With marketing departments assuming greater responsibility for accelerating sales cycles and converting leads to revenue, the lines of responsibility between marketing, business development, and sales are blurring. As this trifecta of responsibilities are placed upon a marketer’s shoulder, what companies may wish to consider is that the best answer for converting their pipeline into revenue, may not lie with a “three-headed marketing monster,”—creating leads, accelerating the pipeline, and converting opportunities into revenue.
While companies may have marketing teams who are great at social engagement, digital marketing, and event management, those same skills may not result in equal proficiency in pipeline conversion. In many situations the required skills and customer engagement processes are vastly different than those utilized to get someone to respond initially.
These required skills and engagement processes are particularly different when marketing to larger accounts. This is because deal cycles are often influenced by factors outside a specific solution or single opportunity. For these types of scenarios there is generally a greater need to have a more thorough inspection of opportunities and accounts.
A critical success factor to convert more leads and opportunities into revenue is for companies to have clearly defined roles for sales stage responsibility, coupled with tightly orchestrated hand-offs, between those defined roles within the company. The marketing department must always create ongoing awareness and solution interest and deliver a constant flow of inquiries. They must further segment their audience responses into well-defined audience clusters to ensure future touches and digital nurture programs are relevant.
To ensure proper lead hand-off the marketing function must take on added responsibility for the completeness and thoroughness of their data. Prior to handing off opportunities the opportunities should be well qualified and include insightful audience profiles and intelligence.
After an initial inquiry is nurtured into an accepted sales opportunity companies should consider “freeing” its pipeline acceleration and revenue closure objectives from its core marketing function. Marketers are not always in the best position to identify how to accelerate these opportunities. In many cases they don’t have enough account details to understand the “bigger picture.” Having a comprehensive customer view is particularly important when engaging with accounts with complex decision cycles. In these types of business scenarios there are pieces of valuable account intelligence most marketers don’t have and if such information was available may lead to a very different course of action.
This is why I firmly contend that successfully accelerating and converting pipeline requires very close collaboration with sales and needs to leverage regional account intelligence where the opportunity and account exists. It requires a discipline that extends well beyond marketing personas and demands a greater focus toward understanding the specific roles and people supporting the buying process. To acquire this depth of knowledge it requires an investment in time most marketers don’t have because of all their other responsibilities.
While it would be great to have sales teams spend more time on developing these early stage pipeline opportunities it’s just not practical. Salespeople need to be managing more mature and well-qualified opportunities and strategic account engagement. A company’s solution experts should be supporting salespeople with knowledge support for their deal cycles as warranted.
Most importantly not every salesperson or solution expert is as equally proficient in creating new pipeline opportunities as they are in managing existing deal cycles. The core competencies required to develop a new pipeline or accelerate early-stage opportunities are much different than executing the required sales steps to deal closure, and more closely align with business development.
Due to this problem, the marketing function is now taking on greater responsibility for accelerating and converting the pipeline into revenue. When assigning this responsibility companies must assess whether the required skills sets or time are present to achieve that goal. Organizations also need to keep in mind, that even when the skill set is there, the majority of “three-headed marketers” don’t have the bandwidth to make an appreciable difference in pipeline conversion. For this reason, companies should strongly consider having a dedicated organizational focus to concentrate on this phase of the sales funnel.
By placing the right focus and skills sets, exclusively focused on pipeline conversion, companies can generate better results sooner and free themselves from the inherent limitations of the three-headed marketing monster.