Salespeople, as they do in Glengarry Glen Ross, a 1992 film often find that leads from marketing leave something to be desired. Marketing, in turn, feels that the salespeople fail to follow up on the quality leads supplied to them.
As in the movie, leads are often at the heart of the relationship between sales and marketing, a relationship that has historically been rocky many times on account of disputes over the value of leads.
In this digital age, the sales and marketing teams at many companies are working more closely together, and the fundamental changes in the buyer’s journey and the capabilities of the marketing technology stack are part of the reason.
With smarter use of data, marketing is delivering better leads, which means salespeople are more effectively closing deals. If salespeople are closing more deals, it means the sales department begins to have more trust in marketing’s leads and so pays more attention to them. It also means that there’s more revenue, which creates harmony between sales and marketing—and pretty much everyone in the company.
Sales needs marketing to be able to take some time to basically broaden and accelerate their funnel. But it’s always been a difficult relationship, and marketing has been in a fight for relevance for a long time.
“What’s different nowadays is that there is plenty of research that has shed light on the buyer’s journey. That fact is that a big part of the buyer’s journey, from glimmer in the prospect’s eye to the signing of the check, is digital.
So as a sales professional, whether you truly appreciate marketing or not, the very basic fact that marketing is the only entity in the company that can shed light on that 60 percent to 80 percent of what the buyer did before talking to you ought to be enough for you to pay attention.
The marketing automation software uses data to determine what leads qualify as marketing leads, human hands get involved in the process to vet the leads via phone calls and e-mails.
If they are new prospects, they go into a holding tank. The telequalification group basically does as many as five attempts to gather advance criteria on the prospect, and only the ones that pass the advance test get passed on to sales.
And the lead is not simply passed on to sales. It is passed on to sales surrounded by data.
Technology brings Harmony between Sales and Marketing
DocuSign is a great example of a company that is embracing digital marketing technology. The company has a robust marketing technology stack, and has perhaps even more robust results to show for it.
Driving leads that are based on data is central to the way this relationship is constructed. A critical piece of driving leads and the DocuSign marketing stack is the marketing automation platform.
DocuSign generates about 130,000 leads a quarter, or more than 40,000 per month, and the sales team has the capacity to handle only about 20 percent of the total leads, or about 8,000 per month. So it’s essential that the DocuSign marketing team deliver to the sales staff the leads most likely to develop into a deal.
This whole idea of big data comes into play. Using big data to determine predictive lead scoring has returned some insight into DocuSign’s customers. They found that a company engaging in moderate hiring not high or low, but moderate hiring converts better for them.
The data also showed that companies with a certain number of pages on their websites were more likely to close, and the same with companies that tweeted 10 or more times per day.
How Bizo Used Data To Boost Marketing-Sales Alignment
Bizoa data-driven business was acquired by LinkedIn in 2014 for $175 million. They have data on 120 million businesspeople, knowing a person’s job title, industry, size of the company the person works for, and other data. With this anonymous data, they help marketers target and nurture messages via display and social media advertising.
Bizo CMO David Karel is a data-driven marketer. When he joined the company in 2010, he was the first hire in the marketing department. His first major step was beginning to build out our marketing technology stack, a process he believed was essential to creating a marketing organization that could support the sales staff in driving revenue.
Karel described his philosophy: “I was the first full-time marketing guy hired to build out the marketing engine to scale our sales effort. To leverage the small budget I had at my disposal and scale the productivity I could get out of the initial hires I would soon make, the first thing we did was to implement a marketing automation system.
Today, Bizo’s marketing stack includes a marketing automation system , a CRM system, a content management system , and many other software elements. With our reliance on data-driven marketing, Bizo has increased its marketing-sourced new revenue by more than a factor of three every year since 2010. In some key segments, marketing accounts for as much as 50 percent of Bizo’s new business.
Our commitment to data-driven marketing and to marketing automation in particular is a key factor in our success. But marketing automation software is not a set-it-and-forget-it kind of system. It requires constant monitoring and constant interpreting of the data it provides to ensure that the system of nurturing leads for the sales staff is completely optimized. And in the second quarter of 2013, the lead-generating system at Bizo took a sudden downward turn.
