How to End the Sales & Marketing Argument

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 11, 2015 @ 07:05 AM


Republicans and Democrats argue all the time.  Fans of long-time rival sports teams argue too, regardless of whether the rivalry is at the high school, college or pro level.  Players argue with umpires, referees and judges.  Kids argue with their parents and everyone argues with their cable company and wireless phone providers.  So why is it so hard to understand why marketing argues with sales?Marketing generates leads and Sales tells them how bad the leads are. Worse, they fail to generate leads and Sales tells them how useless they are.  Sales follows up on the leads, gets traction with only 5 out of 100, and Marketing tells them they suck at lead follow-up and selling.  There must be a better way...

Both departments share the blame.

Marketing must stop confusing requests for free anything as leads.  These requests are simply people that requested free stuff.  They could become a lead at some point, maybe even tomorrow, but they sure as hell aren't leads right now.

Sales must finally learn, once and for all, how to more effectively follow-up on today's web-generated leads.  It's not the same approach as call-ins, write-ins, or bingo cards.

One thing that can help solve the problem is to put qualifiers on the (not leads) contacts.  Then, when a competent person follows-up, the contact can be objectively, rather than subjectively qualified.  The problem with this is that we should not be qualifying the opportunity, only scoring the quality of a contact.

Contacts can be awarded points for:

  • being an appropriate person by title,
  • being the right size company,
  • being in a targeted vertical or geography,
  • participating in relevant or related activities,
  • having appropriate interest, and/or
  • being in an appropriate timeline for buying.

They should not be qualified for whether or not they have the money to spend, whether or not you can speak with a decision maker right now, or whether or not they are ready to buy.  It's too early to be asking those questions and when salespeople or appointment setters start asking those questions, even a good lead will turn bad.  

There's a good reason why those types of qualifying questions can't be asked until a compelling reason to buy has been identified.  Until that point, a prospect has no incentive to share the answers to those questions because it's a waste of their time and salespeople are disqualifying a disproportionate percentage of opportunities because they jump the gun on qualifying.  On the other hand, at least those who are doing the disqualification are making an effort to qualify - even if they are too early...

There will always be some friction between Sales and Marketing, but the two can get along, collaborate and work together if they can agree on 4-5 subjective qualifiers that can place proper expectations on what constitutes a lead, who should follow-up on leads, and what that follow-up should sound like.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, marketing, leads, lead follow up, sales follow up

Sales Tips for the Ages - 4 Things That Really Resonate

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jan 13, 2015 @ 06:01 AM


Copyright: 123RF Stock Photo

Friday, I made a stupid mistake and accidentally published a blog article around mid afternoon.  I had intended to schedule it for Monday morning, but clicked the publish button instead of the schedule button.  Subscribers and followers don't typically read business articles on the weekends and while this would not normally pose a problem, this wasn't a typical article and the response was not a typical response.  We have a cool VoiP Phone System at the office and my phone is configured to forward calls to my cell when I'm away from the office.  Starting about the time I left the office on Friday, my cell phone rang constantly right through to Saturday evening.  Here's why.

My Friday article resonated with so many readers that dozens of them started calling!  If you didn't read about the next big game changer for sales, read that article and feel free to do what my weekend readers did.  Yesterday, I returned every call except the one from Tom G in Atlanta who failed to leave his number.  I'll return your call too if you choose to dial.  That article resonated because it made so much sense to so many people and the tool I mentioned does not require a new skill set.  It's a no-brainer!

The last time an article got that much traction was my post about the Biggest Secret of Salespeople That Rock.  I received more calls and emails in support of my choice to tackle that topic than I could have imagined.  Why?  Because it resonated with so many people and I said what a lot of people had wanted to say, but were afraid to say in a business article.

Thousands of readers downloaded my mystery email template and I received many requests to use excerpts of the article when I wrote about Bringing Your Prospecting to the Next Level.  This article resonated because so many readers have prospects who have gone cold or disappeared and they were hoping that there was something out there that could lure them out of hiding.  It just so happened that I did!

