I’ve invited John G. Olson to share his B2B insights in a guest contribution for j+ Media Solutions. Olson provides some excellent tips for marketers who find themselves responsible for “feeding leads” to their sales colleagues in his article.
Nothing happens until a sale is made. This truism was drilled into my head by my first mentor. And he was a marketer. I mention that because after all these years I still see a persistent divide between sales and marketing inside many companies.
The great sales/marketing divide is frequently along the same line. Sales reps say the leads they get are no good. Marketing says the leads don’t get proper follow up. This can spill over into other business development activities as well.
Over the years, I have developed many new product launch campaigns. And I have received plenty of negative feedback on them from my sales colleagues, such as:
• We don’t have enough new product to sell
• We have too many new products to manage
• The price is too high
• The discount is too deep
• We don’t have enough product information
• There is too much product information
This kind of back-and-forth dialog makes a marketer wonder if you can ever satisfy the sales team. A marketing colleague who began his career in sales, once told me, “Sales reps are like baby chicks just waiting for mommy to drop the worm in their mouths.” I can’t write the order or deposit the commission check into their bank account, but I can invest in the success of the sales team. Each time I do, I learn what works. And what does not.
Creating the ultimate product launch
One time I decided to bring a group of sales reps into the campaign planning for the launch of a promising new book we were publishing. “Let’s create the ultimate launch kit for this campaign,” I said at the meeting. “Tell me what information you would need to crush the revenue goal.”
The brainstorming session yielded a flurry of ideas designed for sales success. The reps agreed if they had the following information they would crush it:
• The table of contents
• The preface
• A features and benefits outline
• Common objections and answers
• A sales script with probing questions
• Market analysis
• Description of the lead list, which they helped refine
The final launch kit was a 30-page masterpiece. Everything the sales reps ever dreamed of in a launch kit, wrapped in a bow. After the first week, not much happened. Sales activity and revenue was well behind plan. When I talked to reps, I got an unexpected explanation: “There’s just too much information in the launch kit for me to process.” I’ll admit that feedback was hard for me to process.
I share that story not to illustrate the futility of trying to satisfy the sales team, but to reiterate that nothing happens until a sale is made. A marketing professional must set aside the criticism and work to enable the success of the sales organization.
Where to start? Solving the lead quality issue is a great place. Here are five ideas to win your sales reps’ trust and confidence in your lead generation.
5 ways to feed solid leads to sales
(1) Define qualified leads together
If you want sales reps to have confidence in the leads you give them, include them in up-front planning. Get their agreement on what constitutes a qualified lead. Don’t tell them, ask them.
(2) Confer with sales management
This is where I missed it in my story above. Had I checked with the sales director before launching, he would have told me the information reps were asking for was more than they needed. A good sales manager is a reality-check filter for frontline marketers and frontline sales reps.
(3) Sell the sales call
Remember to sell the value of the sales call in your marketing message. Direct marketers in particular are trained to go for the order. Instead, open the door for a sales conversation by emphasizing hot button benefits to the target audience.
(4) Make a simple offer
Avoid pricing or promotional offers that are overly complicated. If it’s not clear to the customer, it is likely to be confusing to your sales rep.
(5) Know the compensation plan
Compensation drives behavior. If your underlying strategy or sales premise is not aligned with the compensation plan, reps will not be on board. They gravitate to activities that will maximize commissions. Wouldn’t you?
This might be hard for some to swallow, but marketers should consider sales reps their first customers. Everyone’s success depends on it. Feed them with good leads, because nothing happens until a sale is made.
About John Olson:
John G. Olson is a B2B marketer and copywriter. He writes about marketing strategy and leadership on his blog, Marketers being Awesome. Connect with him on Twitter at @john_g_olson.
About Jennifer G. Hanford
Jennifer G. Hanford is the owner and managing director of j+ Media Solutions, which offers social and data solutions for businesses of all sizes. Jennifer is also a founding member of and posts regularly for Social Solutions Collective.
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