If You Want to Get Aligned with Sales, Stop Generating Leads

I’ve built, managed, or worked with lots of B2B demand gen teams in my career, and I keep seeing (and fixing) the same friction between Marketing and Sales. There’s actually a simple fix to this problem, one that aligns Marketing, Sales, prospects, and even customers.

Marketing creates leads – if they’re good, they are the right titles at the right companies. For some reason Sales won’t follow up. Sales wants to talk to people who are ready to buy. To them, most of the Marketing leads are… well, add your choice of expletive.

From the Sales point of view, these aren’t really leads; certainly not Sales-ready leads. Most of them are just names of people who don’t have any real idea why we’re trying to sell them something.

So we have a gap. Supposedly good leads don’t get follow up, and Sales complains that Marketing isn’t helping them make their numbers.

As a Marketer, I used to look at these Sales teams as if they were lazy. We found you the perfect prospect; how about doing some selling to earn that commission? Not surprisingly, it turns out I was wrong.

Whose job is it to close the gap? It’s Marketing’s job!

Even though I’m a Marketer, I agree with Sales; perhaps that’s why I usually have no problem with Sales alignment. If you’re a Marketer and you don’t think it’s your job, you can say goodbye to much of your budget down the road. And any credit for generating revenue.

Most of the so-called demand generation programs I’ve seen are really just lead capture, or maybe even name capture.

Every time I download a whitepaper, an e-book, or any other piece of gated content from a B2B software site, something I do pretty much every day, I can almost predict the Sales email I’m going to receive moments later. And the months of spam I’m going to receive as part of a typical low-quality nurture campaign.

Instead of trying to generate leads, how about generating demand?

Ask yourself this: How much of your time, effort and budget goes into capturing new people vs building relationships with the names you have already acquired?  Or worse, how much Marketing effort do you put into capturing new names vs engaging your customers and turning them into advocates?

Lead capture is the beginning, not the end, of Marketing’s job. That was the easy part. The Sales funnel isn’t a hopper that leads just fall through.

When I fill out a web form, I give you permission to add value to my day, not permission to spam me with irrelevant Sales emails.  I filled out the form because I perceived some value in the content that you dangled in front of me. It makes me want to know more, so what are you doing to tell me more? As opposed to selling me something right now.

After name capture, the next Marketing touch MUST be something that is going to make me better at my job, educate me, make me or my company more money, or solve a problem that is stopping those things from happening.  And to do that, you have to be relevant. Which means you have to know something about me, and know how to explain your value.

Every good B2B Marketer and Sales exec I have ever met knows that the best leads are ALWAYS the folks who raise their hands and want to talk to you. The folks who complete the Contact Us form on your website, or call in on your 800 number. In other words, the folks who have made the buyer’s journey all the way to your front door.

In one of my prior roles, we used a last-touch attribution model and found that the hand raiser leads were the last touch for about 20% of the Marketing-generated Opportunities created in Salesforce, but they were 65% of the closed won deals sourced by Marketing. Focusing on them allowed us to increase Marketing-generated pipeline 40% within two quarters.

So the real question is how you create more hand-raisers, or perhaps how you move all those raw leads you captured to become hand raisers. How you support the buying process.

I think there is a straight forward answer, one that actually unifies traditional lead gen with ABM, content marketing, social and nurture streams. Sort of a Grand Unified Theory of Demand Generation.

There isn’t room in a single post to list everything I think that means, but the summary is that you should think about how you facilitate buying, not selling.

Here’s a few ideas to help you get started:

  • Stop counting leads, and start measuring the value of the pipeline you hand to Sales
  • Work with Sales to understand who buys and why, develop a joint target list, and use every ABM tool you’ve got to reach those people
  • Once you know who to target, stop thinking about what you want them to do and focus on how you can add value for them
  • Don’t ignore your customers; happy customers are your best Marketing resource (and they are happy to help you)
  • Engage the smart folks within your company and your customer base to help create content that has real value
  • Plan to keep the conversation going over time, and stay focused on being a valuable and trusted partner
  • Arm Sales with great mid-funnel content and suggest they use modern social selling tools to engage in a meaningful Sales conversation once you give them a lead

In other words, demand generation is really about, well, generating DEMAND. Getting people to want to buy from your company. Lots of people. And that means being relevant, having something useful to say, and earning their business. So stop generating leads and start generating revenue.

