I'm still surprised to see Lead Gen and Marketing Programs completely disconnected from sales -- but I shouldn't be. Marketers are increasingly focused on metrics, but most often the spreadsheets stop with the marketing department, and never translate into sales.
The relatively recent discipline of Supply Chain Management tracks a product's journey from raw material to manufacturing to distribution to consumer. Why not apply the same principle to lead generation? Leads are only as good as the sales they generate. And with today's CRM systems, there's no reason not to track them all the way through. But to do so, marketers need to master both the process of tracking leads and creating an active dialogue with the sales team. In a March 2007 article for Marketing Profs, Lies, Damn Lies and Dashboards, Part 2: How Marketing Can Plug Into Changing Sales Models, I outlined the following steps to thwart Marketing-Sales disconnect.
How do you make sure your metrics are matched to the sales model?
- Be part of the sales planning process—even if your schedule is tight.
- Get advance notice—watch every step of the sales cycle.
- Stay in sync with the sales reps—sit in on customer calls.
- Know sales skills and motivations—decode the comp plan.
- Watch the revenue stream—start tracking average sale value and lifetime value of the customer.
Despite marketing's best efforts, there will always be CEOs who keep tabs on multi-year sales cycles by hitting "refresh" on their CRM dashboard every 30 seconds. In this situation, I've employed the "stock ticker" analogy: as long as leads are considered "leading indicators" and not the end game, long sales cycles can be managed like a long term investment. After all, lead-generation IS a diversified investment portfolio, with short, mid-term and long-term returns, not a recurring expense for staying in the game.