When Sales Leads Don’t Turn Into Sales
This is a story about Jim, president of a manufacturing company. He has a strong business with annual revenues at about $30 million. Marketing his company and products has never been top of mind for Jim. He had a small brochure style website for validation purposes, but otherwise had very little budget for marketing. As a B2B manufacturer he sells through traditional distribution and internal/external sales representative channels. Over the past five years these channels are returning smaller results and his costs are going up. He wants results but other options like cold calling, phone book type listings and trade show advertising have fallen short. About twelve months ago, Jim turned to digital marketing to increase demand for his products and establish name recognition. Digital marketing has been working great and leads are pouring in, but the sales leads are not turning into sales.
Sales and marketing have changed in a big way. In just a few short years the “selling process” has changed to the “buying process”. It may be hard to admit, but if you are selling products or services, you no longer control the sales process. Today, your buyers control the buying process. “They” control the timing, who your competitors are, and what they value in a brand. Today, buyers have all of the information they need at their finger tips and have access to this information in real time. “They” know your pricing, they read consumer reviews, they know the specs, where your products are made and how you differ from your competitors. Buyers are highly educated, sometimes even more so than your sales people. “They” own you, the seller, during the buying process and if your business has not evolved you have probably noticed the decline in effectiveness of traditional sales and marketing efforts.
Completing the Lead-to-Sale Connection
When I asked Jim about his lead-to-sale process, the gaps were obvious, but these gaps are often hard to close. If you ask any business owner or sales person if they would value information about a third party that was interested in their product or service, they would say, "Yes." If you could further provide the prospect’s name, company name, and email address, most would say this is very valuable. Now add on information like the prospect’s phone number, which pages they visited on your website and how many times they visited your website and most would say this is a gold mine. So why then do so many companies fail to increase sales from such leads?
Just because you engage in digital marketing and online lead generation does not inherently mean that your business is ready for managing and selling to such highly educated buyers. After all, manufacturers have been selling the same way for over 100 years and this paradigm shift requires change on multiple levels. Provided below are some tips on connecting the dots.
1. Get Sales and Marketing talking
Your sales team and marketing teams should be talking frequently. They should be merged into one team that has clearly defined roles and expectations. They need to be speaking the same language and understand the target buyers. Sales and marketing need to share stories, ideas and understand the data. On Jim’s team, he scheduled weekly meetings to review each and every lead. Sales and marketing discussed lead data and the two teams further qualified or disqualified each lead. Over time, this provided marketing the knowledge to better understand what a qualified lead was and how to attract more of them. On the other hand, the sales team started getting a higher quality of leads and started selling more which led to a higher level of trust in the process.
2. Get your technology talking
Critical to sales teams is the use of technology to track and manage sale leads, prospects and accounts. Many companies use CRM or Customer Relationship Management software such as SalesForce, Dynamics or Zoho. Just like sales teams, your marketing team needs software too. This software is referred to as MA or Marketing Automation software. Dominant players in this space are HubSpot, Marketo, Act|On, Eloqua and Pardot. Of utmost importance is to make sure these softwares are talking to each other. Many of them have simple connection interfaces that allow you to customize what information is shared between the systems and your marketing and sales teams.
(Check out our blog post "Integrating CRM and Marketing Automation for More and Better Leads" for more on this topic!)
3. Set a plan for mapping the new sales process
Often times digital marketing produces a lot of quality leads but sales still does not experience an uplift. Many companies know and track their sales cycles and get used to the timing. While digital marketing can and has proven to shorten the sales cycle, many business owners and sales teams expect immediate results. We recommend you give it time. Statistics show that 67% of the buying process happens online. There are many factors that lead a person to make a buying decision and getting a hold of what works and what does not is the key to growing your sales potential. Even with experts at the helm, such as a digital marketing agency, this process does take time to master. We recommend you give it six months plus your normal sales cycle to determine true ROI potential.
4. Management must hold everyone accountable
Upper management must hold the sales and marketing teams accountable for hitting milestones and reporting on key performance indicators. Determine what needs to be measured and reported on and make it known that lapses in reporting or lack of follow-through are unacceptable. Remember, this is a paradigm shift for many sales teams and many marketing teams too. It is easy to go back to the “old way” of doing things. Be proactive, be consistent and demand that everyone stick to the plan.
As for Jim. His company is thriving and last year 60+% of his new business was coming from digital marketing leads. Thanks to Jim's diligence on staying the path and holding all team members accountable, sales are improving and name recognition has never been higher.