… why we need to re-define “leads”
In most common CRM systems, a lead is what marketing produces for its labor and a deal is what the sales guys make or chase. The system treats them differently.
If this is your worldview as a B2B marketer, be ready for strife, disagreement and worse across the great sales-marketing divide.
First up, let us agree on a few things:
Sales-guys may be rock-stars but, they could not do much without the company, its products and the reputation that precedes them. And, we like to think of sales as a linear process, with customer moving from a stage of low awareness to high engagement and making the transition from being hand-held by marketing to sales.
Worse, when a “lead” is exclusively “tainted” with the marketing origin, sales do not take it seriously. When faced with a lead-inbox full to the brim on a Monday morning, the impulse of the sales executive is to do one of the following:
1. Trash the lot
2. Scan through the lot and mark most as useless and the rest as “already existing in the system”.
Sales leads are a result of many factors (company brand name, past experience and purchases) and activities undertaken to make the customer aware of our products and services. In B2B scenarios, sales and marketing both have a role to play.
Why not recognize that?
There is a reason. Over a period of time, B2B marketing departments, under pressure to justify their existence, have bought into a metrics system that recognizes only “lead generation” from marketing campaigns as a measure of success.
So, marketing is eager to tag every little sneeze from the customers as a lead and ascribe that to the cold they caught from the aircon running in their own office. This has led to the exact opposite of what was intended. The more numerous marketing leads have become, the less useful they are.
We define a lead as a signal coming from a buyer organization which needs follow up. A lead, upon qualification can become an identified opportunity for a sale.
A lead is NOT an individual. However, a lead arises out of actions taken by one or more contacts working in a buyer organization (account).
In this view,
1. A lead transforms into a deal
2. We recognize that many activities jointly contribute to creating a lead. It is no longer “we ran a seminar and we got 200 leads”. Now it is more like “we have logged customer activities (attending a seminar, asking for literature, asking for a salesman’s visit or wanting to see a product for evaluation purposes) all showing interest in a certain product/ product category of ours in the past month. Something is happening here; let’s have our sales guy investigate.”
A CRM system’s job is to log activities. A lead should be created automatically as an aggregation of those activities related to a certain product or class of products.
Involve sales managers in scoring the activities that make a lead, and communicate to the sales that each lead is recorded because of multiple validations from activities. I expect this process will be a winner.
What do you think?