The other article that really resonated was Leads Making Salespeople as Lazy as Golden Retrievers.  Most companies are experiencing exponential growth in the number of inbound leads, but were beginning to realize that most of these "leads" don't justify the time it takes for a salesperson to follow-up.  While 5 to 10% might be good quality leads, today, most "leads" are nothing more than contacts in need of nurturing.  As salespeople feel more pressure to do more with leads that are of questionable quality, this article was the voice of reason.  It resonated.

There are two more things that are important here.

#1 - There is a lot of noise out there.  There are so many best ways, practices, tips, and secrets that are simply masks to sell the blogger's product.  In the end, you need to filter which information you accept as truth, from that which must be labeled promotional or scare tactics.  If it resonates and inspires, comes from an authoritative source, and sounds like a practical solution to a problem you own, chances are it's advice you can trust.

#2 - Your message, to your prospects, must resonate with them.  How can you tell?  They will let you know!  And if they aren't letting you know, if they aren't telling you, if you aren't hearing very strong affirmations from your prospects, that you are right on, different in a good way, and the one they want to work with, then you are doing something wrong.  If that's the case, contact me and we will help you get it straightened out.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales tips, lead follow up, phone selling, phone prospecting, sales rock stars

Social Selling - I'm a Proponent, Not a Detractor - Look at The Stats

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Nov 15, 2013 @ 08:11 AM

The battle that I inadvertently started with this post moved here where it took on a life of its own.  As of this writing, there were 36 comments, some more pointed than others.  Gerhard Gschwandtner added this post to the ongoing discussion.  Earlier this week, I wrote this post to address most of the confusion that's out there.  Yesterday, this post appeared on the Sales Thought Leaders Blog to add fuel to the fire.

I think it's all quite funny that so many have so much difficulty letting go of their positions and take things so personally.

I'm actually a proponent of social selling, not a detractor.  I proactively and consistently use LinkedIn, ToutApp, Hubspot, YouTube, Wistia, Postwire, HootSuite, MeetMe, Eventbrite and more.  Both of my companies have Twitter accounts that tweet Blog posts, news and retweet many of the tweets from other sales thought leaders.  

Bob Thompson left several comments on the article at the CustomerThink site.  In his last comment, he asked what the stats would look like if we only reported on what the best salespeople did with social media.  I think that's a terrific idea, Bob, and while it's much more difficult to isolate those statistics, I did the research and report on it here.

One important thing to remember when making these comparisons is that the most successful reps don't make cold calls, so we need to compare their social media successes to the alternative which, for them, is referral/introduction selling.

I looked at 1,921 leads that were assigned to a group of top salespeople.

They closed 69% of the leads that were customer/client referrals/introductions.

On the other hand, they closed only 5% of the leads from social selling.  WOW!!

However, I looked more closely and found that we can identify something different altogether.

If we isolate the leads that were either call-ins or emails generated from Blog Posts or videos, the closing rate shot up to 29%.  It's not the 69% of referrals, but it sure beats the hell out of cold calls and the rest of the social selling leads.  How did the top salespeople fare on those?

They closed only 3% of the "leads" that were from White Paper downloads, Sample Requests, Webinar views, and the like.

In summary, top salespeople closed less than half as many quality social selling leads as they did with all referral/introduction leads.  That's not bad.  But the 3% suggests that the "leads" from other sources should never go to salespeople.  Those leads waste time and should remain with marketing.

One question this leaves me with is who would have been better at following up on the quality social selling leads?  The top salespeople (who never cold call and rarely get resistance) or the newer and/or less successful salespeople who regularly deal with such annoyances?

Are these findings more encouraging?

I believe they are.  They suggest that with the existance of two variables, social selling can be effective.  

We must be able to differentiate between quality and other leads.

We must have a method for getting only the best quality leads directly to the salespeople.

