It’s true that one’s own beliefs are built from personal experiences. When it comes to sales, these are mine:
- I spent eight years selling radio advertising. It was my responsibility to find the lead, pitch the lead, close the lead, handle the client and then sell it again. It was not a complex sale, so there was no marketing department involved, no support sales team, no automated nurturing, no scoring, and no free content offers.
- As a direct marketing consultant and copywriter, my experience with the sales departments at a few of my client companies has been that sales doesn’t want anything to do with a lead until the lead is ready to buy. I know this is not universal, but it’s the situation I have experienced.
On one hand, I think sales should do it all. On the other, I think they are too lazy to do anything except close sales. Obviously, when it comes to sales, I’m a bit confused.
That’s why it was so enlightening for me to read the insightful post and thread “Are Marketers Becoming Enablers?” passed along to me by a colleague.
They point out that, if marketing takes too much responsibility in the sales nurturing process — and if sales doesn’t have access to the leads until they are sales ready — bad things can happen. Here are just three of them:
- More aggressive competition may move a prospect ahead in the sales process and win the sale while you are still simply nurturing a prospect .
- Sales could get lazy and feel they are no longer required to conduct any outbound prospecting.
- Sales might have time to make more calls, but no access to leads because marketing has not yet deemed them ‘sales ready.’
Not only were their concerns very revealing, but they were followed by comments that shared what I see as very valuable advice. Here are just two things I learned:
Kathy Tito, of Call Center Services, Inc., very nicely removes the fear of going too far in the other direction when she states, “I have seen instances of companies that allow sales leads to become stale by not transitioning them to sales quickly enough to develop interest on the next level. If you have to err on one side or the other, keep in mind that the ‘premature’ hand-off can be managed to have little to no downside. If the lead is not ready, they can always be cycled back into nurture mode.”
Dan McDade of PointClear proposes filling the gap between marketing and sales by adding a layer in between that qualifies, nurtures, and reheats leads to make sure they are being handled by the right area. Many of my clients have in-house tele-sales teams that do just that. Automated nurturing campaigns are great, but, without some human interaction, leads that have progressed further in the buying cycle could be missed.
I propose that marketers consider using the more advanced lead scoring methodology proposed by Bill Herr of Unica and written about by Russell Kern of The Kern Organization for Target Marketing Magazine in “Time to Re-Think BANT.” As you know, BANT (budget, authority, need and timeframe) is the traditional lead scoring method. Bill Herr suggests one that is much more revealing of the lead’s qualification and readiness. He recommends this APNRP approach:
Does the prospect company’s size, annual revenue, number of employees, and industry fit the targeted market?
Do the title and job function of the individuals making the evaluation, recommendation or purchase decision match the customer profile?
Has the target expressed any interest in — or taken any action toward — learning how to solve the problem the selling company’s product can solve?
Has the lead expressed any interest in learning more about the product or service being sold?
Has the lead answered the question of how they want to be contacted in the future?
‘Sales-ready’ is NOT ‘purchase-ready.’ The BANT questions are the ones that should be asked by sales, not marketing; however, this scoring approach helps ensure that leads are passed along to sales before it’s too late.
Thanks to Trish and Linda for bringing up this critical issue, helping us think more about how marketing can help prevent lost sales.