A short and simple question on Quora captures the essence of why it’s so hard to automate sales and marketing processes:
How can the relationship between leads, accounts, contacts and opportunities be simplified in a CRM/Sales application?
My initial answer is on Quora and is worth reading. Here in the blog, however, I’m going to expand on why sales and marketing processes and terminology matter.
Sales and Marketing is a Team Sport
This may seem obvious, but we all know there are mavericks in both marketing and sales. How many marketing campaigns were launched to prospects before sales was trained or even saw the materials? How many rainmakers (or floundering reps who think they are rainmakers) don’t log their calls in the CRM or keep their forecasts accurate? I’m not saying there shouldn’t be room for individuality, experiments or process refinements. What I am saying is that outcomes are more predictable and jobs go more smoothly if there is agreement and coordination between marketing and sales teams.
Just like in football, business teams need game plans, play books and trust in one another. Sales and marketing teams are no exception. But unlike football, business game plans, play books and even terminology are sufficiently different across companies to cause problems.
Common Terms Have Different Meanings
What is a “lead?: An “opportunity?” Ask people in different roles and you’ll likely get different answers. And to make matters worse, throw in the automation vendor’s proprietary terms and confusion multiplies. Here’s what I mean:
|Term||Generic Marketing||Generic Sales||Salesforce.com|
|Lead||Any contactable person||A person or database record with the following:
||Leads are prospects or potential opportunities stored in the “Lead” object.|
|Opportunity||Any person who has shown interest in buying our products.||A sales transaction that ready to be forecasted and shared with management.||Opportunities are the sales and pending deals that you want to track in the “Opportunities” object.|
Agreement is better than diversity when it comes to terminology. Even so, I’ve never worked with an organization that would have achieved success using any of the above definitions. The marketing definitions are often too broad. the sales definitions are too precise. And the software definition is focused on how many rows are in a particular table.
Yes the definitions I’ve shared are cliches, but they confirm the key point. Consistency across sales and marketing processes and terminology is crucial. It ensures that marketing draws the right people to your web site and passes the right people on to sales. It ensures that a marketing lead is worthy of sales follow-up. It ensures that a opportunity is qualified before receiving precious corporate resources. It allows management to examine and approve putting resources on opportunities that are outside the sweet spot. And most importantly, it enables accurate reporting on revenue and identification of impending problems.
Measurement Requires Precision … and Consistency
We rely on automation software to produce reports. For the reports to be useful, however, sales and marketing need to agree on definitions and follow processes based on those definitions. For example, a person who enters the lead database as part of an acquired list is valuable, but isn’t a “sales-ready lead” at the moment of import. Many companies forecast how many “sales-ready leads” are needed to fill the pipeline in a period. If there isn’t agreement on the definition of “sales-ready lead,” marketing, sales and executives will have trouble planning. Thinking of merchandising is important, building eye-catching displays that attract potential buyers, and using signage to provide pricing and other product information, all of this to increase the sales.
Complicated? You bet! But as I mentioned in my Quora response, it’s complicated because it’s valuable, important and core to your business success.
In this case you can’t eliminate the complexity, but you can make it approachable and understandable to all constituents. Here are some things you can do to help your team embrace the corporate process and terminology:
- Publish a glossary/cheat sheet of terms
- Create a process flow diagram
- Present, rather than distribute, reports until you have both buy-in and understanding of the sales and marketing processes and terminology
- Meet regularly with stakeholders and share the detail every time
Now it’s your turn. Reflect on the sales and marketing processes and terminology in your organization. Is it complicated? Is it broadly understood? Do you have any thoughts on how to improve acceptance? Please share below.