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Two Types of Sales Leads


There are two types of marketing opportunities that can be presented to sales. The first is an opportunity from an installed base customer or customer that is currently doing an equitable share of business with you. This could be a refresh, upsell, or cross-sell opportunity. The customer is well known and likely the opportunity may already be on the sales person’s pipeline or radar. Marketing may generate disclosure of an opportunity from this customer as a result of telemarketing, event attendance, or a response to an online activity or content. There is value in these marketing activities to keep customers aware of product updates, and to increase the share of their business expenditures. There may be a debate internally between sales and marketing, with regard to who should get the larger share of credit for the additional business attained from an installed base opportunity. Most sales departments within the technology industry do a pretty good job of staying on the pulse of their clients’ buying needs. So, the challenge is for marketing to get some credit for these types of deals. Named enterprise account managers are focused exclusively on their assigned accounts. Account managers usually do an effective job of retaining installed base customers, unless something dramatic affects the balance. Therefore, the bulk of the responsibility for growth with other types of customers lies with marketing.


The Promised Land of Whitespace Accounts


The other type of marketing opportunity is from a prospect or customer that is doing very little business with your organization or none at all. These accounts are called ‘white space’, ‘new logo’, or ‘green territory’. For simplicity, we will refer to them all as ‘white space’ accounts. Regardless of the name your organization gives them, they are the prospects who have yet to give your company your fair share of their business. In a maturing industry, as the technology industry is at this time, the white space customers are usually not doing business with you because they have aligned their needs to your competitors. Doing business with them is a steep uphill climb to convince them to migrate to your products or solutions. For sales, white space accounts represent a promised land of new business that will help them attain their quota.

Most sales organizations in the major enterprise technology space divide their business development time between installed base customers and new business prospects. The focus on white space can range from 15% to 30%. This means that most of the sales person’s time is invested in customer retention and expansion efforts that target installed base customers. Enterprise named accounts usually have dedicated, badged sales-coded individuals assigned to them. Named accounts are determined by the volume of business that warrants a high level of dedication.

All other non-major accounts that are doing less or no business at all, fall into an emerging accounts classification. Field sales reps must manage multiple mid-sized and smaller accounts at the same time.

The effort to gain access to white space accounts is substantial. This is why sales people choose to be razor-focused and work with a select few white space opportunities. Chosen white space prospects have a higher probability to positively impact their quotas. With ever-increasing pressure to attain quota on-time, sales will invest their time where the best numbers will be attained. This usually means devoting the bulk of their time on current buying customers and less on emerging white space prospects. Sales will usually strategically select marketing leads. The reality is that sales is looking for viable leads where the prospect is showing genuine interest and signs of aligning their needs to your solutions. It is a core business requirement that sales must attain their quota on-time and not be distracted by unqualified leads. Many industry experts convey that the funneling of unqualified or underqualified leads is a major obstacle for sales growth.

Whitespace accounts represent the promised land of new business.

You Can’t Rely on Bluebirds Bluebirds are ‘sales ready’ business opportunities that marketing tends to stumble across during their various activities including telemarketing, events, webinars, inbound marketing, etc. 


The Blame Game


Many marketers believe that the lack of return on their marketing dollars stems from sales not giving their marketing-developed leads and appointments enough attention. Marketing may feel that the negotiation and implementation of a stringent service level agreement (SLA) will ultimately help sales attain quotas and give marketing their desperately needed ROI. However, this can translate into a blame game, which often is counterproductive and can increase tensions between sales and marketing.

First, sales may be distracted from their focus on installed base customers who help them retire the larger portion of their quota. Second, it can also distract them from giving the right level of effort and attention to appropriate white space accounts needed to closed deals. Third, sales could end up spinning their wheels, leading to a reduced level of morale among sales reps. The final results will be counter to what both sales and marketing wants to achieve in the end. As a result, the ROI will not be attained.

Marketing must provide sales opportunities that are ‘sales ready’. What constitutes a ‘sales ready’ opportunity will vary. This is why many of the traditional call centers producing so called ‘sales ready’ leads for their technology clients fail to see their leads and appointments convert. This is a huge problem. A ‘sales ready’ lead or opportunity is one where the prospect has started to align their needs to your solution and is ready to purchase. The potential customer is giving serious indications that your solution is best-suited to address their needs. A small portion of marketing leads are these types of prospects. Many call them ‘Bluebirds’. Bluebirds are ‘sales ready’ business opportunities that marketing tends to stumble across during their various activities including telemarketing, events, webinars, inbound marketing, etc.

Sales will quickly identify the bluebirds within the lead pool and focus on them. Why? Because they will help them retire quota.

There is no easy way to get a prospect to begin aligning their needs to your solution and away from your competitor. Ask the top 15% of the sales force and you will see their success is based on their ability to build trust with their prospects by gaining insight into their prospective customer's needs. 


Solution Selling
101


Marketing activities such as events and online content vehicles including social media are powerful tools to help initiate and enhance relationships with both installed base customers and white space prospects. Unfortunately, only a small number of bluebird opportunities come out of these marketing activities that warrant sales’ attention.

The remaining leads must be nurtured and developed before they should be introduced to sales for engagement. Most leads must go through a business development process that helps turn a prospect’s interest into a serious consideration for your solutions and/or products. There is no easy way to get a prospect to align their needs to your solution and move away from your competitor.

Ask the top 15% of your sales force and you will see their success is based on building trust with their prospects and gaining insight into the prospect’s needs. Then, at the right time, sales will position a solution to the prospect’s needs using the prospect’s language. This is “Solution Selling 101”. In order to bring a white space account to the table with serious consideration, a complex relationship-building process involving many layers is required.

Some on the marketing team may have the opinion that sales people own the responsibility to develop leads into serious opportunities. Perhaps they do, and they are certainly doing so with a select group of targeted prospects they feel will help them attain quota-on-time. It is truly a function of time vs return. Sales people can’t afford to spin their wheels on every opportunity presented by marketing. In the end they will lose by not attaining quota on-time. Sales leadership will not allow this to happen. Most senior executives in enterprise technology firms will support the revenue producers in this debate. The best solution to help marketing align with sales is to deliver “sales ready” opportunities, which means the prospective customers have begun to align their needs to your solution. For all other leads, marketing should own the responsibility to nurture them and develop the relationship to a level that sales can engage on..

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