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.

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