My guest today is Brian Carroll. Brian is Executive Director of Revenue Optimization at MECLABS where he leads business units that include Applied Research, Strategy Group, Conversion Group, Leads Group, Agency Group, Technology Group and Training Group. Brian is also CEO of InTouch and author of Lead Generation for the Complex Sale.
Below, you can read highlights from our discussion or use the links to start the video from different parts of the conversation.
Some Progress On Alignment & Lead Definition—But More Work Is Needed
Click to start video at this point—Asked about what has or hasn’t happened in marketing and sales this year that’s surprising, Brian talks about the way many companies haven’t fully embraced optimizing their effective selling time by looking at marketing, lead generation and aligning sales and marketing.
To illustrate, Brian notes that in his book published six years ago, he said 90% of marketers didn’t have agreement between marketing and sales on basic things such as the meaning of the word, “lead.” He was surprised to find in a recent benchmark study of 1,900 companies that 65% of responding companies still don’t have agreement on that meaning.
He adds, “I anticipated and expected that we would have made more progress forward, but I think what a lot of people are doing is just going back to the status quo of what’s worked in the past. I really think more companies need to think more about this one thing—which is optimizing effective selling time.”
BANT and the Value of Warm Leads
Click to start video at this point—Commenting on the application of BANT (budget, authority, need and timeframe) qualifying today, Brian believes it continues to be relevant: “I think for most companies—if you look at what salespeople really need to know in order to move the needle—those are the questions they’re asking themselves when they’re trying to qualify an opportunity.” In the questions, he continues to see a big opportunity around progression and believes BANT has to happen in the process.
He adds that there is value in qualified leads where there are not specific timeframes or budgets identified early on: “We actually have found, and our research bears this out, that warm leads often ignored by salespeople represent significant revenue. In fact, when we studied the conversion rate for one company recently, what we found is that most of their lead conversion was happening from nurtured leads that were warm that the salespeople had ignored.”
He says these warm leads actually had a higher conversion rate because—with the so-called “hot” leads—the sales team wasn’t involved early enough to influence outcomes.
The Right Marketing Mix: Blended… and Grounded in Buyer Understanding
Click to start video at this point—In response to a question about the right outbound marketing/inbound marketing mix, Brian notes that he believes in a blended approach: “What I’ve found when we try to break things out—when we think only outbound or inbound is our emphasis—I think we get out of balance. And we need to have a back and forth conversation or discussion.”
He looks at the marketing mix like a portfolio manager at a mutual fund who is able to blend and combine things together. He says marketers should be thinking along the lines of how their customers view their own buying processes—rather than along the lines of how do we convert leads. In this regard, we need to be thinking about the steps they’re going to go through and understanding their needs.
He summarizes by saying, “I think it needs to be integrated. And as marketers, we really need to look at how to have a unified conversation tying the various tactics together—from how does the conversation begin to how we progress and intensify—so that we can progress from early interest to now more of a purchase intent.”
Social Media Risk: Hoping the Shiny New Technology Will Transform Us
Click to start video at this point—Asked about new social media tools and recent findings that senior executives are using them to connect rather than research and purchase, Brian says too many companies are focusing on technology in hope of creating a process. He adds, “If your data and your marketing is a mess, and you automate it, then you’re just going to get an automated mess.”
He finds that when companies that don’t have a process and a strategy to begin with, they invest in an expensive marketing automation platform, and it can become a glorified email system. He comments, “It’s like they’re conforming their process to fit the tool—instead of buying the tools to support their process. There are groups that are driving ROI from social media. But it’s very difficult to do unless, again, you have the strategy and alignment in the organization to support a process.”
He says there is similarity today to CRM and ERP purchasing 15 and 20 years ago: “It’s the same thing. We buy the shiny new technology hoping it will transform us. But all it is is a canvas. You need to know what you want to paint. And you have to have that plan in place and the painters to do it.”
Marketing & Sales Alignment: Improvement with a Shared Focus on Revenue
Click to start video at this point—Responding to a question about the state of marketing and sales alignment, Brian thinks that it has improved as company leaders are more frequently speaking the same language and sharing a focus on what’s most important.
He relays findings from their research around what execs say are their primary challenges and concerns:
- CEOs: They’re looking to shorten time to revenue or for predictable revenue growth.
- Marketers: Their number one priority is lead quality, and number two is lead quantity.
- Sales: They’re looking at how to optimize selling time
A large part of continuing improvement will be grounded in a focus on revenue, and Brian adds, “More and more marketers just need to be looking at it’s not about leads, it’s about revenue—and that the leads really support the connection between sales and that customer to ultimately have revenue happen.”
2012 Recommendation: Marketing Should Ask Sales Three Questions
Click to start video at this point—During the second half of 2012, Brian recommends that companies focus on people they’ve connected with in the first and second quarters: “The biggest thing I would focus on is how do we accelerate relationships that we already have. Because most of the people I work with in B2B and you work with in B2B have a longer sales cycle, or conversely, a longer buying process, look at how to intensify and progress people you already have in your database. The leads you’re generating now may likely not impact you until next year.”
He also recommends that marketing ask three questions of the sales team:
- What can marketing be doing to help the sales team sell?
- What are the things that we should stop doing that add no value?
- What are the hassles or bottlenecks that salespeople face that take away their effective selling time?
He adds, “I’m asking very revenue-driven questions, but, to summarize, it’s about optimization rather than increasing volume or increasing activity. In other words, just saying how do we go further with money we already spent.”
Collaborate on Content that Gives Sales a Valid Reason to Connect
Click to start video at this point—Brian also recommends looking at existing content to determine how it can be used again and extend value. He notes, “A chart could become a webinar. That webinar could then become an article. That article could become a blog post.”
He also advocates marketing engaging with sales to determine the types of content that present a valid business reason for sales to connect with their customers.
Marketing & Sales: SLAs, Lead Follow Up, Lead Value & Sales Buy-In
Click to start video at this point—In response to a question about the number of contacts it can take to convert a lead, Brian notes that it can take ten, twelve and more contacts. He adds, “The big takeaway is most salespeople typically are quitting after two or three attempts.”
He notes that the time, effort and energy invested in qualifying highly-qualified leads warrants working with sales to develop a lead follow-up process that can include coaching, a call guide and email templates.
He also advocates working with sales leadership around service level agreements that can include phrasing like “before we can resolve a lead as being complete, this is how many attempts that we need to have.”
He concludes by discussing steps marketing needs to take to obtain collaborative buy-in from sales: “I would say for marketers, you will find at times that salespeople are resistant. But in order to have them do this level of activity, you need to show them that the leads you’re creating are worthwhile. The only way I know to do that is to co-create the definition, and then deliver on that with your sales organization. And then also close the loop to make modifications. You’ve got to have buy-in in order to hold someone accountable.”
You can connect with Brian and learn more about his work at the MECLABS Group via the following resources:
The next PowerViews will be with Tony Jaros of SiriusDecisions. Stay Tuned.
By Dan McDade