We must funnel those leads to the salespeople who are most capable of closing them.  That last statement is different from traditional lead distribution at most companies.  Aren't you sick and tired of giving leads to salespeople who don't follow up on a timely basis?  Who don't convert them?  Who don't close them?  I believe that leads should go only to the salespeople who prove they can be effective with them and follow up on a timely basis.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Inbound Marketing, Gerhard Gschwandtner, lead follow up, lead conversion, KPI, social selling, statistics

Has the Death of Selling Finally Arrived?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Sep 23, 2013 @ 11:09 AM

Selling - Not Dead YetWell you would think so...

People in inbound marketing would have you believe that if you create the right content, get people to raise their hands, complete a form, and request something, then inbound marketers, formerly known as inside salespeople, can take it from there.  If you are selling something in great demand (iPhone 5), really inexpensive (monthly subscription of $20 or less), significantly lower-priced than your competition (by 20% or more), or that people must have (wireless service), then you can easily replace salespeople with marketers.

However, there are 15 scenarios where you do need salespeople if you are selling something that:

  1. needs to be designed, built, or customized;  
  2. costs significantly more than your competition;
  3. is a new technology;
  4. is from a new company;
  5. is being sold into a brand new market;
  6. is expensive;
  7. isn't a line-item budgeted expense;
  8. has a story that must be told;
  9. has a long sales cycle;
  10. has a lot of competition;
  11. is complicated to understand;
  12. requires configuration;
  13. requires installation;
  14. people don't know they need; and/or
  15. is not the obvious choice in your space.

You must have salespeople.  Period.  Sure, you could benefit from inbound marketing to generate leads, but salespeople must do the follow-up, run the sales process and close the business. 

Problem #2 is that most salespeople have not recognized or accepted that inbound leads are different (requiring a different kind of follow-up), and as a result, they are not treating inbound leads appropriately.  They still have the old mindset where if they follow-up and don't reach a prospect, they attempt a few more failed calls before claiming that the lead is no good.  While that's a possible conclusion, it's more likely to be a faulty one. 

Inbound leads may need to be contacted up to 10 times before they respond.  They may not be prospects today, but that's OK.  They may be prospects next month, next quarter or next year.  Inbound leads need to be nurtured.  You need to get their attention on a regular basis through a newsletter, promotional email, blog or social media so that when they are ready, they will call you.  Then you need salespeople! 

So, just like they say in Monty Python, "I'm not dead yet."  And as long as your business, products or services continue to meet at least 1 of the 15 scenarios listed above, you will always need salespeople.  It's not dead yet.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales leadership, inside sales, lead follow up, inbound

Sales Incentives, Awards, Lead Follow-Up and Sales Effectiveness

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Dec 19, 2012 @ 13:12 PM

sales incentivesToday I had the following email exchange:

Subject: Question on Comp


I have a question on comp and need help.  We have "appointment setters" who have a quota of 16 appointments per quarter.  If they get above that #, they get a bonus of $250 per meeting.  This incentivizes them to book meetings which are probably not the best qualified.  Sales complains that the leads suck.  The appointment setters are upset, blaming the low closing percentage on the salespeople.  We have the sales process dialed in and are training on it now.  I'm stuck on comp.  Ideas?

Dave Kurlan wrote:

They should receive the incentive only if the opportunity makes it as far as 2nd base in the sales process.


Subject: Re: Question on Comp

Got it....that still puts all eyes on the salesperson's ability to execute.  No pressure there!  How do you manage the culture to prevent finger-pointing?

Dave Kurlan wrote:

Make finger-pointing unacceptable.  Punishable.  Some leads will suck – that's a condition.  Some salespeople will suck – that too is a condition.  It’s only a problem when the leads or the salespeople consistently suck, at which time, change is required.  Until such time, salespeople must be trained to become more effective while marketers must be trained to develop stronger leads.


My Editorial:

Salespeople must be trained to be more effective at lead follow-up and consultative selling, both of which are quite different and much more challenging than selling was just 5 years ago.  Many of those salespeople won't be able to make the transition from transactional selling to consultative selling.  That's one of more than 20 conditions which justify evaluating the sales force.

Marketers must be trained to develop stronger leads by developing better ad placement, improving their targeting with stronger calls-to-action and audience-specific landing pages resulting in more qualified leads.  One of the issues about which I've written in much more detail is the difference between a lead and a contact.  Many marketers believe that anyone who raises their hand, fills out a web form or accepts an appoinment is a lead, but that isn't necessarily the case.  Certainly some are, but it's the marketer's job to differentiate between contacts who simply want free information and leads who have legitimate interest in solving a problem, taking advantage of an opportunity or simply buying what you're selling.

In the case of appointment setters, as in the email above, training them to be more effective with the appointment-setting conversation will pay dividends too.  Not only will the appointments be more qualified, there will actually be more, better-qualified appointments!

Good News!

At yesterday's Top Sales Awards event, I was honored with three awards for 2012.

Objective Management Group (OMG) won Gold for Top Sales Assessment Tool for the 2nd consecutive year!

My Blog, Understanding the Sales Force, won Silver for Top Sales & Marketing Blog of 2012, the 2nd consecutive year of being recognized.

And the most humbling award of all (I wasn't even aware that I'd been nominated!) was my induction into the Sales & Marketing Hall of Fame.

There was no popular vote in these categories, so this year's recognition was much more meaningful than last year's when popular vote counted for 50% of the results.  I'd like to thank the judges for their votes and my industry colleagues and competitors for pushing me to be the best that I/we can be.

Last Word:

Tomorrow will be my final post of 2012 and my 1,000th article since I began writing on this blog in 2006.  In honor of my 1,000th article, I'll reveal the Top Sales Article from among 15 for which my readers have been voting. 

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, sales training, sales compensation, lead follow up, sales and marketing fight, sales effectiveness, sales assessments

What Makes a Lead a Good Lead?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Feb 22, 2012 @ 16:02 PM

A dozen leads came in today and among them were leads from DELL and Bose.  Both are large companies and might even make great clients but are they good leads?  That all depends on who you ask.

So I pretended to ask 6 salespeople that I've worked with over the past several years.  I pretended to say, "I have leads from DELL and Bose - are you interested in either of them?"  And here is how the imaginary conversation went from there:

Salesperson #1 - Yeah!  I'll take them both!
Me: Why?
SP1: They're awesome leads, man.  Think about it!

Salesperson #2 - Sure - if nobody else wants them.
Me: Huh?  Why don't you want them?
SP2:  They're leads man - all your leads suck!

Salesperson #3 - Send them over!
Me: Why?
SP3: If I have a lull next week, I'll send them emails.

Salesperson #4 - No thanks.
Me: Why?
SP4: I called on both companies last year and they weren't interested.  It's a waste of time.

Salesperson #5 - Interesting...
Me: What do you mean?
SP5: Well they must have a reason for contacting us now.  What did they request?
Me: They were interested in these things and those things.
SP5: OK - I'll take them - the timing might be perfect.

Salesperson #6 - Maybe.
Me: Why maybe?
SP6: Well, who by title made the requests?
Me: Sales Manager at Bose and a Coach at Dell.
SP6: Not the right people.
Me: So?
SP6: So I can start with them, learn about any issues and get introduced to who I need to speak with.
Me: Are you sure?
SP6: Give me the leads so I can call them right after I'm done wasting time talking with you about it!

Do any of these salespeople work for you?  Are you sure?

Does it drive you nuts when you need salespeople to follow up on leads and they don't have time, don't ask questions, don't strategize, but they have preconceived notions about outcomes?

If the leads were from C-Level Executives, but small companies rather than large, would your salespeople react differently?  Would you?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, lead follow up

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader,  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned awards for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog for eleven consecutive years and of the more than 2,000 articles Dave has published, many of the articles have also earned awards.

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