Magazine article CRM Magazine

No More Dying by Inches: To Help Reverse the Effects of Its Information Malnutrition, a Sales Team Must Let Its Marketing Department Know What Customer Data Is of Value and What Is Not

Magazine article CRM Magazine

No More Dying by Inches: To Help Reverse the Effects of Its Information Malnutrition, a Sales Team Must Let Its Marketing Department Know What Customer Data Is of Value and What Is Not

Article excerpt

SALES IS A BANQUET, to paraphrase Mame Dennis, and most poor suckers are starving to death. Marketing collects tons of information on leads, pats itself on the back, and throws that data over the wall to the sales team. Frequently the sales team cannot use it, and this state of affairs leads to animosity between two important realms of a business, lost opportunities for both departments, and a sense of detachment that ranges from the customer to the executive suite.

"The underlying problem is the lack of coordination that plagues the opportunity management process," says Robert Bois, research director at AMR Research. "People assumed CRM would fix this, but it hasn't; sales and marketing don't speak the same language. Sales ... isn't starving--it's suffering from malnutrition. There are plenty of fresh vegetables in the house, but they're still eating Cheetos."

A GANG THAT CAN SHOOT STRAIGHT

Why should this be the case, when both marketing and sales are working toward the same goal? Well, not so fast--the two groups aren't necessarily working toward the same goal, or at least they're not defining success in the same terms. "Marketing and sales, unfortunately, have different scorecards. It's at the crux of the problem," says Frank Vaculin, CEO of social networking solutions provider Spoke Software. "The marketing professional talks of responses and conversion percentage--they're proud of the mountain of data they're able to get for the company. Sales feels frustration with this, because it sees it as incomplete leads with useless information. Marketing is frustrated that 'good' leads are not being followed up."

A good first step toward a resolution is to set aside the idea that marketing and sales are two different organizations (although they are), and to consider them as parts of a process. "Studies around the relationship between sales and marketing show they're extremely symbiotic--one can't exist without the other," says Dave Scott, senior vice president of marketing and sales for Entellium. "Think of marketing as the aiming organization, and sales as the shooting organization. The argument between marketing and sales is one of generated leads versus accepted leads. The handoff is absolutely critical--how do you find the right customer?"

CRM has not failed at this, because qualifying leads isn't really what CRM is for--you have to have actual customers before you manage your relationships with them. "Currently, most companies have a complete global view of the transaction--what they're selling and who they're selling it to. That's the quantitative view that CRM has always been good for," says George Kanuck, senior vice president of sales for Perseus|WebSurveyor. "But they want to go from just quantitative to qualitative. Managers never know why they [the customers] bought, or why they didn't."

"Sales will always complain that they either get too few leads, or too many but of poor quality," says Colin Shearer, senior vice president of market strategy for SPSS. "A limiting factor is how much data is available to describe each lead. There's very little when you go carpet-bombing with a large campaign. Part of the qualification process is getting people to volunteer information.

"Many of our customers blur the distinction between sales and marketing," Shearer says, and that's not a bad start for a solution. Despite seeming like a recipe for chaos, that blurring helps to emphasize the end result, not the departmental differences.

WHAT'S A LEAD?

One basic misunderstanding is the nature of the lead itself. Over time, the words lead and prospect have been thrown around so much that their meanings have become unclear. Shearer defines a well-qualified lead as "one with a high probability of converting to a sale, either immediately or in the near term."

"Qualified prospects become leads," Vaculin says. "Some more advanced organizations know that sales and marketing must be on the same page, and share the same true measures of marketing success: closed deals in the shortest time frame. …

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