B2B sales & marketing optimisation: How to align market, media & message

12th Sep 2012

Dan McDade unlocks the secrets of the optimisation process in three steps. In this, part one, he examines agreeing on market, lead definition and message.

How well are your B2B organisation’s sales and marketing behaviours, practices and processes reliably and sustainably producing required outcomes? Are you mired in chaos, spending lots of time getting little done? Are you like most companies, achieving just average results and not knowing why? Or are you among the few that are kickin’ it?
No matter where you are now, there are specific steps you can take to emerge from a chaotic state, rise above average, and achieve a fully optimised state of prospect development.
It takes just three steps to get there, and this article - the first in a series of three - provides an overview of the optimisation process and discusses step one.
Optimised prospect development – getting to point C
Winston Churchill once said, “I never worry about action, but only inaction.” I’ll be blunt. The problem with most companies’ sales and marketing today is confusion about what action really is. Activity is not action. The vast majority of companies today are filled with people executing activities - with little action, hence little effect.
Optimised prospect development
Optimised companies outperform average companies by up to five times. These outperformers generate five times the revenue based on comparable starting places.
Below is a comparison of results for average companies as compared to optimised companies:
While the average company closes just 2.8 deals for every 1,000 inbound inquiries, optimized companies close 14 deals for every 1,000 inbound inquiries.
Based on these statistics, what company wouldn’t want to optimise? As a senior executive, you can easily do your own math to understand what achieving an optimised level of prospect development could mean to your bottom line. It’s worth noting that metrics for outbound prospecting are similar to those of inbound prospecting as well.
The three steps
Companies with optimised 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
Before we get into the details, let me address a possible objection by readers. The more senior you are in your organisation the more likely it is that you feel that these actions should be (whether or not they can be) handled by others in your organisation. The reality is that not only are they not being managed by others in your organisation, they are likely being mismanaged. It’s not that your people mean to screw up. It’s just that they are herded into a direction of ineffectiveness by the actions or inactions of others in your company. To make this a more valuable read and good use of your time, for each of the three actions I will provide a specific example of mismanagement and what you can do to fix it.
Step 1: Agree on market, lead definition, message
Walk out of your office and ask the first three marketers and the first three sales executives you encounter three questions:
1. How do you define our market?
2. What constitutes a good lead?
3. What is it that we sell?
I suspect that you will get 18 almost entirely different answers to these essential, strategic questions.
Here’s a story that drives home the point: Some years ago I worked with a client that had $100 million in venture capital and an experienced management team. Within three years the client, which had superior products, had blown the money and was absorbed in a fire sale by their largest competitor. So what happened? Marketing marketed point solutions to mid-sized companies while sales was only interested in enterprise deals at larger companies. The elephant-hunting sales team was put through an extensive boot camp (at the cost of $15,000 a head) and $250,000 was spent on a logo and tagline by marketing. The final curtain on this company was a $40,000 plus dinner for 12 (complete with 100 year-old brandy and expensive cigars) and today the vast majority of people in the business world have no idea this company ever existed. This is all because the company did not agree internally on its market, the definition of a lead or what they sold.
While this may seem like an extreme example, it is not so extreme that you should ignore it.
  • Generally speaking companies define their market too broadly, resulting in wasted time and effort applied to too many prospects. Are we marketing to IT decision makers in the Fortune 100? Or are we looking for IT security heads at enterprise-level healthcare organisations? Knowing the difference lets us engage the “real” leads in a meaningful and far more efficient manner.
  • By the same token, the definition of a lead is not shared by marketing and sales (or even within marketing or sales). If there is not agreement on what a good lead is, there will continue to be infighting between organisations, and waste. Is a good lead only one where a decision will be made in the next quarter? Or do we recognise the value of a longer-term lead and the opportunity we have for developing a relationship? Is a good lead only one where a c-level executive is involved? Or do we prioritise influencers in a larger-size deal? This kind of detailed definition, based on testing and analysis, is key to efficiency and effectiveness, staying on course…and achieving the benefits of prospect optimisation.
  • And finally, while most companies say they sell a solution, not a product or service, the message around what that offering is (made up of a product, price and delivery mechanism) is more likely than not described differently by every marketing and sales executive in the organization. Do we provide staffing, or are we an HR services firm? Are we a niche vendor, consultants, or service aggregator? All involved need to agree and have the ability to articulate who we are, what we do, and why we’re better and different consistently and concisely.
Political Consultant Roger J. Stone has a great expression: “No one ever built a statue to a committee.” YOU - the one ultimately in charge - need to gather input and then make a decision. You can’t expect a committee of marketing and sales executives to come to conclusions that will stick. Once you make decisions (about market, lead definition and messaging), stick with them.
It’s also your responsibility to enforce the decisions. As you inspect activity you will find non-compliance. End it. The next action provides some specifics having to do with what to inspect.
The next article in the series will look at the second step - measuring what matters - and the final installment discusses the third step - delivering your sales force fewer but better leads.
Dan McDade is president & CEO at PointClear. For more information on the topics discussed in thsi series, download the white paper, Point C: From Chaos to Kickass – 3 Steps to Sales and Marketing Optimization.

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