Two Things Every B2B Marketer Needs to Understand About Sales’ Behavior

Marketing ‌• September 3, 2013

sales behavior

In the past 20+ years, I’ve seen (and been part of) a lot of sales and marketing interactions. I’ve felt the tension, the anxiety, and the frustrations of both groups as they try to achieve the same goal of making their company successful. Whether it’s an enormous enterprise or a 50-person company with one marketer and three sales people, the question from marketing is always the same, “Why do salespeople behave the way they do?”

There’s been an interesting shift from the C-Suite in the last few years to put more pressure on Marketing – even having them sign up for a revenue number. With this added source of tension, I thought I’d weigh in with two key things every marketer should understand about Sales’ behavior:

#1: Sales’ job is to retire quota.  Period.
If a salesperson does not hit his quota numbers, he eventually gets fired.  We all know it, we’ve all seen it.  So don’t be surprised when everything Marketing asks of Sales is viewed through the lens of, “Does fulfilling this request help me make my quota?” This is why salespeople aren’t usually jumping up and down to help find case study interviewees, call everyone who dropped a business card at your event booth last month, or write a blog post (I was asked to write this one in May). Sure it might help me close a deal somewhere down the road, but if it’s not going to help close a deal today, can’t I get to it next week?

This seemingly simple response leads me to the number one complaint I hear from marketers: “Why won’t Sales consistently follow-up on the leads I generate?” Although Marketing’s logic that the leads sent will help Sales retire quota, it’s usually missing one big thing.  Which brings me to the second thing you need to know about Sales’ behavior.

#2: When providing “leads” to sales, you must provide CONTEXT.
Too many marketers still provide “qualified leads” to Sales without the appropriate context. Yes, marketers provides some form of BANT and profile information, but those are really just the table stakes to getting Sales to even look at your leads. Remember this axiom: quality over quantity every time. Just because you sent an email and some person at some company clicked on the content does not give a salesperson a whole lot to work with (in fact, this might not even really be an MQL for that matter.  But that’s a topic for another blog post).

If you really want Sales to invest time in following up on leads you generate, you need to make your leads look more like what a salesperson does when she develops her own leads. Truly qualified, sales-ready opportunities ideally need the three points of context below for Sales to see value from marketing leads.

Three questions every marketer needs to answer before sending any “qualified lead” to Sales:

  1. Is this account in the desired TAM (total addressable market)? Is this account the right size, in a vertical that Sales cares about, and is it a fit for our solution? You must know that the first thing good salespeople do when they receive a lead is research the account to determine if it is worth time and effort. If you can consistently do this for your sales team, they will be much more likely to take your leads seriously. (Hint: If your performance is currently based on lead quantity rather than quality, I suggest that you change your metrics to focus on Sales’ conversion of MQLs to pipeline opportunities rather than how many leads you send.)
  2. Can I provide more than just a contact? As you well know, groups, not individuals, make B2B purchasing decisions. How does the contact who responded or filled out a form fit into the typical buying committee?  Who are the other people a salesperson should care about and why aren’t they detailed on this lead (and on all qualified leads)?OK, I can just hear the whoops of laughter from marketing types whose initial thought is, “Do we have to do everything for Sales to get them to follow-up on the leads we pay to provide?”  The answer is yes, you need to provide this level of context for Sales to pay attention. Account-based pursuit is the name of the game and if you want Sales working your leads, you’d better get them all the information they need.
  3. What’s the right next step with this particular lead? The most common problem sales encounters after lead hand-off is the inability to get a hold of the prospect. Before your inside sales/tele-prospecting team hands off a lead, require them to ask the following questions (and if you do not have an inside sales/tele-prospecting team, quit reading and go back to throwing away your budget because you’ve already lost the battle. Sales will not follow-up on the “leads” you produce without solid phone qualification).Key questions inside sales/tele-prospecting needs to answer:
  • What is your direct phone number?
  • Can you please confirm that is your email address?
  • What’s the best way to reach you?
  • When is a good time to talk with our solutions expert?

These are simple questions and you’d be surprised that more often that not, the prospect will answer or even agree to that appointment.

Are there other profiling questions that need to be answered before a qualified lead is sent to Sales?  Absolutely.  Are there other key questions Marketing should ask itself before handing off leads to Sales? Obviously. However, I’m confident that providing the context outlined above will put you well on your way to getting Sales to follow up with more of the qualified leads you produce. Take it from a salesguy.

Sam McCue
Inbound Marketing guru, avid fisherman, and all-around backcountry enthusiast.

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