As a refresher, we were discussing:
- Is Marketing being forced to assume too much of the sales process?
- Are pipelines at risk because our Sales people are waiting for perfection as opposed to getting out there and converting interest to opportunity?
Linda, I have a two- part question for you. It seems to me that many sales people are no longer responsible for talking with prospects in the earliest stages of the sales process. Do you think we have made a mistake in only delivering to them those that pass BANT?
Second part of the question which is related, marketing budgets are shrinking and yet Marketers are taking over more and more ownership of the sales process - are we getting process creep?
Well, I agree with the second part of your question, but not necessarily the first part.
I don't want my Sales people talking to just anybody. It really is Marketing's job to do some filtering. For example, if an opportunity is too small and there is no way they can afford our product, I don't want to waste sales time on those prospects especially when their time can be better spent closing business this quarter.
I agree with the premise of getting Sales focused on the most qualified opportunities that have the highest probability of advancing through the sale process. But, Sales also needs to take a longer view and continually be contributing to their own pipeline. Like a financial portfolio, they need to have a diversified sales pipeline with opportunities at various stages of the sales cycle that will close next quarter and then the quarter after that.
How do you see marketing automation playing into this scenario? At some level I almost feel like the vendors are driving this movement. What are your thoughts?
I recently read an interview with Laura Ramos of Forrester on the marketing automation space and she commented on how the proliferation of new players entering on a daily basis has already led to some market consolidation. But the larger issue to adoption is that there really aren't established best practices on how to drive measurable results because there is so little experience. In fact just this week we participated in a webcast with Forrester on the topic of lead nurturing and it was apparent that most of the B2B marketers are really just getting started with it.
So let me give you a for instance: Marketing goes through all time, effort & energy of developing a lead - right company, right guy, right pain and hands it over to Sales.
Sales calls him twice, leaves two messages, moves on and shifts the lead back to Marketing for nurturing. Does Marketing now own the responsibility for re-engaging that prospect even though they had already raised their hand once?
Yes! If Sales doesn't have the bandwidth or the time to devote adequate follow up, it is better that a prospect re-enters a nurture flow than being neglected altogether. But I do see the threat here, again, of contributing to the enablement issue.
Actually, I look at the objective of lead nurturing as more upstream than your example. We have a notion of pre-leads: we acquire a list or attend a trade show but don't speak to a number of attendees. They might be the right contact at the right company but haven't yet expressed an interest or responded to us.
So we put those cold contacts into a pre-lead nurture flow with the goal of warming them up to the point where it is worthwhile for Inside Sales to work them. So we are replicating the same sort of qualification processes that we've historically done for Sales and shifting it upstream for Inside Sales.
This nurturing process should be Marketing's responsibility to oversee and monitor. We're in a highly competitive market with a long sales cycle, so we don't always catch a prospect when they have budget or an identified need. And with so much competitive information so accessible on the web, we need to stay top of mind with these "suspects" or they'll easily buy from a competitor. Let's say you've attended a webcast and were interested in the topic, but weren't really in a position to engage with Sales. Inside Sales has tried to entice you for two months without success, so now we'll put you in an automated nurture campaign until you respond and score enough points that it's worthwhile for a sales rep to reach out again.
What do you think? What process are you using to ensure that leads get to the right resource at the right time?