by Brian Giamo of Channel Economics

Avoiding the Six Sales-Driven Death-Traps of Marketing Campaigns

The greatest marketing campaign in the world can fall flat if the sales organization does not follow up on the leads generated from the campaign. Poor or no sales follow up equals little or no return on marketing investment. Worse yet, slow or no follow up can negatively affect a customer’s overall experience with the company thus impacting their decision to make future purchases.

So what should marketing do to drive sales results from its marketing campaigns? There are six common areas where marketing and sales have difficulty aligning their goals and activities. The following sections will introduce actions that can be taken to avoid these six death-traps.

  1. Planning the Sales Capacity Required for Marketing Efforts
    Great leads sit idle if there is not enough sales capacity to pursue them. To make sure that there is enough sales capacity, marketing and sales management need to work together to determine sales capacity requirements on the entire portfolio of campaigns as well as each individual campaign. Sales capacity needs to be determined up front in the planning process and adjusted while campaigns are in flight or being executed. The marketing and sales organizations need to work together to determine the sales capacity required to execute the marketing campaign; it needs to be a joint responsibility.Marketing and sales can address sales capacity in a few different ways. When there is not enough sales capacity, the typical knee-jerk reaction from sales is to add headcount. While this works, it is not always feasible given financial constraints and ramp up time to train new sales reps. Another possible solution is for marketing to slow down campaigns and run them in smaller waves. As with adding headcount this is not always the best answer given that it can decelerate the pace of achieving specific sales goals and objectives. Another option is to dedicate a few full time sales reps to a specific campaign rather than partial time from all sales reps Lastly, the marketing organization can take on more qualification activities so that sales reps only have to focus on quoting and closing opportunities, ultimately taking less of their time and expanding sales capacity. Regardless of the approach taken, the goal is to leverage upfront sales and marketing planning to ensure that there is enough sales capacity to pursue the leads generated from each campaign in a timely manner.
  2. Avoiding the “It’s Not My Job” Syndrome
    In order to get sales people to follow up on leads they get from marketing, they need to own this as part of their job roles and responsibilities. Sales people can fall into the trap of only placing value on leads that are self-generated or come from within the sales organization. To combat this, sales managers must clearly define that pursuing, qualifying and closing leads generated by marketing is part of the reps job responsibilities. This can be reinforced through sales performance measures, bonuses and sales commissions. Sometimes, even the sales managers need convincing. When the business is going well and targets are being met, it can be equally difficult to motivate management as well as sales reps. Ultimately, this is a mindset that needs to be corrected by management prior to conducting a marketing campaign.
  3. Removing the Skepticism Associated with the Quality of the Leads
    Many times, sales reps can be skeptical of leads coming from marketing. Quite often, the skepticism expressed by sales does have merit. When the quality of leads does not meet the sales reps expectations or they are missing information that the sales rep needs to track down, it impacts their two most valuable commodities, time and credibility with the customer or prospect. There are two actions to take to remove the skepticism: set expectations regarding the quality of the leads and provide higher quality leads. The latter is optional, but it will produce the most effective results. This requires the marketing organization to have a well defined, rigorous process for qualifying leads as well as checking the quality and integrity of the leads it passes.
  4. Assessing the Opportunity Cost of Pursuing a Marketing Lead
    The opportunities that originate within the sales organization are often perceived as higher value than opportunities that come from marketing. As mentioned above, sales reps are often skeptical of the quality of leads that are generated by marketing. Sales reps would rather spend their time working against customers they know or are assigned where they have some relative certainty that an opportunity exists. So if faced with spending their time against self-generated opportunities they are familiar with versus opportunities that come from marketing, sales reps will gravitate towards their comfort zone. In fact, sales reps will perceive there to be an opportunity cost with pursuing the leads that come from marketing. For example, the more time they spend on marketing leads, the less time they have to spend against known quantities in self generated leads or in some cases non-selling efforts to support existing customers.One way that marketing can address this issue is to build success stories with individual sales people. This may potentially be with less experienced sales reps that are trying to develop their customer base and may be more inclined to rely on marketing for their leads. Once the success stories are established both marketing and sales need to jointly communicate this to the rest of the sales organization and find ways to replicate that across the rest of the organization. A second way is to make sure that the right sales model is in place. It may actually be better to let the existing sales force focus on self-generated opportunities and leverage alternative selling resources such as channel partners to follow up on leads that marketing generates. The opportunity cost may actually be too high for the sales organization to take their attention away from working on what is in front of them.
  5. Aligning Sales Incentives with Marketing Goals
    It is probably cliché to say that sales people do what they are paid to do. However, in the case of following up on opportunities generated by marketing, it is certainly true. Just as with the opportunity cost example, sales people will pursue that which they feel is most likely to pay them the most. If the opportunity from a marketing campaign pays the same as the opportunity that they find themselves, the salesperson is most likely to pursue the latter. If marketing is certain of the value of the offering it is promoting, it might be best served to allocate a portion of the marketing budget for spiffs or other sales incentives associated with their campaign. Incorporating differentiated sales incentives may prove to be a better return on the marketing investment than the extra tweak to the marketing campaign.
  6. Defining the Handoff from Marketing to Sales
    Too often marketing and sales are not on the same page about where a lead transfers from marketing and becomes the responsibility of sales. One of the biggest challenges related to the handoff issue is that the handoff point can change depending on the campaign. For example, in one campaign marketing is qualifying leads and in another it stops at generating unqualified responses to be qualified by sales reps. Subsequently, marketing and sales need to first establish a lead management process that is jointly owned and executed by sales and marketing and second determine for each and every campaign their respective expectations related to passing opportunities or leads.

Final Thought

Ultimately marketing ROI is a function of what is spent on the marketing and sales effort relative to how efficiently and effectively that investment works. Addressing the effectiveness of each component of the investment both in isolation and as one integrated will produce incremental returns. Aligning the goals of sales and marketing, collaboratively planning each campaign, and setting realistic expectations ultimately will generate the greatest return on the sales and marketing investment.

Brian Giamo is a Managing Partner with Channel Economics, a management consulting firm based in Evanston, IL. Channel Economics delivers high impact go-to-market strategies and plans to its clients through a unique blend of services, methodologies and tools.