I’d like to say that my career in B2B marketing has been smooth sailing with little to no shocking moments. However, that would be untrue.
I can say, though, that many of the most shocking incidents in my too-many-years-to-count career have involved the management, or more correctly mismanagement, of sales leads. While I believe that in many cases it was not intentional, this lead mismanagement was a clear case of sales sabotaging our B2B marketing efforts.
Disclaimer: THIS IS NOT GOING TO BE A BLOG BASHING SALES!!! It will be a wary look at what happens when you take things for granted or expect others to all be on the same page.
Shocking Moment #1: We File All Leads Away
We’d been working with a client for several years when they shared something that stunned us. We were looking at the monthly B2B website leads coming and trying to evaluate what were good leads and where the best leads were generated. When we asked the business development head what his perspective was on the leads and how they responded to him, he simply stated, “Oh, those emails, I just file those away.” He discounted the website leads because they were content downloads and did not follow up.
We weren’t the only ones with mouths agape. The B2B marketer on the client’s team was surprised as well. She said, “You mean to tell me, you don’t follow up with these leads, you just file them away?” At this point, the business development person realized that for the better part of that year, the sales team had failed to respond to more than 100 prospective clients.
Shocking Moment #2: We Respond to the Leads When We Have Time
We’d like to say this particular incident only happened once and never again. Unfortunately, it has happened with multiple clients we’ve worked with over the years. It always goes something like this. We ask the marketing contact how the sales team handles the website leads that come in and what updates they have on the leads. They get the salespeople in the meeting with us and ask the same question. The salesperson doesn’t have an update on last month’s leads because “I haven’t had time to reach out to them yet.”
Once we’ve picked ourselves up off the floor, we investigate why the leads aren’t a priority and what they consider to be a hot lead. We’ve been able to turn these situations around by working on the marketing contact’s behalf to educate the sales team, not only on why website leads are indeed “hot” leads, but how to handle those leads as well. An inbound website lead should be handled differently than an outbound cold lead and we make sure to explore this with their sales team.
Shocking Moment #3: We Respond Immediately with an Email Novella
Ok, this moment may not be completely shocking but it’s always surprising. I have a background in sales, so I get the sales struggle. I’m very sympathetic. You spend all of your time trying to build value and showcase the right features and benefits and get your prospect interested. It’s a whole process. So I have a lot of respect for salespeople that are passionate about building relationships with prospects and turning them into long-term clients.
So, in this particular scenario, the client reported back to us that they were having trouble getting prospects to respond to them after the initial website form submission. In an effort to dig a bit deeper, we asked them to send us their typical email response to the form submission. While well-written and thoughtful, it was way too long and sales-focused. Rather than send a novella response to a website form submission, we recommended a short and direct email that was less than 3 sentences. Once we explained that the prospect already saw the need for the products the client was selling, she understood that the features/benefits portion of her novella wasn’t necessary and was possibly overwhelming the prospect.
I’m happy to report that this particular client now has a great response process in place and has a 95% success rate with getting prospects to respond.
Shocking Moment #4: We Only Respond to Leads that Look Good
There is no set up for this one because it’s still too raw on my emotions. I’m not proud of it, but I’ve had to take mental breaks and go for walks outside to calm down after hearing this statement.
All we have to say to this is: RESPOND TO EVERY SINGLE LEAD.
Now, the response to that lead can be to qualify the lead or to provide better alternatives. Never, never ignore a website form submission. If you don’t service their industry, respond and let them know that. Even better, provide them a resource that does service their industry. If you don’t think they have the budget, you can still respond to them with information about your pricing to verify if they’d like to move forward with a call.
Remember that your company’s reputation is based on how you treat prospects, clients, vendors, and partners. If you blow off a prospect because you don’t have the budget, they will remember that your company didn’t respond to them. And guess what? When that individual takes a new job at a company that does have the budget – do you think they will come back to you for a proposal? Unlikely.
Communication Is the Winning Strategy
So what is the takeaway here? No, it’s not that sales is viciously sabotaging marketing efforts. It’s that communication is absolutely crucial to have successful B2B marketing strategies that generate quality leads for the sales team to close.
In many of these cases, communication or a misunderstanding was the real issue. The success of the sales team impacts all of us, whether we are in sales or not. As B2B marketers, it’s essential that we work closely with sales to generate, nurture, and maintain client relationships.