When sales people don't pursue good leads

I generally don’t write about leads. But ON24 asked me to deliver a talk on “Getting Sales to Love Your Leads” in a webcast yesterday, and I thought you might want to know about the archived version. The webinar is not about generating leads or managing their quality – ON24 had already hosted a number of speakers on that topic, and frankly, most marketers devote so much energy in that area that they miss the critical next step. The question I was asked to address -- what can we do when we have generated really good leads and the sales people won't follow up?

If you take a persona-based "think like the audience" approach, the problem is simple -- the reps who don't work our leads believe that there is an easier way to make quota. We need to find out why they think that way and change their perception.

So my first question -- is it true – is it actually easier for the rep to close other business? If we agree that marketing's job is to drive profitable revenue growth, the product marketing role is about a lot more than lead generation. We need to take responsibility for influencing both the buyer persona and the sales people. Within each of these audiences, we need to find a leverage point and eliminate whatever obstacles we can.

The webinar goes into some detail about how to analyze the problem and begin to resolve it. I focused on marketing’s role in assessing the sales process and overcoming the five obstacles that cause sales resistance. Here’s the short
version.

Answer this question. If I want the sales people to work these leads, what will they have to do differently? Will they need to (1) build a relationship with a new type of buying influencer, (2) learn how to communicate about new product details or technologies, (3) work on deals with a lower overall value, (4) manage a different level of product or market maturity, or (5) engage in a more or less complex sales process?

If I am asking our sales people to make changes in these areas, I am headed for trouble with lead follow-through. Why should the reps take that risk? If my job depended on my timely arrival at a distant destination, wouldn’t I want a well-traveled highway -- not a roughly hewn path with unknown obstacles?

If I am a marketer responsible for profitable revenue growth, I want to map out and facilitate the entire trip – the full sales process, not only the first steps in that process. I need to really, really know the buyers who will influence each step
(hint: build personas), and then give the reps the messages, tools and programs
they can use to win the favor of each of the buyers they will encounter along the way. The old product-focused stuff isn’t going to work here – I need to personally interact with people who represent the target buyers, gathering the insights that will make everything we do real. It is only then that I am in a position to gain the trust of the reps and convince them that the road is clear.

A different version of the same problem was posed by Patrick - one of the attendees on the webinar - he asked: how do we get the reps to develop “net new” customers when they only want to call on the installed base? My question in reply -- why do your reps believe that it is easier to make their number with current customers? Have you fully analyzed what you need to do to make it easy for the reps to sell to new customers? And just as critically, do you have a plan to change the sales people’s perceptions about how easy it will be if they follow your leads?

Although I devote most of my posts to the buyer persona, it is common that the most important part of a company's go-to-market process involves winning the minds and hearts of the sales channels. I hope its still apparent that you can't do that without first grokking the buyers.

Topics: Good Use of Personas, Product Marketing Redefined, Sales people

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