How a circular economy approach can transform results
I’ve worked at the intersection of sales and marketing in the B2B tech sector for over eleven years. In that time, I’ve seen many organizations struggle with the same challenge, again and again.
The end of the quarter approaches and it becomes clear the pipeline target isn’t going to be hit. Where this happens repeatedly it has corporate implications (budgets are reviewed, costs are cut, shareholder confidence dips) as well as personal ones (employees don’t get their bonuses, a blame game develops between different teams).
Anxiety levels creep up. The spotlight is turned on marketing who are instructed to dial up the flow of leads from steady stream to firehose. This, despite the fact that to convert a brand-new lead to a closed deal will entail navigating 6-10 decision makers through an average of 27 buying interactions, typically over many months. Converting a marketing qualified lead (MQL) to a sales qualified lead (SQL) is just the first stage in a long, complex process.
The impact of reactive decision-making
The outcome of a swing towards short-term lead generation? Marketing’s efforts are diverted from other important tasks – such as facilitating a better sales environment with brand-building activities, nurturing existing leads to conversion or growing share of wallet within existing customers – to, instead, creating brand new leads via bottom-of-the-funnel activities.
And for sales, the pressure is on to generate meetings with new, possibly poorly qualified leads, rather than deepening relationships and working to increase deal sizes on longer-term bets.
If you’re lucky, a handful of these leads may be from the right accounts who happen to be in market, and are researching vendors like you. But good marketing and sales strategy shouldn’t rely on luck.
Depend on strategy, not chance
The answer to a short-term pipeline gap isn’t to bring more cold leads into your marketing and sales machine. The solution is to do more, more quickly with the early stage leads you already have. Your focus should be on slashing the time it takes for a marketing qualified lead (MQL) to become a sales qualified lead (SQL); for someone who has downloaded your whitepaper, say, to turn into a prospect who says yes to a call with a sales rep.
The answer to your pipeline issue lies, most likely, within your organization. Every year in B2B firms, hundreds – sometimes thousands – of potentially profitable leads are wasted. Internal teams lack either the time, skills or resources to persist across the 6 different touchpoints which are, in my experience, needed to convert early-stage leads into prospects who will take a sales meeting.
In financial terms, these untapped leads represent hundreds of thousands of dollars pouring out of marketing demand engines.
Shift to a circular economy mindset
The solution I’ve seen work best borrows from the world of sustainability; moving from a reliance on raw materials to a circular economy where existing resources are recycled and their life extended. Rather than sink more time and money into mining new leads, revisit those generated over the past 12-18 months from sources like content syndication, organic traffic and paid media.
At The Marketing Practice we use a four-stage process to unearth potential nuggets of gold which are already within our clients’ domains:
1. Focus - We analyze existing MQLs to deduplicate, enrich and categorize them. The cleaned list is then prioritized for re-engagement by our specialized inside telephone sales representatives.
2. Follow up - Our callers make up to 5 additional attempts to reach the prospect.
3. Fields - Through calling, we complete ‘golden field’ information: 5-10 questions per account covering incumbent tech stacks, contract renewal dates and consumption patterns.
4. Finalize - Each lead is nurtured to a point where it can either be qualified out, tagged for long term nurture, or a sales meeting (SQL) is generated.
B2B organizations often don’t have the time or specialist skills in-house to wring all the value out of their untapped leads. Using a dedicated, targeted team of demand generation experts and inside sales representatives speeds up time to value and boosts effectiveness. According to McKinsey, “the trend toward inside sales in B2B fits companies’ aspirations to become more agile in pursuing shifting and granular growth opportunities.”
Directing resource towards the best, short-term opportunities will ease the pressure on sales teams; while insights from golden field data can improve long-term account prioritization and marketing strategy. Not to mention the increased ROI on your initial investment in MQL generation and time back for your internal teams for more strategic, value-add tasks.
To find out how this approach could ease your short-term pipeline headaches, with a guaranteed number of SQLs and ‘golden fields’ agreed up front, drop us a line here.