Building a High Performance B2B Marketing Engine, Part 3: You’ve Got Leads, Now What?

June 11, 2016

This post is part 3 of Dave Karel’s Building a High Performance B2B Marketing Engine series. The previous posts can be found here and here.

Next up in our “Building a High Performance B2B Marketing Engine” series, let’s take a look under the hood at an area that you must get right to control your destiny as a marketer leader: Your lead qualification process and how that process aligns the marketing and sales teams in your organization.

Your team has worked hard and spent big bucks to generate these leads. You have to ensure that you can unleash their value.

Many of us have built teams that are testing and fueling some marketing programs to generate lead flow for a growing sales team. And, we’ve put in place a marketing automation system to capture, attribute and score these leads. That’s a good start! But, this is usually how most fledgling demand gen efforts take flight, but quickly find themselves faced with turbulent headwinds. 

To really control your destiny and build out a revenue impacting B2B marketing engine, you need to control the last mile, the handoff to the sales team. You need to ensure that every quality lead makes its way to a quota carrying sales rep that will put rigor behind the final leg of opportunity qualification.

Once you’ve used your marketing automation system to methodically score your leads, and systematically trigger marketing qualified lead (MQL) routing (which should be table stakes for any marketing organization these days), the next critical piece is to have a dedicated sales development team that is focused on inbound lead qualification.

That inbound-focused sales development team’s mission is clear, simple and twofold:

1) That team is in place to ensure that every MQL gets its day in the sun and receives methodical follow-up to determine if it’s a potential opportunity that the sales team would accept into pipeline as a sales qualified opportunity (SQO). At the same time, a sales development rep’s (SDR) role is to make sure that MQLs that don’t fit the “SQO definition” (as previously agreed upon when aligning your marketing team with sales leadership) are not passed through and create a drag on outside sales team productivity.  

By the way, in the event that there is not yet sales-marketing alignment around what a good SQO looks like, your fledgling demand gen effort should brace for an emergency landing to get that done. Otherwise, marketing will be locked in a constant struggle defending the quality of leads passed to sales, and debating whether the sales team is owning up to its service level agreement (SLA) it’s expected to apply to every qualified opportunity it has accepted into pipeline.

2) The SDRs should provide continuous feedback to your demand generation team on lead quality to fine-tune programs, content, and lead scoring approach. Essentially, this approach forms a closed feedback loop to give you visibility into how well your programs are working, and allow the marketing team to adjust course on the fly to drive the metrics that matter.

As a marketing leader, it’s hard to aim high and sign up for being evaluated on bottom funnel metrics such as bookings or revenue contribution if you’re not in position to control that last mile and ensure that every deserving lead finds a home. The only way to really control your destiny is to have SDRs that are 100 percent  focused on catching and qualifying the MQLs that the marketing team throws their way.

This does beg the question, “Does the sales development team need to live in the marketing organization?” Folding the SDR team into marketing certainly has its benefits (better integration with the demand gen team and outbound campaigns, easier to close the feedback loop), but whether the team reports into the head of marketing or sales, as long as that SDR team 100 percent focused on MQL qualification, your demand gen effort will find wind at its back.

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