numbers, then walks the customer into the showroom and guides them toward a couple of instruments. She invites them to play, leaving the room if they prefer not to play for an audience. Based on their gut reaction to the piano and the way it sounds compared to their musical aspirations, she adjusts her recommendation. This recommendation could encourage the customer to wait until a piano she has in mind arrives in stock–never mind if it delays the purchase or risks losing the customer to a competitor.

This masterfully executed process matches Erica’s expertise with the customer’s timeframe. I don’t know about you, but any salesperson who counsels patience over a purchase earns my loyalty for life, because there is no better way to demonstrate that you actually care about a person and understand their needs loud and clear.

4. Sales gives you a front row seat to how people make decisions.

Sales has fascinating elements of psychology and neuroscience. In the beginning of this piece, I said that I’ve never even tried to play music, because I somehow extrapolated that not being able to sing means not being able to play. However, Erica has a process that teaches people to read music in one lesson. Her incredible story and expertise make me want to contact her and learn to play music. I don’t know where I’d put a piano in my house, but given her integrity, she’d probably recommend that I wait to buy until I have space or buy the world’s tiniest piano and put it in the corner of my living room.

Just like coming across Erica’s story uncovered musical aspirations I never knew I had, a top salesperson is able to draw people out both personally and professionally. If you learn to listen to a person beyond their words and ask the right questions, you are demonstrating the two best characteristics of a top salesperson.

If you’re a fellow student of sales, I’d love to know what resources you use to try and improve your craft– tweet me @AlexandraNation or leave a note in the comments below!

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4 Life Lessons I Learned (So Far) From a Career in B2B Sales was posted at Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership. | http://blog.marketo.com

The post 4 Life Lessons I Learned (So Far) From a Career in B2B Sales appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership.