At The Wheel of the Revenue Machine: But What if I Want to Follow Up on "D" Leads?

by Michelle McGinnis on Monday, June 21, 2010 in Sales & Marketing Alignment

In this series of blog posts I write about our mission to run the highest performing revenue engine in the SaaS industry.  This mission started with one simple question: Why are the demand generation results running 23 percentage points higher than revenue production? In the last post I wrote about our decision to take a risk – we connected the definition of MQL directly to our Lead Scoring application with no human in between; no brake on the elevator.  And that opened up a can of 'whup a**'.

Brian (CMO) and I were unprepared for the level of trauma that would occur in the sales force when we decided to eliminate subjectivity from the definition of a ‘lead’.  Stupid me, I should have known better.  I wish the word ‘lead’ would vanish from the dictionary.  Have you ever been in a meeting with sales and marketing and heard the word ‘lead’ uttered without an adjective in front of it?  It usually sounds like a Led Zeppelin song, “good leads, bad leads, we know we have our share, my pipeline’s empty with no leads in sight and no one seems to care”.  ‘Lead’ – using the word at a Quarterly Review is like talking politics or religion at a dinner party. ‘Lead’; it is the four letter word in sales and marketing.

We rolled out the new MQL at Sales Kickoff squished between role-playing exercises and lunch.  I thought we would take 15 minutes to cover this topic then skate on to higher ground.  It started well, we told the field we were going to base lead scoring on a combination of explicit information (title, company, industry, etc) and Digital Body Language (content consumed, search strings observed, web pages accessed, etc).  We showed them cool new widgets linking Eloqua to SFDC with blinky lights and snappy icons telling them who they should call on.  The mojo was rockin’ until I dropped the bomb, “We will only be populating your lead scoring dashboard with highly scored leads”.

Smackdown…Cage Fight.  An Italian Parliament meeting erupted to the point where people were saying, “but what if I want to follow up on D leads?”  Seriously, you want to waste your time on leads that we know, with data, will not buy?  Why?  Of course sales people don’t want to waste their time on poor leads, so why were we getting this resistance?

Marketing has to walk a mile in sales’ shoes.  A sales person is like one of those old time treasure hunting divers; white suit, heavy boots and gourd-like brass helmet with an oxygen line snaking up a hundred feet to the surface.  That oxygen line is the sales pipeline.  And while lots of people are interested in making sure the oxygen line is not twisted and good air is getting pumped in – only one person dies if the line is cut – the diver.  Our field team was saying, “I could die down here if you screw this up”.  Pipe saves lives.

Developing an objective definition of an MQL and automating the scoring of MQL’s are the right thing to do.  The best practice is a combination of explicit and implicit information and historical conversion rate information.  Makes sense in theory, getting past the emotions is tough.  To this day, we continue to tune our Lead Scoring application; I will keep you updated in this blog.

I thought it was all downhill after the MQL discussion – how hard could it be Setting Pipeline Targets?

Homer Simpson moment, “D’oh!


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