While I am no psychologist, I did grow up in the South in a religious family, which means I clearly understand the power of shame. So, and I say this with love, do better. You’ve spent all this time putting your team’s focus on creating new prospects and leads and you forgot all about the most important thing: They must be the right ones to close the deal.
With that in mind, it’s time that we have a little bit of a tough-love session and, yes, maybe some shaming will be involved.
So, let’s start pointing fingers, placing blame, and understanding how to do better when it comes to your overall lead quality.
Shame on Your Organization
The Problem: The first thing we must solve for is, well, your starting point. You can’t fix the breakdowns in the system for finding that elusive, high-quality lead if your organization doesn’t even know what it looks like.
And just like that you already are on the defensive, boasting of course you know what a good lead looks like — after all, you have closed the deal a few hundred times, huh? The fact is you may know, or think you know, what a high-quality lead looks like, but does your entire organization agree? All too often businesses are running full speed ahead never taking a moment to actually define who the ideal buyer is for their solution as well as making sure everyone is on the same page with that definition.
The Fix: This seems easy on the surface: Define your ideal client and roll it to the teams. If only it were that simple. Your perfect prospect should be defined by data and will need internal buy-in from everyone. From C-suite to sales and marketing, your organization will need to be on the same page at the end of this exercise.
However, it is that “defined by data” step that often makes this a real challenge. Yet, it is also this step that moves you from assumptions to facts. Ultimately your perfect prospect is only as good as the data you use to create it. The first step, then, becomes actually agreeing on the criteria needed to define your ideal and then digging into that info to create your unique definition.
Shame on Marketing
The Problem: Maybe, just maybe, you’ve done a good job of showcasing your brand and highlighting your value, but if it’s not hitting with a resounding “closed-won,” then it’s just not hitting at all. So, you’ve produced a whole bunch of leads, but you are probably seeing problems such as:
- Wrong company size, location, or industry
- Wrong titles
- Lack of engagement
- A pipeline that has slowed to a crawl
According to Salesforce’s State of Marketing report 2021, 77% of marketing organizations are now tracking their funnel performance, up from 65% in 2020. In that same report, it shows that 73% of marketing organizations are tracking content engagement, a big jump from 59% just a year ago. While these increases should be applauded, the fact that these two metrics are just now inching up to these levels sheds light on the biggest marketing gap for producing high-quality leads: delivering the right information to the right prospect at the right time through the right channel. In other words, if marketing is to blame for your lead-quality woes, then proper targeting is the likely culprit.
The Fix: If targeting is your issue, you will need to examine each step of your process to see where the breakdown is occurring:
- Step 1: ID your audience. In today’s B2B landscape, it seldom comes down to just one buyer or decision-maker, but an entire buying group. Each member of this group should be identified. This is also a good time to single out any high-priority target accounts as well.
- Step 2: Document each audience member’s concern(s), need(s), and pain point(s).
- Step 3: Map those points by funnel stage along with appropriate value statements or objection handling for your organization.
- Step 4: Determine where each buyer gets their information by funnel stage.
- Step 5: Perform a content audit. Do you have information for each buyer, at each stage, and is that content accessible where they are searching? Additionally, do you have a variety of content formats to ensure you appeal to how your buyer best engages with information? Are you tracking engagement to learn what performs best? If not, get on it.
By taking the time to examine each of these steps, you should be able to identify your marketing gaps and create a plan to remedy them. And, if you aren’t already one of the marketers in the stats above, make sure to add measuring your efforts to your plan ASAP. You can’t fix it if you don’t know it’s not working.
Shame on Sales
The Problem: Whether deserved or not, salespeople have a reputation. It’s that salesy personality that comes off as aggressive, pushy, overly eager. Worse yet, it can even fall into the slimy range where your sales actions are impersonalized and downright lazy. (You know, those mass emails that ask, “Why haven’t you responded to my last email?”). Your goal becomes less about the sales process and more about hitting the moving target of a signed contract.
It’s this very perception of sales that makes many prospects not want to talk to sales. According to Gartner, in today’s buying process only 17% of a buying group’s time is spent meeting with the seller. Additionally, if the buyers are comparing multiple options, that drops to about 5-6% of facetime that you get in the entire buying process. This means that the precious little time you do get with a buyer should be vetted and valuable.
The Fix: This change in the buying process means that you must also change how you sell. If you know that buyers are researching you heavily prior to communicating with you, three things about your process become painfully obvious:
- Stop cold calling: Today’s buyers will let you know when they are ready to talk to you vs. when you want to talk to them. Besides, does anyone answer a call anymore? Use this precious time to focus on a stronger interaction with those who want to take your calls.
- Make it easier for prospects to talk with you — on their terms. This includes utilizing chatbots for an instant connection as well as having proper routing in place where they can quickly connect with their assigned rep.
- Use the data: If your buyers are researching you - and that is trackable - why are you not tapping into that intel? If marketing isn’t passing over to you every webpage, asset download, read email, etc., then shame on marketing. But if you have that information at your CRM fingertips and you aren’t using it to know what your prospects are interested in, then shame on you.
Today’s successful sales teams have transformed their approach and view their job more as a “trusted advisor.” Yes, this is a buzzword for sure, but it is also a clear shift in the B2B sales approach. It allows the buyer to have control by being able to have their problems and challenges heard, which in turn allows you to vet the buyer as to whether they are a true fit and make the right solution recommendations. This shift in approach means you are creating a value-focused experience for your buyer. As the saying goes, “helping is the new sales.”
Shame on You Both
The Problem: Every marketing/sales study that you read will in its very polite way state:
- Sales thinks the leads that marketing creates are totally useless and they are the only ones who can produce someone ready to sign on the dotted line.
- Marketing thinks sales is running amok and if they would just pay more attention to their leads then the whole system would be magically fixed.
The problem is both of you are wrong.
Marketing, if you are producing leads that sales thinks are worthless, then the problem is on you. Time to dial it in and create leads they can close. But sales, if you are running off on your own and ignoring what marketing is sending to you, then you are missing a valuable opportunity to engage with a prospect that is informed and engaged.
The Fix: Despite my desire to quote Miley Cyrus here, I will just say get those wrecking balls swinging. It’s time to break down silos and have basic communication take place between the
two teams. If we are truly investing our time to move from focusing on lead quantity to lead quality, then the only way to achieve this is together (kumbaya, y’all). It all boils down to getting on the same page for terminology and metrics – and agreeing to SLAs.
Commit to regular meetings to review lead flow and quality. While sales is focused on opportunities, they can still help identify viable candidates for marketing to nurture or re-nurture. Marketing should be readily available to share lead scoring and tracking from their marketing automation platform to help fuel the sales pipeline. Pulling and reviewing intent data together will help both teams focus on prospects potentially further down the funnel. Gasp, could this be the start of that fabled closed-loop reporting that we’ve all heard so much about?
No Shame in My Game
As you can see, these problems can all be solved — by getting our heads and metrics on the same page, having consistent and open conversations, setting up some mutually agreed upon terms, and creating and adhering to some processes. The real blame for poor-quality leads seldom is a one-stop Shame Train.
The fact is poor-quality leads are created from a breakdown in process and nurtured by a lack of time, tools, and focus to fix it. Rebuilding and repairing your process can, and is likely a big lift, but the only real shame to be had is in not trying to create a quality-driven lead process at all.