It may seem a trivial point that between two factions operating as part of the same team, there must be agreement on terminology common to both.
But when it comes to Sales and Marketing, the lack of such agreement can lead to a chasm that remains forever gaping until it is rectified. Not only is this a gap between the two departments, it is a significant gap in pipeline management.
A prime example of such terminology is the definition of “qualified lead.” For Marketing, the definition of the term can be, “any lead of any interest level that comes through the door.” Marketing expects Sales to pick up a lead and run with it and doesn’t understand when they don’t. Over on the other side, the sales force expects leads that are qualified and ready to buy and will often ignore any that fall below this level of qualification. While Marketing is protesting about Sales not grabbing up every lead, Sales is equally protesting that Marketing is not providing leads of a high enough quality. This all leads to a kind of “black hole” into which leads fall that Marketing has pushed over to Sales, and on which Sales doesn’t want to waste their valuable time.
In our recent articles, we’ve been discussing the importance of Sales and Marketing being in alignment and operating more as a single unit than two separate (and often opposed) groups. Such alignment is the only way a business can obtain ever-increasing amounts of opportunities, and fully take advantage of as many as possible.
It all begins with agreement on terms.
Breaking Down Lead Types
Part of the issue—and a key to its resolution—is for both sides to realize that all leads aren’t the same as other leads. Leads have different levels of “hotness.” Leads could be roughly broken down as follows:
1. Raw leads Leads that have come in straight from the field that haven’t been contacted or qualified in any way at all.
2. Warm leads: Leads that have had some qualification done—or had some qualification coming in the door—that shows a definite interest in your company’s product or service, and potentially the budget to purchase.
3. Hot leads: Leads that show someone having a strong interest in your product or service, who definitely has funding available, and is ready to buy now or in the very near future.
Again, these are rough levels; if you examine the leads that come into your company, you’ll probably find that there are levels different than these, or more than just these three. Since Marketing and Sales handle different aspects of leads, it really takes both sitting down together to work out these various levels—and more importantly, agree on them.
Agreement on “Qualified Lead”
As Sales and Marketing engage in this dialogue, the definition of “qualified lead” should also be sorted out. At what stage is Sales willing to accept a lead and work with it? How far is Marketing willing to go to bring a lead to this stage?
Such a discussion and its resulting agreements will begin to lead to the resolution of the leads that never get addressed—the ones that fall into the aforementioned “black hole.” These untouched leads are in fact ignored potential opportunities.
Solving this problem may mean that Marketing engages in one or more campaigns designed to “hot” these leads up. Or it may also mean that Sales forms another unit composed of Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) that work leads until they’re hot. Between them Sales and Marketing should work this out so that no opportunity is wasted, and all are at least followed up.
Importance of CRM Solution in Pipeline Management
As these terms are defined, it may mean that several new stages become added to the sales process, and thus become additional components in pipeline management. If this happens, your CRM solution should be adjusted to take these new steps into account. It is only in this way that each lead can be fully tracked, and that all lead sources can be fully monitored as to quality.
If your CRM application cannot easily be so adjusted, you should seriously consider obtaining a leading-edge CRM solution that is indeed so flexible.
Your pipeline management will never be complete until Sales and Marketing are in alignment and operating as a team. That alignment begins with full agreement on lead terminology.
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