This fall, I had the pleasure of attending Silverpop's B2B University in Boston. At the event, I shared a table with Linda Duchin the VP of Marketing from PowerSteering Software.
During breaks, Linda & I began a conversation about how the line between Sales and Marketing is starting to blur and what some of the implications of that may be.
PowerSteering provides Enterprise SaaS Project and Portfolio Management software to help large organizations manage IT, New Product Development, Six Sigma and other strategic initiatives. They were recently recognized by Forrester Research as a leader in IT and Business-Driven PPM.
I followed up with a call to Linda and here's a summary of the first part of our conversation:
Linda, I'm starting to be concerned about the view that Marketing is responsible for a prospect until they are scored as "sales ready". My take is that it is a slippery slope that could result in lost deals. If a prospect is in my nurture process and my competitor is fully engaged in their sales process, I think I am at a distinct disadvantage.
Now, don't get me wrong, I think it is fantastic that Marketing wants to assume more responsibility, but as a salesperson shouldn't I be the one to determine when a lead is "sales ready"? As a salesperson, my job is to convert interest to opportunity. Why delay that process?
Linda: Trish, I share your concern! In fact, I think we're already at the point where some sales organizations feel they no longer have to do outbound prospecting. Their skills in this area are starting to become rusty because they are not used to it.
So where do you draw the line? What's your vision for a best practice and how does it work within your Sales organization?
Linda: Internally, we don't use the terms sales ready or marketing ready. It just adds a level of complexity to the process that we don't need. We agreed on basic qualification parameters and we adhere to those. And when necessary, we revisit those qualification criteria.
Our internal group handles most of the leads we generate, but we do assign the customer leads directly to the Sales Reps. We sell to large global organizations so new contacts within those organizations represent potential expansion value to us. Our Sales Reps maintains the relationship with our customer, so it makes sense for them to leverage that knowledge to penetrate new groups, divisions etc.
We also send them leads for companies where they are already engaged in a sales cycle to ensure continuity of follow up We want the Sales Rep to have immediate access to any contact that may impact the ongoing sales process. It also eliminates the potential for Inside Sales to be calling into an existing opportunity.
Our goal is to have one point of contact for every Account at the relationship level and we try to facilitate this through marketing automation tools like Salesforce.com and Marketo.
At this event, and throughout the industry, there is much discussion about Sales and Marketing working together to build out lead definitions, scoring and nurture programs. Conceptually, most companies are in agreement with this strategy. What have you seen in terms of implementation?
Linda: Well, that is a bone of contention with me! You never want Sales and Marketing to be silos, but when push comes to shove, there is only so much time in the day for collaboration. At some point you have to draw a line in the sand and move forward with a strategy which of course can and should evolve through ongoing feedback. The pundits preach nirvana, but you have to make sure that this doesn't come at the cost of sales and end up becoming a distraction from selling. Practically speaking, it's already challenging just to get basic sales follow up data documented adequately.
The reality is that in the current environment, it's harder to sell than ever before. That is what has created a lot of this backlash with Marketing owning more of the process. As Marketers, we are trying to lighten the load for Sales. We are trying to give them the bandwidth they need to focus on closing business in the current quarter.
We will publish the rest of the interview next week. My question to you is: What do you think?
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?
Are "sales ready" leads the bullet that moves us forward or shoots us in the foot?