Skepticism from the sales organization about marketing’s ability to generate sales qualified leads (SQLs) probably dates back to the Bronze Age. Companies have been trying to fix this for generations with limited success. That’s one of the reasons we’re in the marketing automation business.
Even though we created tools and processes (e.g., lead scoring) to bridge the divide and align those organizations, we recognize that a perfect solution is impossible. Sales will continue to feel, to some extent, that marketing is not doing enough to generate enough SQLs (or conversely, not passing on great opportunities); and marketing will sometimes feel that sales is squandering SQLs perceived as ripe opportunities.
The finger-point is sometimes justified.
The nature of automation is such that there is a tradeoff between manual involvement and productivity for any given process. Automation works extremely well when an algorithm to solve a problem is concocted with very clear-cut choices that don’t require wisdom or judgment. (Did the prospect fill out a digital or paper form to receive a piece of marketing collateral? Do we have his/her phone number or email address?)
If the choices are less clear and require human judgment, we rely on machine-calculated probabilities as a proxy. (How many times did he/she visit pages on our website? What’s the significance of those visits?) Perfect results are impossible, though improvement over time is likely, if algorithms are tuned based on past yields. Regardless of how well this works, we recognize that overall efficiency (more revenue with less effort) is higher in such a system, even if a few good ones get away. At the end of the day, the efficiency factor usually trumps everything else.
We stepped back from this topic and considered, in a more holistic manner, the overall process of generating revenue. Alignment between sales and marketing means, among other things, that there is joint accountability for the end-to-end sales process (i.e., the entire sales funnel). It’s not enough to sign off on a scoring algorithm for SQLs and tossing the results over the wall. The entire sales process is a series of stepwise refinements that crosses organizational boundaries. People often forget that.
If you measure and continually adjust your processes, the notion of joint accountability is critical for maintaining closed feedback loops. If someone throws verbal rocks at results, a commitment to a closed-loop methodology for continuous improvement across organizations is absent or has otherwise failed. The goal should be to capture each critic’s nugget of wisdom and converting it to a process improvement (or in the case of lead scoring, a better algorithm).
This also makes us wonder why marketing and sales are typically separate organizations. We think managing an end-to-end sales process would be easier within a single, customer-focused organization. But that’s a huge topic and fodder for a separate post.
In the meantime, think carefully about how you can convert skeptics into believers while improving the bottom line.