I recently read an article about a sales meeting where a salesperson told the marketing manager (in front of 40 other salespeople and the company’s executives) that she never had a lead that turned into a sale.
The marketing manager rescued the situation by asking the other sales reps in the room to share their experience with leads. The other reps said they were getting good leads that turned into sales.
When the marketing manager talked to the original salesperson after the meeting, it turned out that she had some challenges that were unique to her territory. She was responsible for a large territory with widely dispersed prospects. After some conversation the two of them were able to make plans to address her specific needs.
Fortunately the marketing manager was able to work through an awkward situation with respect and humor.
But is there anything that could have been done to prevent the awkward situation from arising?
What could have been different?
Let’s put it in the framework of sales process excellence. The first question to ask is whether the group has agreed on standard operational definitions. In this situation, the operational definition at this company would answer the question “What is a lead?”
There’s no doubt that the marketing manager is producing leads and that the salespeople are receiving them. But how do they know if what is being handed to sales is a good lead? What are the criteria to claim that the information given to sales can be called a lead?
In order to answer these questions, marketing and sales would have to get together in respectful conversation and agree on the operational definition of a lead. This operational definition would be composed of characteristics of prospects that had been shown in the past to be significantly correlated with observable sales results. These characteristics comprise the facts and evidence that marketing and sales use to agree on the definition of a lead.
Agreement on the definition of a lead allows both marketing and sales to prioritize their work more consistently. Marketing knows what to look for in people who visit their website and who request information. It knows how to cultivate a relationship with potential customers and what education they need to become ready for a conversation with sales.
Salespeople in turn know what to expect from marketing and what they need to do once they receive a lead. Conversations with marketing become more nuanced and move beyond the simplistic “I never got a lead that turned into a sale.”