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Improve Lead Routing Through Sales and Marketing Alignment

February 3, 2020 | Drew Smith | 1 Comment |

Lead routing continues to be a struggle for the majority of B2B organizations. In its State of Lead Management report, LeanData found,

“More than 57 percent of respondents expressed doubts that their lead workflow allows them to create an ideal customer experience. In other words, they’re finding it a challenge to make sure the right person at their company is responding to a customer with the best information.”

Although lead management encompasses many elements, we’ve seen the greatest (and saddest) disconnect happening during routing. Our experiences with our clients is confirmed by data from LeanData survey, where marketing and sales leaders report that 1 in 4 marketing generated leads is inaccurately assigned, resulting in poor or no follow-up.

Here’s how to identify areas of opportunity in your lead routing and improve your performance through sales and marketing alignment.

Map Out Your Current State

My colleague, Cassie Coke, wrote about this topic a few months here: https://www.leadmd.com/best-practices/blog/map-buyers-journey/. By mapping your current state, you can identify where gaps exist. Sometimes those gaps a knowledge-driven, meaning you simply don’t know what happens next. While other time, those gaps are inefficiencies in the process.

Customer-Driven Alignment

During our decade working with sales and marketing leaders, we’ve seen and heard incredible tension. Sometimes the distaste for each other is obvious, but often it’s passive aggressive or expressed after the other leaves the room. The one sure-fire way to calm tension is by remembering a moniker as old as business: The customer is always right.

When you think like your customer, things begin to quickly come into focus. Behold just how impactful that simple change can be, by repositioning the typical conversations around routing:

  • INSTEAD OF: When should we route leads to sales? ASK: When do our customers want to speak to sales? What actions are they taking that indicate they’re ready?
  • INSTEAD OF: Who will we route them to? ASK: Who has the information our customers want?
  • INSTEAD OF: How will we route leads? ASK: How can we ensure the customer gets the information they need in the most impactful, efficient and meaningful way?

The more aligned sales and marketing become, around the customer, the greater the trust between the two teams. Every report you create, every change you make and everything you do should be because it makes your customer’s buying process easier. We recently conducted in-depth research into sales and marketing alignment, in partnership with Drift, and the results were clear: The most aligned teams were most aligned around a shared, obsessive focus on their customers and their customer experience.

Meeting for Alignment

Alignment requires intention and attention. That starts with something fairly basic: a meeting.

During your kickoff lead routing alignment meeting, the most important thing you can do is communicate your vision. Again, alignment is intentional. Your objective during this first meeting is to secure commitment from everyone about what you’re trying to accomplish. Keep your customer at the center, supported by business objectives (hopefully that link to your company OKRs).

For the specifics of what you’ll want to define, this blog does a nice job outlining the items to cover: “How to Improve Marketing Qualified Lead Routing Results.”

Who Should Join?

We recommend including representation from marketing and sales leadership teams, as well as from marketing operations and sales operations, in these meetings. You should also consider long-time feet on the street. These folks often know historic information which can help you do two things:

  1. Avoid rolling out something “new” that’s failed in the past. There’s nothing worse than coming off like the person with a “new” idea, presuming it’s brilliant, only to be met by resistance from people who have already seen it fail.
  2. Identify the perfect solution. You’d be surprised how many smart people keep their ideas to themselves, but by simply asking for their input, you can uncover the best solutions.

Enlisting these folks will also have the added benefit of connecting your project to their social equity. Many times, long-tenured employees have created great respect from their peers and when they’re bought in, getting their peers to buy-in becomes much easier.

Reiterating Alignment

You’ll want to revisit lead routing at least twice per year. Here’s what to focus on:

  1. Sales and marketing must talk about how they’re defining routing and conversion, and their processes, at a minimum of twice per year. If this group isn’t talking every six months about these things, it’s very easy to get out of alignment.
  2. While meeting, review your reporting. You’ll want to keep track of metrics like conversion rates and lead velocity, among others. Your reporting might reveal that you need to make some process changes in order to improve. But first, ask if any proposed change is good for the business as a whole? If so, create a change management plan that is coordinated by – and approved by – both teams.
  3. Any changes to routing and conversion processes must be discussed with, and approved by, both sales and marketing teams. At the very least, make sure the other team doesn’t have some sort of major concerns with the changes. If sales is changing from a state-based assignment process to a zip code-based assignment process, that could lead to some concerns from the operations team as to how to manage that in CRM.

How to Maximize these Meetings

The time you spend working through these important routing and conversion conversations shouldn’t feel like another meeting that wastes your time. Here are a few ways to ensure they’re worth your while:

  • Have a well-defined agenda for the meetings mapped out in advance so everyone is on the same page and can stay on track.
  • Make sure that reporting is one of the primary topics in these meetings. Have a discussion around what your reporting is telling you, how it can inform changes and how those changes may impact the organization from the top down.
  • Nail down alignment around next steps and change management. What’s the timeline, and who owns what? This should be very clear.
  • If you have a CRO or someone else in a revenue-centric position, invite them in. Sales and marketing will undoubtedly butt heads at some point, so think of your CRO as Switzerland. They can bridge the gap between the two departments’ different KPIs and goals and help make unbiased decisions.
  • Encourage everyone to have a collaborative mindset, and be open to feedback and change. There should be a productive exchange of anecdotal evidence of what’s working well and what isn’t, in addition to the insights your data provides.
  • Finally, keep it positive. There should be roughly five pieces of positive feedback for every one piece of negative feedback.

How Do You Know if Your Lead Routing Is Working?

So you’ve had your meetings and implemented your changes. How do you know you’re aligned correctly, and that your lead routing is set up for success? Watch for these signs:

  • KPI improvements
  • Higher conversion rates
  • Shorter, faster sales cycles
  • Increased lead velocity
  • Better close-win rates
  • Larger average deal sizes
  • Improved ratings or reviews
  • A buying process with less friction
  • Happier buyers

You may not see all of this at once, or all of them ever, but true alignment is guaranteed to get you some boosts in at least some of these areas. Your routing and conversion are crucial to your buyer journey, and your internal revenue machine. But they mean nothing if your sales and marketing teams aren’t aligned. Get aligned first, and the rest will fall into place.

1 Comment

  1. Avatar Nick Stamoulis on February 6, 2020 at 10:32 am

    Lead routing is something that is important to the sales process. However, this process can’t be random. Some thought needs to go into it. Luckily there are some great strategies that will improve lead routing and allow for better communication between marketing and sales.

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