Every B2B demand marketer I speak with is currently living at least one of these scenarios:
• You were recently assigned a pipeline quota that bears little relation to what you can practically generate given your budget, database size and other variables that impact demand-gen capacity.
• There’s an implicit or explicit indication that marketing’s status going forward — budget, compensation, continued employment — depends on the ability to meet that pipeline quota, as well as the prospect quality and conversion expectations of sales.
• Every day, your role becomes more an extension of sales and delivering prospects that convert, with less emphasis on marketing functions that are more in your comfort zone: branding, thought leadership and traditional demand-gen campaigns. As one expert recently noted, full funnel means marketing as a profit center that drives sales-ready leads (SRLs) — or, stated even more succinctly, “You can’t buy a beer with MQLs, but you can with closed deals.”
There’s one solution to all three challenges: building greater credibility with sales by delivering better prospects — that is, prospects that are sales ready and that will meet sales’ expectations for conversion.
The path to SRLs is anything but simple, but I’ll try to map out that path in clear, actionable terms.
You’re not going to drive SRLs from your father’s lead-gen program — SRLs cost more than content syndication-driven, top-of-funnel prospects. Delivering a healthy flow of SRLs also requires sales and marketing to agree on definitions, to collaborate to build successful programs and to ensure efficient, timely handoff of those prospects that reach SRL status. (It’s even been suggested that sales and marketing ops should be unified organizationally to tighten this relationship further and get total alignment on the performance factors that matter most).
Our most successful customers tell us that demand marketers will only be successful when they give sales three things:
1. Enough data on each prospect to pave the way for a productive sales conversation that keeps the customer advancing in the funnel. Among the most valued data points: the content offers they’ve engaged with, previous offers accepted, need and buying timeframe details in a BANT context. Key takeaway: quality trumps quantity no matter how often your colleagues say sales wants all the prospects you can give them.
2. Receptiveness and recall. The last two things sales can stomach are 1) a prospect that won’t give them the time of day or 2) a prospect that doesn’t recall the conversation that prompted their name to be turned over to sales. Lack of receptiveness and lack of recall both scream “marketing failure” and will surely have sales leaders on the warpath over a lack of SRLs. Key takeaway: Your lead qualification process must ensure your prospects meet expectations for receptiveness and recall.
3. Clear evidence that marketing sweats the details. Contact information must be flawless. Prospects must move expeditiously from the sales-ready threshold into sales’ queue so salespeople can strike while the iron is hot. All the details must be in line with your commitments to sales. Key takeaway: sales has zero tolerance for missteps, even those that may seem trivial to marketers running campaigns at scale.
OK, those are the requirements, now how do you deliver on them?
It starts with getting sales leadership to commit to the precise definition of SRLs. Then make your case for achievable goals, but assume they will want more, and pull out all the stops to achieve alignment. Just as salespeople’s jobs require them to meet quota, marketing must similarly recognize the stakes and leave any excuses at the door.
While keeping a laser focus on SRLs, don’t take your eye off the need for net new prospects entering the top of the funnel. If you meet SRL goals but the pipeline of prospects looks light to sales, the latter point is the one they’ll lock onto. One successful approach we leverage for customers involves capturing a high volume of prospects, with a subset of those prospects progressed in waterfall fashion so that a portion advance to SRL status. Those at the top of the funnel enter nurture campaigns for longer-term engagement and conversion.
Finally, pick your friends or, in this case, your demand-gen partners, with precision and scrutiny. Ensure their specialties complement your internal expertise. Be judicious in how you spend with partners, only making significant investments with those who’ve built a track record of delivering SRLs for a range of customers.
While I think my team is best-in-class when it comes to partners who can deliver high-quality SRLs, my larger goal is to ensure you achieve better alignment with sales on converting high-quality prospects. Let me know if you’d like to talk about how I can help you meet these key sales requirements.
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