The Lean, Mean Sales Machine

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Lisa Cramer, LeadLife Solutions
Lisa Cramer, LeadLife Solutions

Marketing automation is both a technology and a process that drives more ROI from marketing and dramatically increases the quality of leads provided to sales. However, companies rarely understand an equally important function of marketing automation: It also reduces the cost of sales by propelling leads farther through the funnel so they're more apt to buy.

It's amazing to me that marketers' sole focus typically remains on marketing ROI. Granted, this is a huge benefit and need within most companies—I'm not denying that—but management needs to also understand the incredible impact that marketing automation can have on what is often their most expensive resource: sales.

The idea behind marketing automation systems and processes is that leads today are not what leads were years ago. According to the Corporate Executive Board, B2B buyers these days are going through up to 60 percent of the buy cycle without ever talking to a vendor or supplier. By extension, this changes the entire sales process. Leads are not ready to be engaged in conversations with salespeople until much later in the process. Instead, they're doing their research and evaluating options online using the plethora of content available at their fingertips.

Marketing automation engages leads early in this process and helps keep them engaged until they're finally ready to talk to the sales rep. Content marketing, coupled with marketing automation systems, deliver value to the lead through the top and middle of the funnel until they become a sales-ready lead.

Obviously, such systems have great impact on marketing departments, since marketing activities have traditionally been the source of large budget items and marketers are on the hook to show ROI for their expenditures. These days, marketers must have systems and processes in place to track every lead to every campaign, to nurture leads until they're worth sending to a sales resource, and then to follow the lead through the sales cycle (usually where they've lost all visibility in the past). To gain a true picture of their effectiveness, marketers must evaluate ROI on many levels; not just cost per lead or revenue per campaign, but also the impact of their campaigns on the value of the leads. In other words, how many quality leads were passed to sales.

What about the ultimate consumers of marketing automation? Who are they? Yes, of course it's the marketers for all the reasons I mentioned above, and it's also the C-suite as they're focused on the bottom line. But, the near-term consumer of marketing automation are the sales reps. Yes, they're the ones who will actually profit most from these systems and processes. Marketing automation can make sales resources significantly more effective in selling, thereby reducing the cost of sales per revenue generated.

If salespeople—who often spend up to 1.5 hours per day generating their own leads—instead spend that time actually selling to the sales-ready leads passed to them by marketing, shouldn't the amount of revenue generated per sales resource also increase? In other words, if marketing takes on more responsibility to nurture leads until they're sales ready, shouldn't sales be spending less time qualifying and nurturing the leads themselves and more time actually selling? Shouldn't this not only increase revenue, but also reduce the cost spent by sales through the sales cycle?

It is believed that for every 100 raw leads, only four to seven are actually ready to buy (source: MECLABS). So, how does sales know which are the four to seven that are ready to buy? What happens if they make outbound calls to all 100 leads? That's precisely what happens in most companies today, and what a waste of time and money. That means that 93 to 96 percent of the leads that come in the door are not ready to talk to a salesperson. And making an outbound sales call to an inquiry that is just researching is not only a huge waste of time, it's also a big turn off for the inquirer.

Marketing automation systems help marketers in so many ways, including driving more ROI from their lead generation dollars. They also help companies to dramatically increase revenue while decreasing the cost of sales resources. Companies should not forget to take these factors into account when considering the value of marketing automation investments.

Lisa Cramer is cofounder and president of LeadLife Solutions.

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