A joint Marketo and Reachforce research piece found that businesses are 67% better at closing deals when sales and marketing work together. And in previous posts I’ve written about how critical it is for marketing and sales to work together to create best practices, deliver more quality leads, and drive higher-impact deals.
Recently, I spoke about sales and marketing alignment during my presentation,“Close More Deals with Effective Lead Scoring”at the InsideSales.com Sales Acceleration Summit. I also had the opportunity to step away from our booth to listen to a complementary session with Craig Elias, founder of InnerSell and author of Harness the Trigger Events That Turn Prospects Into Customers. He spoke about “Lead Generation: Strategies that Kill the Competition.”
Combined, these two sessions created a powerful and holistic view of how sales and marketing can partner to attract, engage, and close customers. The key lesson that emerged was the importance of engaging prospects at the right time through these various strategies:
1. Lead Scoring
There are a few strategies that enable you to follow up with prospects at precisely the right time, but the one that appeared in both presentations was lead scoring.
Lead scoring is a method of ranking leads for their sales-readiness, agreed upon by both sales and marketing, and it’s essential to ensuring that your organization is well aligned. According to MarketingSherpa, 61% of B2B marketers send all leads directly to sales; however, only 27% of those leads will be qualified (aka in that “right time” window). And Gartner reports that up to 70% of sales leads are not properly leveraged or are completely ignored thus wasting marketing programs dollars. This all seems like a waste of everyone’s resources—and something that can easily be addressed by implementing lead scoring.
As you implement lead scoring in your marketing automation platform, think about creating metrics based on:
- Demographic or Firmographic Scoring
- This scores your prospects based on information like their job role, job title, technology used, country, industry, etc. The closer the prospect is to your ideal customer profile, the higher the score.
- Asset Scoring
- Align your content to stages of the buying cycle and score each asset accordingly. For example, a top-of-funnel asset might have a lower score than a middle-of-funnel or bottom-of-funnel asset to indicate that the buyer is at the beginning of their buyer’s journey and perhaps just becoming aware of your company.
- Behavior Scoring
- This indicates your prospect’s readiness to buy. Track data that indicates interest, such as website activity (downloads, page visits), channel participation (PPC, events, inbound calls), and email engagement.
- Interest Scoring
- This ties into behavior scoring, but with a focus on what specific content your prospects are interacting with to determine which products or services your they might be interested in.
So how does lead scoring fit into the big picture? In his presentation, Craig Elias notes that along with receiving a bounced email address (goal: find out if there is someone new in the company), the other top two times to follow up with a prospect is when they download purchase justification assets (which likely have high scores) and when they reach your agreed upon scoring threshold—or as we call them, a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL). More on that next!
MQL, one of the many marketing acronyms out there (just to start, think: ABM, SQL, BEO…the list goes on and on). What is an MQL? MQL stands for marketing qualified lead—and represents a prospect who’s lead score (see above) adds up to an agreed upon value (at Marketo, we chose 100) with a combination of those multiple values: demographic/firmographic “fit” score, engagement score, and buying intent.
Once a prospect hits this threshold, it’s time to send this lead over to sales because they are considered warm and ready to be called. In fact, according to Craig Elias, you’ll have the most success with someone if you call them within 5 minutes of a trigger event (example: when someone fills out a form for a justification asset). But he warns, don’t try to sell RIGHT THEN–ask some probing questions:
- Did you receive the email with the links you were looking for?
- What resonated with you from this content that made you want to check it out?
- What happened recently that made this content more relevant/important to you?
After sales follows up on the MQL, they can then turn it into an SQL (yes, another acronym that I’ll define in the next section).
You probably figured out from MQL what an SQL is—and you’re right! SQL = sales qualified lead. And what exactly does that mean? A SQL is a lead that has been accepted by an Account Executive after demonstrating BANT criteria:
- Budget: Do they have the money to purchase your product or service?
- Authority: Are they a decision maker or can they influence the decision maker?
- Need: Does your product or service fulfill their needs?
- Time: What is their time frame for evaluating and purchasing your product or service?
Ultimately, SQLs are the people that sales think has a HIGH potential to actually purchase the product. And these clearly are the ones you want to be following up with at the right time!
Now that you’re convinced that you need to follow up at the right time to get the better results—and that strong alignment with sales and marketing is going to help you along the way—here are some additional notes to help you close more deals:
- Don’t be shy—call on VPs or higher. As Craig Elias notes, they hold the authority, influence, and $$$.
- Hit up those bounced emails, stay up-to-date on organizational changes in your target accounts, and be aware of new employees. Craig Elias shared that 80% of new marketing VPs spend $1M in their first 90 days, so call them up and use verbs to describe the value of becoming your customer so that when you’re done talking, they’ll want to know “How do we do that?!”
- Inquire about sales intelligence tools like Marketo Sales Insights that live natively within your CRM. This can help you prioritize your lists of leads based on quality to help reps know how “hot” a lead is and where to start first with their calls.
- Craig Elias also shared this impressive statistic: success in closing a deal goes up 3X by adding another person in the room for a meeting, so be sure to ask, “Is there anyone else we should include in our next meeting?”
- See if your marketing team can automate these processes for success! Ask them if they can set up notifications and reminders likes the ones below to help sales stay on top of those MQLs and not miss out on opportunities.
And the last takeaway that I want to highlight: be the first to strike on emerging opportunities—these are the people who will become the most loyal customers and advocates. Try to find that window of dissatisfaction when someone is unhappy with their current situation, but haven’t had time to evaluate yours yet. One way to find this is to track your competitors’ sales reps (customers HATE account executive turnover). According to Elias, you’ll have a 74% success rate if you hit this sweet spot!
The moral of the story? Teamwork makes the dream work! SiriusDecisions reports that companies with aligned sales and marketing teams achieve up to 19% faster growth and 15% higher profitability. Don’t you want to be part of these success statistics?
What else have you seen work to tie together sales and marketing to lead to more success? Teach me your magical ways in the comments below!