The thing that is missing from successful marketing strategy is often the same thing missing from a successful relationship.
As you’ve likely read countless times, communication is an important skill to learn. It can be a challenge, especially when you don’t realize your skills are lacking. But, with some understanding and diligence, improving communication can be a simple and effective way of making a big difference for the success of your relationship (and that of the company.)
Before working at Foxtail, I worked for a large fortune 300 company. I was brought in to manage the marketing systems and operations. Part of that was to manage any leads Marketing generated and make sure that they were dealt with appropriately. In my mind, the right thing to do with the leads was to send them over to Sales as soon as they came in, and then let the Sales team take it from there. I was quickly called into a meeting filled with aggravated sales executives complaining about the leads my team was sending them, It sounded something like, “These leads are crap!” or “How do you call these leads?!”.
After the meeting, I was frustrated. On the marketing side, we got a prospect to fill out a form to download a whitepaper or eBook, register for a webinar or even request a demo. What more did Sales want? We were giving them a first name, last name, and email address. I didn’t know what they wanted, but I did know what I had to do. I needed to implement a bit of marital advice into my relationship with the Sales department.
I called a meeting with the Director of Sales where I started a conversation that covered a series of questions about his perspective, and how it aligned (or should align) with that of the Marketing department.
- If what we were sending them weren’t “leads”, what did Sales want Marketing to send them, exactly?
- What is a marketing qualified lead (MQL)?
- What is a sales qualified lead (SQL)?
- What happens to leads that don’t get closed by the Sales department once it’s been sent over the wall?
- What do they want us to do with cold leads that don’t meet the criteria?
- What goals does the Sales team have, and how can we in Marketing help them meet those goals?
The conclusions we came to in that meeting dramatically changed the success we had, both for Sales as well as Marketing numbers. The lesson I learned from this experience was the importance of transparency between departments, initiatives, and goals.
Improving communication between Sales and Marketing is about more than keeping the Sales department happy; according to Hubspot, the alignment of the Sales and Marketing department in Business to Business (B2B) organizations leads to some pretty significant improvements to revenue. In comparison to organizations that are misaligned, they:
- Experience a three-year revenue increase 24% faster
- Experience a three-year profit increase 27% faster
- Generate 208% more revenue from marketing
Additionally, when Sales and Marketing operations are in sync, companies become 67% better at closing deals.
Hubspot also tells us that 61% of B2B marketers send every lead that comes through their door directly over to the Sales department, but only 27% of those leads will be considered “qualified.” The problem here is that Sales reps typically ignore 50% of marketing leads, which is obviously a massive waste of resources.
What is a marketing qualified lead? What is a sales qualified lead?
I decided to go online and get an actual definition of these terms. This is what I found:
Marketing Qualified Lead: “This is typically the second stage, after Inquiry. An MQL has “raised their hand” by taking an action to show interest, or maybe a set of actions that has lead to a certain lead score.”
Sales qualified lead: “This is the next stage, typically. The SDR has decided they are ready to be handed off to a quota-carrying Account Executive (AE).”
Let me tell you something: Ignore all the definitions you have read about. I have heard of so many different definitions of these terms, like: If they fill x amount of fields out on a form they are a sales qualified lead, or If they come to the website 3 times in a week we should create a lead for sales.
Here’s the definition I would give them now.
Sales Qualified Lead: The type of leads that Sales wants you to send over to them to close.
Only the Sales department can tell you exactly what criteria they expect you to meet in order to put metric-based description of an SQL.
Marketing Qualified Lead: The type of leads the Marketing team considers ready to nurture, but not ready to send to Sales (based on the SQL determined above.)
What type of leads does the Sales team want sent to them? Well, your marketing qualified leads would be everything you don’t send to the Sales team.
When I finally came to an agreement with the Director of Sales and decided we would only send over Demo Requests and Request More Information leads, we saw a huge difference in lead contact rate. The Sales team was a lot more willing to follow up on every lead because they felt they were better qualified; it met the criteria they themselves had set.
You might be asking yourself, what should marketing do with all those leads that sales doesn’t want? The answer is simple: Nurture them.
If you don’t have a strategy for how to nurture those leads, start basic. This article might give you a little insight on how to start the nurturing process. Market to them until they are the ones requesting to have someone from your company contact them.
At the end of the day, the first thing that needs to happen is to become aware of the misalignment. If you, or the executives in charge of facilitating the changes, don’t see the holes, those holes cannot be filled. According to Hubspot, only 30% of CMOs have a clear process or program that prioritizes the alignment of Sales and Marketing department initiatives. When you look at the numbers, that’s a significant amount of revenue they’ll never even know they’re missing out on.
Don’t be part of that 70% that don’t have their marketing and sales playing nice. If you are part of that 70%, send an email to the Director of Sales or Marketing and schedule a meeting now.