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Peter TaitIf You Want to Get Aligned with Sales, Stop Generating Leads

Building a Customer Engine Part 1: Overview

Effective demand generation is about far more than lead capture and conversion; building a real revenue machine ultimately requires an end-to-end understanding and optimization of the entire Marketing environment. The customer engines that I have built have a common set of basic building blocks. This post provides an overview of the set, and subsequent posts will drill into each of them and get to practical advice.

Of course, I’m talking here about B2B Marketing only, rather than consumer-facing. This model also tends to work best when your ASP is high enough to support a direct Sales team (although it has worked for high-volume, low-dollar transactions as well).
The sequencing isn’t that critical, since you will eventually get into a continuous improvement mode on all of the major components. That said, I always start with the pipeline. I will explain why in a moment.

There are five major components that need to be in place and optimized in order to drive growth and revenue:

  1. The Teflon Pipeline. Making sure that the processes from first Marketing touch to closed-won deal are frictionless and effective. If they are not, then revenue is being left on the table.
  2. The inbound Engine. The best leads are always the inbound hand-raisers, so how do we make it easy for prospects to engage with our content and talk themselves into becoming customers (or are least, talking to Sales)?
  3. Outbound Campaigns. The traditional Marketing campaign engine used to deepen the relationship with prospects and customers, and lead them toward purchase.
  4. Visibility and building an army of advocates. Visibility and reputation drive traffic to our inbound engine, so we need to activate customers, supporters and influencers to articulate our story on our behalf.
  5. Great Storytelling. The payload that every demand generation program delivers to prospects and customers that will make them want use our products in support of their own goals.

There is a sixth component that is equally important but cannot be implemented until the first five are at least somewhat working – Measure and Tune. That essentially closes the loop and informs future planning.

Note that these components are presented in reverse of the usual order; the first round of messaging and storytelling must obviously happen first, or you don’t know what your targets look like. When I’m asked to optimize a client’s demand generation activites I always start from the pipeline end, for two main reasons:
First, optimizing the handling of existing leads and opportunities will almost always deliver increased revenue faster than any other tactic. In essence, the potential business has already been generated. The second, and much more important, reason is that optimizing lead handling and Sales processes makes it possible to measure the impact of other changes in Marketing activity. In other words, if the pipe is blocked then great Marketing looks the same as bad Marketing at the other end. As it does to the CEO and CFO who control your budget…

With an optimized pipeline in place, it becomes possible to measure and tune Marketing plans based on pipeline impact and revenue data.
The overall optimization activity should be tackled iteratively, beginning with an overview of the current state of the entire system. Once that initial analysis is complete, I like to identify short-term opportunities for improvement that will drive increased revenue, as well as the larger, more strategic items that must be in place to complete the scalable growth engine.

So that’s the big picture view of the Customer Engine. Each of the individual components is worth multiple blog posts, so stay tuned as we dive into each one!

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Peter TaitBuilding a Customer Engine Part 1: Overview

“The good leads are for closers” – but what’s a good lead?

A cautionary tale for Marketers about lead scoring and the importance of talking to Sales. I was leading an eMarketing team that implemented a fairly sophisticated system for capturing online registrations and turning them into near real time leads for Sales. Leads were categorized based (in part) on answers to qualifying questions on the forms. Each lead was assigned a letter/number code, A1, B3, C2, etc based on the score. We thought it was pretty clever….

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Peter Tait“The good leads are for closers” – but what’s a good lead?


Hi, I’m Peter Tait. After years of helping companies get better at using the web as part of their Marketing activities, I’ve decided to collect and publish everything I’ve learned about online Marketing and demand generation. If nothing else, it’s an easy way to archive this stuff before I forget it…

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Peter TaitWelcome