5,000 Marketing Technology Tools (and Sales Execs Still Need to Find Over Half of Their Own Leads)

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A 2017 MARTECH TODAY infographic lists the almost 5,000 companies that are part of the marketing technology landscape, up from just 150 in 2011.

Yet, according to CSO Insights, despite the new tools, the mobile devices, the potential of social, and so on, many salespeople are working harder than ever just to achieve the same old results or worse. Quota attainment averaged across all geographies, industries and company sizes has dropped from 63% of salespeople in 2012 to 53% in 2016 – and 2017 will likely be down again – for the fifth year in a row.

My $.02 is that technology has made it possible for marketing to get more poor-quality leads to sales faster than ever before.

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” That’s a quote from Bill Gates, and I agree. I’ve seen a lot of bad processes automated as well, Bill.

Let’s take lead scoring for example: the more senior the executive the less likely they are to give up their “digital body language.” So, lead scoring favors lower level decision-makers and smaller deal sizes – and for that reason I would term it a bad process, automated. More senior decision makers don’t want to be treated like the human equivalent of a pinball – getting your attention only after they have hit the right bumpers and scored enough points – which is why the process doesn’t work in the first place and why the automation magnifies this fact.

I don’t place all the blame on marketing. Each year lead quotas go up while budgets go down, and marketing has to do something – so they turn to technology. Because sales reps have become conditioned to expect poor quality leads from marketing they tend to not follow up on marketing’s leads – or they call once or twice and assuming the lead was bad because the prospect did not call back – putting marketing in the position to try the next new thing, which is most cases is one of the new technology solutions that recently hit the market.

Compounding technology-driven answers to the age old sales/marketing problems is the stubborn perception that leads should cost less than they do. The cost of a lead by itself is not a valid measurement of a lead’s value. Is it qualified, nurtured, ready for sales? That side of the equation has to be factored in, that is both marketing and sales goals have to be met. Read this blog for more on this topic.

A 2017 list of marketing statistics from HubSpot included the following:

  • Only 8% of salespeople said leads they received from marketing were very high quality.
  • 52% of marketers say they provide salespeople with their best quality leads, while salespeople rank marketing-sourced leads last.

How is this going to get fixed? Read “From Chaos to Kickass” and find out how companies with optimized sales and marketing achieve kickass results by doing three things well. Not 50 things. Three things: 1. Agree on your market, media and message; 2. Measure what matters; 3. Deliver fewer, but better, leads to sales. (You’ll notice that “automate bad processes” isn’t one of them.)

Marketing can’t afford to automate processes that don’t solve sales problems. Just as marketing can’t afford to waste expensive sales talent beating the bushes looking for new business when they could be focused on closing business.

Happy 2018!

3 COMMENTS

  1. Experience dictates that, when Sales and Marketing agree on, and actively use, a system like Salesforce, the leads are more qualified. This also serves to bring Sales and Marketing closer, not keep them apart. Technology should facilitate, not be a crutch or excuse.

  2. B2B sales entry points greatly influence the lengths of sales cycles and probabilties sales will be made. As Dan points out executives don’t have time (nor do websites have the content) to engage. Inbound visitors will be lower to mid level staff doing product evaluations. They view products as nouns and want to learn about them.

    By contrast executives view offerings as verbs and are curious about how they can be used to improve business results. Within CustomerCentric Selling® we believe buying cycles begin when buyers share business goals they’re willing to spend money to achieve.

    If sales and marketing could agree on a list of Key Players that would comprise a typical buying committee and then create a menu of business goals for each title there would be a better opportunity to target high levels and take them from latent to active need. Collaborating in this manner allows a clearer definition of what “leads” are: Key Players interested in discussing one of more business outcomes from their menu.

  3. Marketing turns to technology because the department’s core mission demands they reach many people, whereas Sales remains fundamentally one-to-one. So it doesn’t surprise me at all that Sales feels under-served when it comes to receiving ‘quality’ leads. From the Sales perspective, ‘lead quality’ can be highly subjective, and it stubbornly defies quantification. Many lead quality details are extracted through conversation and tacit knowledge. In many (not all) sales environments, identifying and capturing the most salient artifacts, and accurately interpreting their meaning remains a difficult task for algorithms. Today, what spits out of Marketing’s lead-qual machinery can be compared to a roughly milled chunk of hardwood that Sales needs to hone and make prettier.

    Data wonks deserve applause for chipping away (pun intended) at this challenge, but a sizable gap exists between what many companies claim in their product hype, and what their models deliver. And I haven’t even talked about adaptability. I’ll save that for a discussion over beers.

    But there’s an issue that you touched on that I’d like to address: how quota results are interpreted, and the concomitant tactics to improve the result. Although there are two numbers used for the calculation – actual revenue achievement by rep, and budgeted revenue (aka quota) – companies pursue solving problems with evidenced in the numerator like rabid hounds chasing prey. As for the denominator, budgeted revenue, nary a concern. “Quotas go up every year, team – you know that!” It’s as if quota is a sacrosanct value, never to be questioned. Hence, the route most sales managers go when looking at quota attainment is to remain within their comfort zone, which means reflexively asking the rep how he or she plans to improve.

    But for managers and reps alike, both numerator and denominator used to calculate percent of goal should be subjects for analysis. I can’t draw any conclusions from the CSO Insights percentages alone. The trendline could also be emblematic of a degradation in planning intelligence. Good quotas must be developed using rigorous estimates and sound assumptions. When pressed for answers about revenue planning, I am not sure many managers could respond adequately.

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