Lead Validation: A Step Towards Sales-Marketing Alignment With Aaron Wittersheim

September 7, 2016 Richard Bayston

Sales and marketing misalignment costs businesses thousands of dollars in missed sales and wasted time. The disconnect cuts deep, and it’s a cultural divide as much as anything: between sales rainmakers and data-collecting, graph-watching marketers, there’s plenty of room for misunderstanding and friction. It’s more than a simple departmental issue, anyway. It’s inherent to the structure of companies that are having to reorient their whole selling process in a way that’s revolutionizing - scratch that: has already revolutionized - sales and marketing both. But the next step is to find ways to make them work together seamlessly to reflect a seamless buyer journey.

Sales’ biggest complaint? Repeat after me: ‘The leads are weak.’ We don’t have to get Alec Baldwin in here - a lot of the time it’s true, and it comes from sales and marketing not being able to agree on what a lead is, exactly. Marketers look at it, say ‘ticks all the boxes,’ and pass it along. Sales make a phone call and say, ‘you call this a lead?’

Maybe there’s a way around this. A data-backed approach to assessing leads - lead validation - would help make sure that only real leads made it to sales’ lists, and help stop marketers fouling their own data by counting weak, go-nowhere ‘leads’ as the real thing and actually targeting them.

Straight North’s Aaron Wittersheim was good enough to shoot some emails back and forth with me and explain exactly what that is and how it can help get us closer to clarity - and closing.

1. What does Straight North mean by lead validation? Can you explain the process?

Lead validation is the process by which sales leads generated by Internet marketing campaigns are separated from other types of conversions. Lead validation is crucial for effective Internet marketing management; without it, companies can neither accurately evaluate the results of, nor efficiently improve, their SEO, PPC, display advertising, email, content marketing and social media campaigns.

2. Where do you see sales and marketing alignment heading over the next five years?

I think businesses will continue to integrate their sales and marketing initiatives and systems. The more tightly knit those departments are, the faster the business will grow and the more profitable it will become. The inputs that sales teams and sales systems can provide marketing are still greatly underused assets in the majority of small to medium-sized businesses. New technologies and marketing systems will develop that will help sales teams scale by saving them time and allowing them to spend their time managing highly interested prospects.

3. How do you suggest that salespeople present the idea of lead validation at cross-department meetings to encourage lead validation as a tactic?

The first thing I would recommend is that the Sales Director spends some time with the Marketing Director to better understand what Internet marketing campaigns they are running, what the performance looks like, how well the website converts visitors into leads and where the backend sales and marketing systems connect into the mix. We created the Lead Generation Ecosystem to help sales and marketing teams better understand where lead validation fits in. The end goal with lead validation is to provide accurate lead counts and lead details to backend systems to keep CRMs, email marketing platforms, marketing automation systems and conversion optimization testing free of erroneous data. These are the systems that track leads, sales activity, marketing channel/campaign ROI and ultimately either help or hurt the business. Lead validation is a requirement, as you need accurate data to make the correct marketing decisions to drive more leads, increase conversion and win more business.

4. Do you think marketing people see sales leads as the most important conversion metric? If they don’t, what do you think they do prioritize and why?

I think the majority of marketing people do not see leads as the most important conversion metric. They get caught up in hot trends like mobile and social instead of understanding what marketing channels really drive leads for their business. Many of them start tracking views, social shares, downloads and other soft conversion metrics instead of putting a focus on what actually drives interested prospects to the company’s sales team.

5. What can salespeople do to take advantage of the huge ‘first visit’ effect? Do you think there’s a place for a more active role for sales here? Could a process solution that transcends both the sales and marketing departments help?

The best way to take advantage of the first visit effect is for the business to upgrade their website. Companies with outdated websites will need a new website, while others may just need to make a series of improvements to content, design, layout and functionality. Sales teams need to help make the case for either a new website or improvements.

6. Do you see a potential for sales and marketing to collaborate on website design, since inbound web leads are clearly so sensitive to it?

When going through this process, marketing should involve the sales team to get inputs for content and then content should drive design. The sales pitch is the best place to start and then going into benefits for each product/service along with differentiators. Talking through the questions that prospects ask sales during would be another area for input. This is the type of content that helps visitors convert into sales leads. Before embarking in this process, marketing people should understand how to build a high performance lead generation website.

7. Conversion rate optimization is really a marketer’s issue - salespeople don’t think about it much. Do you see a ‘joining-up’ of CRO and sales lead gen happening in the future? How would you like to see it happen?

The issue with CRO is that marketing is probably basing those tests off faulty data. This is due to the lack of lead validation in the process and CRO tests counting all conversions that come in as real sales leads. Then, from those results, they are deciding which website changes to implement and what marketing channels/campaigns to spend more or less dollars in. The website and marketing elements are what drive either more leads or fewer leads and ultimately what makes a business money or costs it money. By sales management making sure their CRM data is accurate and connected into marketing automation and conversion optimization data, they can help marketing make decisions that make the right website changes and put the money on the highest performing marketing channels/campaigns. By doing this, they will receive more sales leads and higher quality sales leads.

8. How important do you think linking the marketing and sales portions of the funnel will be for the next decade of selling, especially online?

The importance of linking the marketing and sales portions of the funnel together will continue to grow as websites take over more business functions. Businesses are constantly looking for ways to scale their sales teams. The best way to do this is through a business website that continues to advance with new ways to educate prospects and get them to trust and be loyal to the business. All of this shortens the sales process and saves sales team’s communication and tracking time that allows for more time to be spent talking to prospects and closing deals.

There’s a full SlideShare about lead validation here.

Featured Image Source: Parallel road and railway, Welshpool by Jaggery CC BY-SA 2.0 Geograph

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