In my job at HubSpot, I chat with marketers very often about what problems they’re facing. One of the most common issues I hear about is lead flow — a marketing department generates hundreds of leads per month, but many of them aren’t closing.

Nobody knows where to turn. Sales points fingers at marketing. Marketing points fingers at sales. They both shrug, unsure of how to proceed.

To get the partnership running effectively again, there are three things I recommend marketers start doing with their sales team.

1) Provide sales training on how inbound leads are different.

Many sales reps are trained to aggressively go after leads who will close ASAP — and ignore the ones who won’t. When I was in sales, I did the same thing. If a prospect wasn’t ready to send in a purchase order in the next week, I was onto the next lead. With limited time and an endless universe of opportunities, I had to prioritize.

This mentality needs to shift when your company is generating inbound leads. Just because someone became a lead by downloading an ebook doesn’t mean they are ready to buy something immediately. On the other hand, they may very well be a great fit for your company down the line.

So a qualifying conversation ought to be one with an educational, consultative tone — it’ll help position the company as a reliable resource. In this call, the sales rep should seek the true timeline for that contact becoming a sales-qualified lead. As Mark Roberge notes in the blog article entitled, “Help! My Sales Team Thinks Our Inbound Leads Suck“:

By the time they get passed on to your sales team, a typical inbound lead might have visited your website 15 times, read 11 blog articles, opened 3 emails from you, and downloaded 5 ebooks … so what do you think happens if a sales rep calls them up and leads with a stone-cold elevator pitch? It comes across as completely tone-deaf to the prospect, right? It might even erode most of the trust your marketing team has worked so hard to build up.”

Show your sales reps where they can get information about the prospect’s on-site historical activity so they can understand the person’s main areas of interest and pain points. Then, teach them how to use this information to facilitate a consultative conversation. 

If, after this conversation, an inbound lead is still not ready to move forward, pass them back to marketing and be sure to include any new context you have on the contact in your CRM. Whether in a form or a contact record, information is key to how marketing continues to nurture this lead to a more readied state.

2) Develop a feedback loop between marketing and sales.

How often have you seen leads go sales, receive follow-up, and then fall into a black hole? In my work with HubSpot customers, I see it all. the. time. This is a huge missed opportunity.

To prevent this lack of communication, set up a way for sales to pass leads back into the nurturing funnel based on what they learned in the initial qualifying conversation. They like pink? Put them into the all-pink text email nurturing campaign. They like chocolate sandwiches? Put them into the email nurturing campaigns with lots of chocolate sandwiches.

You’re probably wondering: How would I technically set this up? There are a few options depending on how large your lead flow is and technical you want to get:

Option 1: Manual

Set up a Google doc where your sales team can put in notes on why a lead isn’t ready to be with sales yet. Have marketing reference the document at regular intervals and re-enroll these contacts into appropriate lead nurturing workflows.

Option 2: Templates

It’s important for marketers to weigh the time and resources spent on creating and manually managing the feedback loop. An alternative would be to create some email template templates in your email tool, CRM system, or even Sidekick for Business. This lets the sales reps decide how they should follow up, when, and in what intervals. Since their specialty involves lead follow-up, they will likely know the best way to leverage the resources you have created.

Don’t forget to circle back from time to time and see how the templates are performing. In Sidekick for Business, you can reference your Template Reporting Dashboard to see how frequently each template is being used and how it’s performing in terms of opens and clicks. You’ll also want to check in regularly and make sure the leads are, in fact, being followed up on. 

Option 3: Automatic

Connect your CRM with your marketing automation platform. Using a custom field or button as a trigger, allow your sales team to re-enroll a contact back into nurturing. If your automation platform has a built-in integration with your CRM (like the HubSpot-Salesforce integration) you may even have this functionality built right into your CRM views.

You’ll want to make sure the communication stays current and open between marketing and sales so that sales isn’t unnecessarily enrolling prospects in workflows or choosing the wrong ones to enroll them in. You may consider creating a reference document that outlines what situations or stage in the sales process would be supported by that particular workflow. Better yet …

3) Set up regular meetings between marketing and sales.

Some marketers pass all leads directly to their sales team and others only pass over the ones that meet criteria they determine as “sales qualified.” For the latter group, if sales is passing back a lot of leads, this indicates the criteria for transitioning a lead needs to be tweaked. Look at examples of leads that were passed back and what about their criteria missed the mark. Set up a meeting to review these examples. Some additional good questions to be reviewing at these meetings include:

  • How do you feel about the number of leads being passed to sales?
  • Do these leads fit the criteria of potential prospects we can do business with? If not, what are we missing?
  • Do you find that the lead score is representative of a hot versus cold lead? If not, let’s look at an example where there’s a disparity and how we can adjust that gap.

It’s important to keep these meetings consistent and regular. These feedback sessions with sales and marketing should occur at least monthly and all commentary should be kept actionable. 

Lead nurturing is a topic that comes up often because it requires such carefully coordinated efforts between both teams. By implementing these steps, marketing and sales teams can see more bottom-line results from their efforts.

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