GReader Shared Posts

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Lead Nurturing Fundamentals -- Sales Discussion

In my first post on Lead Nurturing Fundamentals I talked about the need for marketing to do its homework. Marketers need to come with a clear sense of who they are seeking out and what prospects they feel are the best to pass along to sales.


Why do we need to do that work before talking with sales? A manager of mine had the mantra "The most organized person in the room wins." We need a clear evaluation of what our assumptions about the market are and how we incorporate that into our daily work. The more organized you are the better able you'll be to steer the conversation.

And because Sales is going to tear at least some of our assumptions down. But it's OK, that's what we want.  What we don't want is an unfocused meeting questioning why marketing wants to do this; why sales is fine the way it is; and demands that marketing just send over more names.

Let's talk about how to structure a meeting with sales that so that it can be productive for both sides. I would try to keep the meeting to 1-2 hours, give everyone an agenda, and define who is running the meeting to keep moving.

Oh, and one more thing, don't expect to come out of this meeting with a lead definition that both sides agree on. What we want is a framework that can be used to hammer out the details of defining a lead. (Realistically, even an all day meeting is unlikely to produce this definition as you'll feel there's more time to dive into details but probably just end up talking in circles around why this should be done at all.)
  1. Have Sales rank the Demographic or BANT variables you've defined. Don't show them marketing's rankings yet. This is an exercise that can take all your time if you let it. Don't force the entire sales team to come to a consensus in this meeting. Just ask them where their sweet-spots are.
  2. Define any pre-qualification actions that marketing must take with newly generated leads.
  3. Define thresholds for escalating leads based on ranked criteria. When should they go to telequalifying? Insides Sales? Sales Rep?
  4. Define qualification actions or follow-up that sales must take with any marketing qualified leads (MQL).
  5. Define how leads must be passed back to marketing if they are not accepted by sales (Sales Accepted Leads - SAL)
  6. Define who will have responsibility for nurturing SALs that are not Sales Qualified Leads (SQL). Does that pass back to marketing? Inside Sales? Or stay with the Sales Rep?
Depending on the make-up of your sales process, some of those steps may be shorter discussions than others. Remember, you don't need to hammer out every detail in this meeting

Your main objective is to set-up the framework so that you can go back and hammer out the details. Then present the full-fledged plan, with lead definitions and processes, for sales and management reivew (and hopefully approval). The process won't be easy, so expect to put some time and elbow grease into it.

Finally, though this is at the end of the post, let me reiterate that you want to approach sales management before going through this exercise and get them on-board early with concept of lead nurturing as a way to close more sales deals and keep the pipeline full.

Links tagged on Delicious.com as: Lead+Nurturing

Monday, December 22, 2008

Lead Nurturing Fundamentals -- Define a Lead

Occasionally I have trouble writing blog posts because I'll start a topic and start connecting more dots and adding more layers and soon the topic is bigger than I can fit in one post.  I started feeling that way about lead nurturing, so I decided to chunk it and see if I could keep it simple that way.


I have seen plenty of advice about lead nurturing that starts with a discussion between marketing and sales defining what qualifies as a lead. But that should definitely not be the first step. Most likely it will only cause frustration for both groups.

Where you really need to start is with your business plan. What are you selling and who needs it? If you answered "Everyone" then you can probably stop talking about lead nurturing (or marketing in general) right there. But if you do have a real sense of your target market, then you're ready to get rolling. 

Point 1. -- Qualified Leads fall within the target market for your business

That may be stating the obvious. I hope that is stating the obvious. But sometimes it's best to start at the beginning. Having a high-level understanding of your market is important. The next step is to start identifying the attributes within your target market that you can quantify.  Most lead generation already captures demographic information which can be very useful.

And Sales team's have an index -- BANT criteria. Since you're going to be working on your definitions with sales, start by using their language. 

BANT criteria:
  • Budget: How much budget does your target prospect need to be viable for your offering?
  • Authority: What level of authority does a prospect need to either purchase or influence a purchase of your offering?
  • Need: Why do companies need your offering? What pain points do you alleviate?
  • Time: What is the timeline of your prospects? And how long is your sales cycle?
Once you have started laying out the variables for each criteria, assign them rankings in order from highest to lowest. It's easy to jump ahead to assigning lead scores to these variables but we aren't at that step yet. The crux of this exercise is to determine what variables for a given attribute are most important. 

Point 2. -- Identify and rank specific variables from demographics and BANT criteria within your target market that you can track and measure. 

Take the rankings and pull out your marketing personas of people that purchase your product or influence a deal. Do these personas need have the top-rank for all criteria to be qualified for sales? If not, what is the minimum threshold you feel Sales would need to accept responsibility for working with a lead?

Are you able to map more than just the top-rank to your personas? If you're not able to map lower-ranked variables, especially in Job Title, Budget and Authority, you might be missing valuable influencers in your sales cycle (but that's a tangent I'll have to close off right here).

So now it's time to do some homework.

I stated above that lead nuturing begins before you have any leads, in a real-world scenario you're already going to have a database of suspects, prospects, and customers. (YMMV depending on the state of your database.)

Mine that data. Start with your customers and do a reality check. Where do your current customers fall in terms of your personas? Are they hitting the rankings you would expect?

Similarly, look at your prospect and suspect data. Which are in your sales pipeline and which are languishing? Do the leads getting the most attention from sales match the personas and rankings you expect?

Point 3. -- Compare your existing customer base and sales pipeline to the criteria you've established for qualified leads.

Now we are ready to have a conversation with sales. Almost. 

What I should say is that you are now ready to have a conversation with Sales Management.  You want them to buy into the concept of lead nurturing so that you have an inside voice backing you up. Sales teams are notoriously resistant to marketing reaching deeper into the funnel and you may need to leverage some top-down support for a decision.

But, you are prepared. You have identified -- based on your business plan -- what your target market is. You have quantified the attributes of those prospects that best fit the personas within that target market. And you have compared this plan to your existing customers and prospects to make sure you are on the right track.

I kept this much more on track than I thought I would be able to. However, I will need to do a follow-up post on actually meeting with the sales team to create a productive plan that helps both groups succeed.

All links and additional reasources at Delicious tag: Lead+Nurturing