Sales Lead Management Best Practices: Thought Leadership with Barry Trailer

Sales Marketing Alignment


The next interview in the B2B Marketing thought leader interview series is with Barry Trailer. Barry is co-founder of CSO Insights, an analyst firm that benchmarks the challenges faced by today’s sales and marketing organizations, tracking the trends in the usage of people, process, technology and knowledge to improve sales effectiveness. Barry is also a member of the Marketo Board of Advisors.

Barry is also presenting his latest research about marketing and sales alignment at an exclusive webinar titled Using Marketing’s Insights to Close More Deals Faster. The webinar will be held this Thursday, June 18, 2009 at 11:00am Pacific/2:00pm Eastern. Sign up today!

1. How did you get into sales and marketing, and what you like most about it?

How I got into sales was easy. I’ve been in it all my life, seriously. Door-to-door magazine and encyclopedia sales, retail sales in high school, more commissioned sales jobs in college. After I graduated, I was an engineer (civil) for eleven years, selling engineering design services the latter half of that time. Then I left engineering and went straight commission and never looked back. I think sales is the greatest job in the world. I’m much less versed/experienced about marketing but appreciate the interplay between them and recognize this could be so much better than it is today.

2. What three tips would you offer to improve collaboration between sales and marketing?

First, quit thinking that if you ever get it right, you can get rid of the other group. Marketing seems to feel this way about sales and vice versa.

Second, figure out roles/responsibilities of each and quit trying to do the other group’s work; there is too often no trust that the other component is going to execute.

Third, track the life of each lead to its conclusion and close the loop; so much could be learned if this actually occurred on a consistent basis.

3. How can better sales and marketing alignment improve sales performance metrics?

On one hand I think the answer to this is self-evident: if better marketing means more and/or better sales leads, then sales can focus more on selling than on lead generation, which should translate into higher close rates and more sales.

On the other hand, I think some results may be less obvious or counter-intuitive: will closer alignment mean marketing taking on a more prominent sales role, at least early in the sales cycle? Will sales, freed of the lead generation effort, do more cultivating of higher level relationships and penetrating accounts more broadly? We may actually see, if not a minor reversal of roles, at least the beginning of a sharing of roles/tasks.

4. Beyond demand generation, how can marketing best help sales close more business?

Let’s assume that beyond generating just MORE leads, marketing is also generating HIGHER QUALITY leads. OK, if that has happened, then new areas of investigation may begin to open up. Where are leads falling OUT of the sales process and why? Is this fallout happening early in the cycle, suggesting a disconnect between the messaging that attracted these prospects and the early conversations with sales? Or are they happening later in the cycle, suggesting a hole in the sales process or that a process step was glossed over? Can marketing provide case studies, industry-specific interviews and/or thought pieces to support the solution sales is advocating for this prospect? And, if this prospect is closed, is there a testimonial or case study to be gleaned from this new client/customer?

5. What do you think are the biggest opportunities for companies striving to optimize sales lead generation?

For starters, and I know we’ve said this a thousand times before but it’s still true, gaining agreement between sales AND marketing on what constitutes a quality and qualified lead. Developing a Perfect Prospect Profile and criteria for lead scoring to grade how close or far each lead is from the real bulls eye of the target market. Having done this, consistently scoring leads and tracking them to their eventual disposition will provides heaps more insight than the vast majority of companies have today. In our current Lead Gen Optimization survey one-quarter of companies have a formal lead scoring process in place. More than one-third have NO process in place. What could these companies be LEARNING from their lead gen efforts if they tracked results more carefully?

6. What are the top three ways companies can improve sales effectiveness?

There are four areas to look into with possible levers for improvement:

  1. People
  2. Process
  3. Technology
  4. Knowledge

It starts with having the talented, motivated, engaged personnel. Lots of folks are on the payroll but are they truly on the team? How do you judge? How do they and you know? Do you have processes in place and what level of process implementation occurs at your company (CSO Insights has defined 4 levels)?

You may have technology in place but is it being used. Is it useful? Companies are now finding that CRM alone is not enough, or that one size fits all. What we’ve labeled CRM 2.0 includes dozens of categories and hundreds of new solutions that increase basic CRM capabilities. Marketo is an example of one of these solutions but certainly is not the ONLY example.

Finally, sales knowledge is WAY BEHIND where it needs to be today. Three-quarters of companies report competitive analysis requires some to significant hunting to even FIND what information is available. How current, complete and useful the information is (generally developed and provided by marketing) is a whole other issue.

7. What are some sales and marketing metrics that more companies should track?

This varies to a certain extent by company/industry but a few are pretty universal: lead source, lead score, leads converting to first discussions, leads converting to opportunities. Once a lead is accepted into the pipeline there are loads of other metrics that can and should be tracked. Another metric that is now available through technology is time to follow up on a lead/inquiry, and the rate of decay of lead metrics as the response time lengthens.

8. Bonus question: Anything else you’d like to discuss?

Sure! I’d like to explore why the Sales is from Mars, Marketing is from Venus dynamic persists between marketing and sales. Who is winning by the continuing lack of alignment/cooperation? In many ways it feels like our two-party congress where each party can blame the other for lack of real progress or real system improvement. The elephants blame the donkeys to their constituents, the Dems blame the ‘Pubs to theirs, then they all go off to the Georgetown bars together and nothing gets done. Sales can say, “The leads suck!” Marketing can say, “You suck!” We go off to the bars together or separately and nothing gets done to improve the system. I’d like to talk about this but also, I’d REALLY like to talk about companies where this is NOT the case. Rather, where the puppies and kittens are growing up together and playing nice, having fun, and making huge strides forward in changing the conversation and their companies’ results. That’s what I’m talkin’ about! (or we should be).

Register now to hear Barry present the latest research about sales and marketing alignment: Using Marketing’s Insights to Close More Deals Faster.