Best practices in efficient and effective B2B Sales requires the right marketing resources – target account profile, qualification matrix and lead scoring.
It’s been said that the first step to achieve a goal is to set one. While all organizations set revenue goals, it’s surprising how many can’t paint a visible, detailed picture of their desired customer. A Target Account Profile (TAP) is just that — a detailed portrait of the characteristics present in an individual with a high propensity to purchase and realize value from your solution.
A key challenge facing organizations is how to best allocate scarce marketing and sales resources. All too often an organization engages with a prospect simply because the prospect is willing to engage with them. The problem is that many of these organizations casually apply expensive, yet scarce, sales resources just because a prospect is willing to participate in a demo or listen to the sales pitch. Far too often these “leads” drop out of the sales pipeline because they go “radio silent.” Or the sales manager assigns the opportunity as dead because the close date out was extended too many times.
The goal for a Target Account profile is to identify prospects with a high propensity to purchase and to allocate the right marketing or sales resources at the right time.
Marketing Resources – When a Sales Resource Should be Allocated to a Lead
So when should a sales resource be allocated to a lead? A best practice is to sort through leads is to determine those which demonstrate a high probability to purchase and not to pass leads but to pass qualified sales opportunities. Typically, Marketing is responsible for the majority of the top portion of the funnel, and then Sales takes the handoff through close:
- Demand generation is tasked with generating most leads and developing them to the point of a marketing qualified lead
- Demand Management is then chartered with converting qualified leads to qualified sales opportunities
- Sales is then responsible for driving qualified sales opportunities to closed won deals.
There are three models that marketing and sales design, develop and implement to facilitate the appropriate allocation of resource to lead, marketing qualified lead, sales qualified lead and qualified sales opportunity: Target Account Profile, Qualification Matrix and Scoring Model.
Marketing Resources – Developing the Target Account Profile
The Target Account Profile is a detailed description (demographic, transactional, social behavior, digital behavior and interactive behavior) of a prospect that, if engaged with the sales team, will exhibit a high probability to purchase. In the best-run organizations, Marketing and Sales collaborate to create the TAP. The TAP then serves as a lens for demand generation and demand management which fuels the sales pipeline.
In general, while it’s easier to administer and manage a TAP that is shorter, shorter is not always better. The basic rule of thumb is to only seek information that yields actionable insights. Capturing information that is “nice to know” or that does not lend itself to a definitive response confuses the process and need not be part of the TAP. The fewer the criteria posed the better, but there is theoretically no limit to the number of criteria to include as long as they are categorized, ranked and prioritized by the Marketing and Sales teams. Also, all of the information does not have to be collected at once. Information should be collected over time and from various mediums: website behavior, transactional data, demographic information, social media, conference calls, face-to-face meetings, etc. Also, it’s best to ask closed ended questions as this facilitates automation and limits interpretation bias.
One technique that is effective in creating a TAP is to create a mind-map or a conceptual architecture that serves as a high-level view of the information buckets to collect. For instance, some organizations may include a segment or bucket for BANT, financial, demographics, technology or any other category that appears relevant. After brainstorming each category to develop specific questions, it is necessary to categorize, rank and prioritize each item within a segment and then to prioritize the segments.
The questions and responses are then incorporated within the marketing and sales automation systems, and are typically spread across stages in the marketing and sales funnel. Remember that all of the questions within the TAP are NOT asked on the first interaction with a prospect. While the questions in the TAP are asked over a period of time, it is imperative to collect, store, append, score and communicate the first time interaction and each subsequent update. In addition, it is crucial to have a feedback mechanism to add, modify or delete to the TAP, in order to keep the target account profile tight, accurate and effective.
Marketing Resources – Qualification Matrix
The Target Account Profile is a profile or blueprint of the ideal prospect. When mapping respondent information against the TAP criteria, results will typically fall in line with a bell shaped curve. Few respondents will ever meet each and every criterion, while the vast majority will align to two-thirds of the criteria—but the criteria for each may vary. Remember, the TAP is the absolute best-case scenario and should be used for setting organizational focus, list buys, persona and journey board and buyer behavior model development. By setting the bar high, the organization is setting itself up for success as most leads (if the Target Account Profile is used for targeting) will score well on the Qualification Matrix.
A Qualification Matrix (QM) comprises a subset of questions in the TAP and is part of a best in class demand management system. These are the core questions that the sales and marketing team feel are essential (when forced to pick based on closed/won deals) to rank and prioritize leads. However, these essential questions require at least one live conversation between a salesperson and a prospect to raise and answer the core questions. Note – lead scoring bridges the void if no live conversation ever takes place.
The Qualification Matrix includes the most essential criteria, and, from a sales lens, those combinations of essential criteria are used to determine whether or not a lead is a qualified opportunity. Sales and marketing must collaborate to jointly define the qualification matrix. This “formula” is then embedded in the marketing and sales automation system to route opportunities. By definition, if an opportunity is routed to a salesperson, it is worthy of their time as it meets the criteria that Sales and Marketing jointly set forth. The only exceptions are that if the information entered is inaccurate or if the information is determined to be not important. Irrelevant data needs to be flushed out of the Qualification Matrix with weekly or monthly operational reviews.
