In my last post I suggested that Marketing should not give up control of the lead qualification process as it minimizes their ability to optimize lead generation efforts and investments. The common belief and tradition is that marketing should just generate more leads and sales will figure out who is ready to buy. This traditional approach worked great in days where the economy was growing and there were plenty of “ready to buy” prospects. In a shrinking or flat market, the “ready to buy” prospects are all but non-existent. Companies are freezing budgets, laying-off staff and settling into their “ride out the storm” operational mode. To simply focus on generating more leads in this market environment will do nothing but further the perception that sales has about how marketing sucks.
To change the game, marketing must realize that creating or collecting a “lead” is only half of their job. The other half is to nurture and advance that lead into a qualified sales ready opportunity. Today’s B2B marketer should be focusing on opportunity creation versus lead generation. Creating opportunity starts by first recognizing that when a prospect says they want to learn more they are not sales-ready. When a prospect who wants to learn more is engaged by a sales person who wants to sell more – it is a recipe for dissatisfaction for all parties involved. Instead, marketing should take on two new jobs that were previously the responsibility of sales; nurturing and qualifying leads. They should do this for the following reasons:
1. It will increase the quality of “sales-ready” opportunities that are passed to sales
2. It will reduce wasted sales cycles and raise the sales force’s collective productivity
3. It will improve marketing tactics by providing unfiltered feedback on lead quality
4. It will increase the velocity of developing a quality sales opportunity pipeline
5. Over the course of time, it will continually lower the cost per qualified opportunity
Of course most marketing organizations are not equipped to handle the entire process of lead generation, nurturing and qualification. To deliver this expanded scope of service to their sales counterparts, marketing must either expand their own internal capabilities or outsource some of these efforts to firms that specialize in lead nurturing and qualification. More about this in a future post.