Monday, April 25, 2016

The Marketing Personalized Lead and the Sales Buyer's Journey

All B2B marketers know what an MQL is, but what's an MPL? It's the Marketing Personalized Lead and it reflects the needs of the individual sales resource to whom the lead will be distributed. This requires marketing to apply the same science to understanding the needs of the sales channel as it does to any external audience. Just as with external audiences there are many segments and needs within the sales force and they change over time. There are enterprise account reps, segment reps, product reps, regional/territory reps, vertical reps, strategic partner reps, channel reps, inside/telesales reps, and many more. Within each of these categories there is additional variation. Marketing typically does not micro-target leads to sales reps even though it requires less work than it takes to micro-segment an external audience. The same tools apply: social monitoring, community building, data collection, behavior tracking, even buyer's journey analysis.

Sales buyer's journey analysis could be the single most powerful way to align marketing and sales. Sales buyer's journey may sound like an oxymoron but the tactical application is a profound leap in the ability of marketing to deliver immediately useful output to sales. Marketing should think of sales as "buying" its leads. The buy is acceptance, follow up and entry into the pipeline. When sales ignores the leads they are not buying. The reasons they buy or not are very much the same as any other buyer. The lead (offer) does not fit their current agenda (sales attention.)  

IDC defines sales enablement as:
Getting the right information to the right sales person at the right time in the right format in order to move an opportunity forward.

The two important concepts here are "information" includes leads and "opportunity" = already open in the CRM. Also, most marketers don't know the right time to provide certain leads to certain reps. The sales buyer's journey requires an understanding of exactly what each individual sales person needs right now. Most marketers think every MQL is an opportunity in the making and that's a huge misunderstanding of how sales works. An opportunity is a case that the rep is already working on. In order to provide MPLs to sales, marketing needs to know a number of new things about every sales rep:

                Are they working on new or existing accounts?
                Which opportunities are they working on this quarter?
                Who are they meeting with/calling on in the next few weeks?
                Do they need leads connected to current contacts?
                Do they want accounts or contacts included or excluded in marketing campaigns?
                What outreach is sales doing on its own?
                Where are they in the sales process?
                What do they already know about the opportunity?

Going to Sales with the ability to personalize leads for each rep is a game changer. It delivers exactly what Sales is looking for in terms of leads from marketing. It requires that scoring, distribution, contribution, and metrics be tuned to specific Sales activity. Typical symptoms of misalignment such as too many leads, poor lead quality, high rejection rates, and bickering will disappear. But it is critical to adjust metrics that drive lead volume in marketing. Instead of number of leads, marketing should be measured on lead to opportunity ratio, new opportunity to account ratio, contribution to pipeline. To the extent marketing remains engaged through the sales cycle other metrics such as time to close and deal size should also be considered.

MPL fills in the blanks left by the MQL. It delivers leads on a silver platter by ensuring fit between what marketing is serving and what sales wants to eat. It should be a fundamental model for marketing and sales alignment, and will be essential to the success of any account based marketing program. 



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