Why doesn’t the sales department follow up on our leads?

A little more than a year ago I met a marketing director at a global company that was tasked with looking into the company’s ”leads-to-business”-process. She found that, despite their efforts, mainly through marketing automation, the revenue of the company did not increase as much as had been expected. But that wasn’t all. According to the marketing department, next to no-one followed up on the thousands of ”leads” from the database! Now that’s a mystery – and a crime at that! Marketing claimed that sales was to blame and the marketing director now had to start an investigation…

Clue number 1: Things weren’t as they seemed

The leads process of the marketing department was not an integrated flow. There were gaps. Marketing and sales didn’t cooperate either. Instead of creating a joint marketing and sales funnel, they were running to separate, and independent processes: One for marketing and one for sales. My friend, the marketing director, realized that the two departments needed to work more similarly and with the same objectives. First and foremost, marketing needed to think and communicate more like the sales people. Marketing needed to focus more on making sales processes more effective, rather than generating leads. They had to act within and alongside the specific sales processes, instead of just before – leaving “sales opportunities” to the sales department. This was not what was going on according to the marketing director. 

Clue number 2: ”The leads” weren’t leads at all

In fact, most leads seemed to be general inquiries and downloads from left, right and center – far from obvious leads. Marketing, on their hand, had now idea, since they hadn’t qualified the leads in any way. There were no steps for leads to take, no content that leads could make use of to go forward in the decision-making process. There had also been no discussions about what an inquiry, a prospect or a lead s. On top of this, they had failed to follow up – more content needs to reach the individuals that have actually made the conversion and be based on what they have previously engaged the most in. Leads were also rated in a much too basic way, qualifying them to poorly or too slowly. Their systems clearly showed many were downloading reports and other material, but oftentimes these downloads came from contacts that the sales department already were in dialogues with. Sometimes, leads were delivered that sales couldn’t even act on – winnie-the-pooh@hundred_acre_wood.org sometimes filled out a questionnaire, or so…

One reason why scoring programs fail is that the companies don’t finish up their market researches and fail to figure out the buyer’s buying journey, target personas or a suitable marketing strategy before developing a scoring program. If due diligence was correctly done, the organizations would know the traits of their target groups, for example, which are the most common channels, what are their activities, what does their behavior look like and how do they prefer to consume content?

When looking at the last two, there are two ways that sales could be affected.

One: sales can’t follow up on poor contact information, and if they’ve been handed a sufficient amount of unqualified leads, they will start to think that it’s a waste of time. Had marketing done their job qualifying and rating the processes earlier, sales could have had more material to work through the joint marketing and sales funnel.  

Two: if the right technology is applied to the joint marketing and sales funnel it could collect certain demographic and behavioral data that sakes can make use of before coming to the hand-off stage.

Clue number 3: The hand-off process didn’t exist

Unfortunately, everything that was delivered to sales without sufficient competency. There was no defined hand-off process. There was no defined hand-off trigger, such as MQL (Marketing Qualified Leads) or MQO (Marketing Qualified Opportunity). There was no SLA in place. There were no posed expectations. This is the reason why many organizations that have invested in automated marketing and a qualifying process, do not increase revenue as expected. There’s a lack of formal handover process from marketing to sales, creating a black hole for efficiency. And it becomes expensive. Marketing spends millions of dollars collecting names at the top of the funnel, just to let them fall between the crack at the hand-off. What’s worse is that many companies get paid for delivering the same names over and over again, due to this popular model of ineffectiveness. It’s important that marketing works together with sales to define the hand-off process; MQL, MQO or SLA. It’s the only way for marketing to always deliver quality and match the expectations of sales.

Mystery solved

After having examined the clues it didn’t take me long to decide that, while sales should have followed up on most of these leads, the real culprit was marketing. If this company really wanted a connected marketing and sales funnel, sales should have made use of key process component way earlier. Yes, the company had thousands of ”leads” that weren’t even touched by sales. But sales had, by then, already lost faith in marketing. The same scenario is the reality for oh so many companies each day.

When the same company started to rate, qualify and work on the hand-off process, marketing began to win back some of their lost trust through consequent MQO and meeting expectations. We focus on creating possibilities instead of generating leads and sales honored a SLA followed up by MQO within 48 hours. Marketing started to focus more time on a program to speed up funnel qualification filling up the funnel. Content marketing is now becoming more and more important for the marketing manager as he/she continues to identify the buying journey and personas. The black hole of efficiency and the lagging of untouched MQOs have disappeared. Case closed!

Download: Are you a dying salesman?

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