In todays operations within Exact marketing is responsible for delivering Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs). I guess in many other organisations this is the case. I wrote many posts about our model and methodology and the things we as marketing professionals believe in. These leads are handed over to the sales organization and they will follow up and close the deal. Currently the definition of a SQL across the six countries we operate are all the same. The mix and distribution varies per country but the seven lead types we defined are all the same. The most valued SQL by sales is the trial. Companies can sign up for a free 30-day trial which shows the highest level of engagement, people trying our software. These trials are generated by either what we a call leadgen campaign or converted from a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) within our nurture flows. In some cases trials generated from MQLs are converting twice as high as SQLs generated by leadgen campaigns. Sounds logical but good to see this confirmed by the numbers. Being a MQL means that you have had several engagements with the value content that we served e.g. animations, videos, ebooks and infographics.
No more leads
For a sales receiving a trial in the pipeline feels quite comfortable. It is considered as a clear buying signal and knowing its a trial and knowing which supported onboarding activities are initiated by marketing and our customer success team sales has lots of angles to start the conversation. But times are changing. Generating SQLs becomes harder and more expensive. But most important buying behavior of prospects is changing. In todays marketplace prospects are better aware of their behavior and are less willing to share their details for whatever reason. In some cases trials generated from MQLs are converting twice as high as SQLs generated by leadgen campaigns.As soon as they have to leave their contact details most likely that the next day they will be called by a sales rep. Entering wrong data in order to avoid this call is one of the things we see happen more often unless you offer something really valuable. With todays technology at a certain moment the market expects from us marketers that we try to understand prospects in a smart way not being so obvious as we are today. The market of buyers becomes more mature and will not allow us or themselves to simply sign up for a trial. In other words, the competition is able to capture the prospects attention in a much more earlier stage which is a further developed alignment model between marketing and sales. No leads but prospect profiles with behavioral data.
Generating SQLs becomes harder and more expensive. But most important buying behavior of prospects is changing.
Sales game changer
A sales pipeline filled with prospect profiles and behavioral data will change the sales profession dramatically. Assuming that the marketing department is able to identify the data which is required to measure interest, she will send these profiles to the sales team. Sales is able to follow up but since there is tight integration between marketing- and salesforce automation we can closely monitor which sales reps are able to follow-up which types of profiles and behavior. The sales rep with the best communication skills, industry expertise and highest empathy is able to follow-up prospects in a very early stage. If a sales rep doesn’t feature this skill set it will be more dependent on old-fashioned trials which are further down the road of a buying journey with much lower volumes. With this development the sales profession will change dramatically and will become more demanding for having a broader skill set.
Within Exact we started testing with scored leads in 2014. This means that based on website visit behavior and some activities prospects were scored and forwarded as a SQL to the sales department. Here we already learned that not every sales is able to follow up these leads in a proper way. Also to determine on which variables you should score is a never ending story. More techniques are becoming available that helps you to determine audiences, look-a-like data that all helps you to identify these profiles with certain behavior that are the most relevant for us. We realized that data requirements for our CRM and marketing automation systems were not at par so in order to do proper scoring we need to do some ground work. I think that within 24-36 months we won’t deliver leads anymore but prospect profiles and related behaviorCurrently we are in the middle of it and in the course of the second half of 2015 we will start with new ways of scoring. I am pretty excited about it knowing the technology which is behind it and the content that is required to play the engagement game. Next big challenge will be training and supporting the sales organization to adopt and handle these types of leads. I expect that within 18 months we will only deliver scored leads where a trial could be part of behavior. I think that within 24-36 months we won’t deliver leads anymore but prospect profiles and related behavior, with a next gen sales organization with different sales reps serving prospects in various stages of the buying journey. Are you ready?