In the first quarter of that year, things appeared to be humming along with marketing generating 59 new sales. In the second quarter, however, that number plummeted to 26.
Bizo was growing quickly at the time. In fact, the number of account executives on our sales team had doubled between 2012 and 2013. These new account executives(AE) needed leads, and the marketing team was determined to provide them. “The sales team was pushing hard to get those new reps productive fast,” said Karel, who added, “but it’s hard to scale everything at once.”
Amanda Halle, who is now senior manager-marketing at LinkedIn, described the situation this way: “Marketing found it difficult to generate sufficient lead volume to keep up with demand. To get more MQLs [marketing qualified leads] out to the sales team, the definition of an MQL began shifting almost daily in order to get enough leads out to new reps. Not surprisingly, the quality of MQLs began to decline, and new sales reps and the new sales managers grew skeptical of following up on the leads they were getting. The marketing-sourced pipeline was stagnating, and reps were not methodically following up on marketing-sourced leads. Good leads were falling off a cliff, while lower-quality leads were eating up sales productivity.”
“Month over month, we saw the MQL opportunities going off the rails way off the rails,” Karel said, adding: “These were literally my darkest days at the company. We had a lot of self-doubt. I was wondering, ‘Am I going to be able to solve this?’”
On the positive side, because Bizo relied on dashboards that reported trends on a weekly basis, the drop-off in lead performance was identified quickly. On the negative side, the drop-off was steep: close rates had fallen from about 15 percent to below 5 percent.
The question was how to fix the lead-generation system. Leads had a myriad of attributes, ranging from metrics that measured how engaged prospects were to their job titles, industries, and company sizes.
“Qualifying leads is very subjective,” Karel said. “It’s hard to get real-time feedback from people whether the leads are good or not. So as we tried to play with our lead scoring, we were inclined to be aggressive, and we basically lowered the lead scoring threshold. We opened the gates, and we started to flood the sales team with lower-quality leads. The good leads they were also getting were getting lost or not getting much attention. The sales team honestly, their enthusiasm was wavering pretty badly.”
To solve the problem, Karel looked at the data, which indicated that a big factor in closing sales was the size of the prospect’s company. Larger companies, which could handle Bizo’s $10,000 per month minimum order size, closed at a far higher rate than smaller companies. In consultation with upper management and the sales chiefs, it was decided that prospects with 50 or more employees would be a minimum threshold for MQLs. Prospects that worked for companies with fewer than 50 employees would be placed in Bizo’s nurturing program for its self-service program.
Once this approach was agreed upon, the marketing team began figuring out a way to add this data to the records of current and future prospects in Bizo’s database. Halle described the process: “The big challenge was that we didn’t have company size information for 99 percent of our leads that we had captured in our database.
We immediately added company size to our forms, but it was clear that we needed to accelerate the data append effort. We ultimately used ZoomInfo to append company size to as many records as possible. In less than three weeks, we had company size appended to about 70 percent of the records.”
In addition to pursuing a data-driven solution to this sales-marketing disconnect, Bizo also added a human element: a small sales development representative (SDR) team, managed by marketing. Via e-mail and phone, these SDRs further qualified the leads to ensure that the AEs were receiving the most highly qualified prospects possible.
Positive feedback was almost immediate. The close rate climbed again to about 15 percent. Marketing-sourced pipelines increased by 50 percent. And marketing-sourced deals saw an almost 30 percent boost. In the fourth quarter, Bizo as a whole posted a record performance.
Dan Gonzalez, a sales manager at Bizo, said, “In theory, marketing and sales are lock and key. In practice, a seasoned sales rep sometimes casts a weary eye at supposedly qualified leads. When we revamped our lead scoring and management from the ground up, I was skeptical yet cautiously optimistic. I’m proud to say our sales and marketing team took a methodical, data-centric approach, allowing our most qualified leads to receive faster, better service.”
Extracted from The Big Data-Driven Business: How to Use Big Data to Win Customers, Beat Competitors, and Boost Profits written by Russell Glass & Sean Callahan.