How the CEO Can Enhance Sales, Marketing, and the Executive Branch

Posted by Dan McDade

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on Feb 24, 2016 7:30:00 AM

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Someone once told me that CEOs don’t care about leads. They only care about revenue. Unfortunately, as a result of this thinking, marketing spends a ton of money generating leads for sales that are never followed-up. They go into a black hole (sometimes called CRM). It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are 5 things CEOs need to consider in order to fix what is broken:

  1. What is the CEO’s role as it relates to marketing and sales?
  2. Is 60-70% of the buying process over before prospects want to engage with a salesperson?
  3. Are outbound and cold calling really dead?
  4. Is sales development about hiring some young hungry kids to bang on the phones?
  5. What should I know about Account-Based Marketing? Isn’t it demand generation with a new name?

1. What is the CEO’s Role as it relates to marketing and sales?

From Mike Weinberg’s book, New Sales. Simplified.:

"Where I’m from, it’s the chief executive’s job to determine and articulate the company’s strategy. It’s essential to be able to inform the sales team about: our reason for existence, the direction of the company and why it’s the correct course, what we sell and why we sell it, which markets to pursue, the competitive landscape and the pricing model."

I believe the main reason there is a lack of alignment between marketing and sales is that the CEO cedes some of the decisions Mike mentions to others in the organization; and leaves it up to them to align by bridging gaps and mending fences—often resulting in poor marketing spend, ineffective sales follow-up and lower revenue. If the CEO does his or her job, there will be a common definition of a lead and clear market definitions… these are missing in most companies today. I also recommend that companies put into place a “Judicial Branch” to inspect leads that either go into the black hole or are returned with insufficient effort by sales. You can read about the “Judicial Branch” here.

2. Is 60-70% of the buying process over before prospects want to engage with a salesperson?

From Julie Schwartz, ITSMA, January, 2016:

"It’s widely believed that 60-70% of the buying process is over before prospects want to engage with a salesperson. The premise is that there is so much information available online that salespeople are thought to be unnecessary in the early stages. ITSMA’s data says that for high consideration technology solutions, this is a myth. In fact, we believe just the opposite: 70% of B2B technology solution buyers want to engage with sales reps before they identify their short list. In fact, buyers perceive value in interacting with sales at every stage of the buying process—even the early stages. In the epiphany stage they want education and unique perspectives; in the awareness stage they want product information and subject matter experts (SMEs); and in the interest stage they want benchmarks and best practices."

I whole-heartedly agree with Julie! Waiting until the buying process is 60 – 70% complete guarantees that your company, at best, is going to provide column fodder (a comparative quote) in an evaluation that has already been won by a more agile competitor that did not wait until late in the process to engage.

3. Is outbound and cold calling really dead?

From Aberdeen Group:

"Tele-prospecting is a valued complement to content marketing and inbound marketing and should be a component of any MQI-to-MQL Nurturing program. In fact, Aberdeen research shows that 60% of leads, on average, still come in through outbound marketing efforts – vs 40% from inbound."

From Mike Weinberg, New Sales. Simplified.:

"Many in what’s called the Sales 2.0 movement harshly declare that proactive targeting and prospecting for new business is dead. These so-called experts proclaim that cold-calling is ineffective and pursuing prospects that aren’t coming to you is a waste of time. These false pronouncements are having a severe negative impact on sales performance."

Also from Mike Weinberg, New Sales. Simplified.:

"Trust me. If inbound marketing was a magic bullet and perfect panacea for creating demand, then we could stop proactively pursuing target accounts. But it isn’t. Anyone who is intellectually honest and not employed by an inbound marketing company will admit: It’s a fantasy that search engine optimization (SEO), Facebook and tweeting about our community-building , value-creating blog are sufficient to produce the volume of face-to-face sales meetings required to hit our new business objectives. Fantasy, plain and simple. Inbound marketing is a magnificent supplement to, but not a replacement for, one of our most potent sales weapons – the outbound proactive telephone call."

As I’ve said many times, inbound marketing has made it easier to get more, poor-quality leads to sales faster than ever before. And, inbound leads generate smaller deals with lower level decision makers. That is because not every senior executive wants to be treated like the human equivalent of a pin ball—capturing your attention only after they have hit the right bumpers and scored enough points (this basically describes how marketing automation works).  

4. Is sales development about hiring some young hungry kids to bang on the phones?

From: Jill Konrath’s interview with Trish Bertuzzi about Trish’s new book The Sales Development Playbook:

Jill: "I talk to a lot of these companies, and everybody I know seems to be interested in hiring a Sales Development rep and they think, 'We'll just hire somebody to make the calls for us.' Do you find companies thinking that that's all it takes? That they just have to hire somebody to make the calls?" 

Trish: "Well, I think there's been an evolution about that role. I used to hear a lot, 'I'm just going to hire some young hungry kids to bang on the phones.'

"But then I think we started to realize, 'Well, wait a second. I only have one chance to make a first impression, and someone who's young, hungry, and banging on the phones isn't necessarily creating the impression with my potential buyer that I want.'

"I think there has been a shift to hiring people who are much more articulate, who are much more fluent in the buyer's language, who could establish credibility much faster. And that became a trend, but then those people became impossible to find because demand so far outstrips supply."

From SiriusDecisions (2016):

"The positioning of tele-prospecting at the center of most organizations’ demand creation schematics suggests that it should be treated as highly strategic. Often, however, nothing is farther from the truth, leading to tele-prospecting being one of the most mismanaged functions in b-to-b today."

Amen! I often say that so-called “Telemarketing Companies” don’t get invited to the client Christmas party while the advertising agency does. That is because the market looks at outbound as tactical—simply dialing for dollars while the agencies are looked at as strategic. In most cases nothing could be further than the truth. Good outbound prospect development companies provide highly qualified sales leads, effective market coverage and actionable market intelligence—not to mention best-in-class nurturing and Account-Based Marketing processes.

5. What should I know about Account-Based Marketing? Isn’t it demand generation with a new name?

From Jon Miller, Engagio (co-founder of Marketo):

"In many ways, account based marketing turns traditional demand generation 'upside down.' If demand generation goes left, then account based marketing goes right; when demand generation goes down, ABM goes up; if demand generation calls heads, account based marketing calls tails. In particular, here are the seven ways that demand generation and account based marketing are opposite sides of the same coin":

Demand Generation

Account Based Marketing

Fishing with nets

Fishing with spears and harpoons

Primarily inbound

Primarily outbound

Person­-centric data model

Account-centric data model

Drives pipeline creation

Supports pipeline creation

Offer-focused campaigns

Account-focused campaigns

New business

New business and existing customers

Measure leads and opportunities

Measure engagement and sales productivity


ABM is not new. It has been around since 2003 (ITSMA). ABM is about selling to markets of one. Unfortunately, too many marketers are confusing ABM with IP and other internet based marketing. IP and other internet marketing are just a small part of what ABM is about. One meeting I sat in on recently (hosted by a very well-known industry analyst) featured a young marketer who spoke about how well their ABM program was working (it was all IP based)—when pressed for results she said there weren’t any as it was “too early”. This wouldn’t be the first time that marketers flocked to black-box solutions that cost a lot of money and yield close to zip. Note that I am a big fan of ABM, it is just much bigger than presenting banner ads based on IP addresses.

I hope at least one of these tips helps you fix something that is broken in your company. If I had to prioritize, I would ask you to make sure there is a shared definition of a lead, the market is crystal clear and that you put a judicial branch in place to inspect leads that currently end up in a black hole.

Readers: if you have other tips I would love to hear them. 

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Topics: Marketing & Sales Alignment

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