In a short interview this week, I was asked about major challenges and sales initiatives for sales operations. You can read the interview with Glider’s Elaina Ransford here.
The biggest challenge (and opportunity) has not changed much in 5 years. We’re still adjusting to the massive shift in how we interact with customers in an online world where the prospect has access to far more information before they ever encounter a sales person. The lead follow-up call used to be the way we delivered the information and now it occurs after the content has already been exchanged for contact details.
We’ve made great progress, but are still learning to efficiently harness the awesome power of a well designed website combined with high quality content marketing. Without a very specific definition of sales lead, the top of the funnel gets flooded with raw inquiries. Sales reps experience tension between reacting to leads and proactively engaging high value prospects. Their sales manager is pushing them to focus on target accounts while headquarters is pulling for lead conversion.
When marketing teams are measured based on quantity of leads as an end-goal, it creates tremendous friction with field sales. If unchecked, this leads to the field viewing demand generation efforts with apathy or outright rebellion.
When I am on the receiving end of a phone call from an inside sales person, it’s a unique opportunity to listen to how we sound to customers. Much of the time it’s a young person with the courage to make the call, but has not been properly trained. The goodwill generated by our free content is quickly squandered. Inadequate sales skills are often an unintended consequence of moving inside sales under marketing. Consider that these are the people you chose to create the prospect’s first impression of your company; there is no excuse for not preparing them properly. Make ongoing training for inside sales a joint mission between sales and marketing.
Fortunately, some lead qualification calls are outstanding. A good follow-up call feels natural and unforced when inside sales reps have realistic call objectives and take the approach that they don’t know if you are a prospect or not. They use the opportunity to learn why you engaged in the first place and to find out more about you. With this knowledge they can recommend a set of appropriate next steps. I call this being a curator of the company’s valuable resources – field sales rep time included.