Ideally, there are very few essential questions or combinations to those questions that yield an “A” lead (using A for a sales ready lead, B for a marketing lead, C for starbursting and D for dead). Typically, there are 5 – 10 criteria that comprise an efficient and effective Qualification Matrix. Often only one criterion needs to be present to be an “A” lead. For example, if the prospect was a satisfied customer that moved onto another division or company it may be deemed by the sales and marketing team that this is an “A” lead, regardless of the other criteria.
It’s important to avoid the temptation to get the QM “perfect” on the first try as perfection is the enemy of “good enough.” It is more important to get something in place that is 80-90% than to continue to live with a broken system—there is a point of diminishing returns. Also, this is not a static, one-time effort; it is a dynamic process that needs continuous feedback to remain effective.
The Qualification Matrix is really where the rubber meets the road in demand management. The primary goal of a demand management function is to convert qualified leads from demand generation into qualified sales opportunities for sales. The QM is the bridge between Marketing and Sales, and the bridge needs to be sturdy to provide a consistent and reliable flow of fuel for the sales engine.
Marketing Resources – Lead Scoring
Lead scoring is a superset of the criteria contained in both the Target Account Profile and the Qualification Matrix. Yes, lead information actually includes more information, but a majority of the information collected is automated. Specifically, the scoring model will include inputs not limited to but including:
- Demographic information – information about industry, revenue, employees and contact information
- Transactional information – past purchases and abandonment
- Social behavior – likes, favorites, shares, profiles
- Digital behavior – page visits, content downloaded, registrations
- Interactive behavior – conversations on the phone and in-person
Conceptually, the outcome of lead scoring is an exercise in segmentation. The goal is to disperse a heterogeneous “bucket” of leads created from a demand creation plan into homogeneous “buckets” of leads. Lead scoring must be a quantitative, pragmatic, managed and repeatable process that objectively ranks each and every lead to facilitate the conversion of qualified leads to qualified sales opportunities. Because lead scoring is a living thing, it requires continuous attention to effectively manage leads from inbound and outbound marketing programs in order to provide the required results.
Lead scoring can occur at either the individual or account level–a composite of individuals based in the same company, division or physical location within a company. In both cases, demographic, transactional, social, digital and interactive data are captured and processed. Then, scores and points are either assigned or withdrawn, based upon predetermined business rules. The cumulative totals or points are then evaluated against thresholds, and the lead is routed based upon the mutually-agreed upon rules to Sales, Marketing or to a database of dead leads.
Lead scoring is a collaborative effort that involving at least three areas of the business: Sales, Marketing and Sales Operations. All of these functions should proactively collaborate to build an integrated and sustained demand generation and demand management plan. This plan will drive a sales pipeline of qualified opportunities designed to meet or exceed sales targets, each and every quarter.
Understandably, Sales is most concerned with leads that are sales-ready – i.e. those that are in the buying process. Marketing focuses on those leads that are in the sweet spot but are not ready, willing and able to purchase today, so they are nurtured until they are ready to buy. Or, they are starbursted. At the other end of the spectrum is a bucket of leads assumed to be dead. Research shows that up to 80% of leads that are determined to be dead will purchase within a 24 month time horizon, so it may be wise to starburst these leads. All of these concepts should are included in a holistic, integrated and sustained demand creation plan.
As previously mentioned, because lead scoring is really a segmentation exercise, it begs the question of how many segments is the right number. Best practice is to continue to segment until there is a differentiated follow-up process that is meaningful and relevant to the individual. To gain the full value from lead scoring, Sales and Marketing must be in sync prior to the implementation of lead scoring with a mutually-agreed upon lead follow-up plan. That demand management or follow-up process needs to be in effect as it is the bridge between Marketing and Sales. The output is a sales- ready lead or a qualified sales opportunity—depending on the organization’s marketing and sales funnel definitions.
Marketing Resources – Wrapping it Up
In summary, to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your go-to-market strategy, key marketing resources need to be in place:
- A Target Account Profile to focus Marketing and Sales on who
- A Qualification Matrix to gate leads to automate a sales reps lens
- A lead scoring model to provide a holistic view of the life of a lead at both the individual and account level
Organizations that provide these marketing resources to their go to market teams will be able to skim the cream off the top of the lead bucket as quickly and accurately as possible. This ensures the right sales and marketing resources are applied to maximize the number of qualified sales opportunities.
Salespeople have a finite amount of time, so if they optimize their time by focusing on the best leads, there should be a direct and positive impact on revenue. In addition, if the leads that should be nurtured are identified and segmented, and not missed, this should positively impact the ROI on marketing program spend. And, it’s important to segment those leads that should be starbursted. This engages new contacts in the same company to serve as second opinions on whether or not a valid opportunity exists within that organization. In short, intelligently apply marketing resources to apply the appropriate resource to the the each task and set them up for success by provide the right tools, processes and systems.