ties and help forecast sales. Marketing should know that X opportunities in one quarter will turn into Y sales in that quarter and succeeding ones. Top management can then smooth out peaks and troughs in sales efforts and reve- nue. The company can manipulate controllable opportuni- ties to balance uncontrollable factors, such as seasonality.

A REAL-WORLD CASE STUDY One best-practice firm sells a Web-based application that helps reps assemble just the right information in large, complex sales. “Our clients typically have five to seven steps in the sales process, and they need the best information at each step from presentations, white papers, and proposals,” explains the CEO. So his company is helping with one part of the new model – more professional sales. But the firm also implemented the other part by transforming the relationship between its own sales and marketing departments. Two years ago, the company faced a familiar problem. Reps wanted opportunities, not leads, and said marketing was not even providing enough of those. Marketing com- plained about the lack of follow-up and feedback from reps. For six weeks starting in December 2005, Rich and John audited the company’s sales process – interviewing 30 people in sales and marketing and talking to the company’s customers. Rich recommended that the company focus on defining opportunities, strengthening its database, improv- ing marketing messages, and upgrading technology. It took six months to implement the recommendations. Two weeks of discussion resulted in agreement on the definition of an opportunity. For a lead to be considered an opportunity, it must: • Be in the target market • Have executive sponsorship • Be linked to a performance problem the com- pany can solve

• Have the right budget and timing The company asked Web visitors five qualifying ques- tions. Marketing then nourished leads into opportunities. These – along with the history of the relationship – were passed to reps on Reps had to either accept or reject the opportunity in 48 hours, but, if they rejected it, they had to explain why. Marketing then re- nourished any rejected leads.

The company expanded its marketing database, both in quantity and quality of information. Its target market includ- ed 2,300 firms with more than $100 million in annual revenue in one of three industry verticals. To reach them all, they bought lists and built partnerships to do joint marketing. Next, the company beefed up technology. Though had been effective, it lacked the marketing information system the company wanted. They chose an- other piece of software for analytics and visibility into the marketing activities that prepare opportunities. Efficiency


gains were impressive – going from doing a couple of marketing campaigns per month to doing as many as they wanted each week.

The company continued to refine its marketing mes- sages, saying, “We need to understand who the buyers are and why they buy, as efficiently as possible, then zero in on business problems and help them. We could not do it without technology.” Fortunately, the company’s own software helps engage customers and assemble content tailored for each one. Finally, the company hired a senior person to be respon- sible specifically for sales effectiveness. What had been a managerial role devoted to administration, automation, and forecasting was elevated to a mandate to make sales- people more effective at their jobs.

Happy with the new model, starting with its control, the CEO said, “I can reach out for five minutes every two weeks and ask a rep what is up with a lead he has had for two days. That changes the mindset.” Technology has made the company much more efficient. One marketing person handles all the logistics of its more frequent mar- keting campaigns. And lead volume is up. The software lets the company see all contacts from the first time a lead enters the “waterfall.” “Before, we did not know much about a lead other than maybe the date it came,” says the CEO. The old system did not even measure conversions from leads to opportunities. Now the CEO tracks conversion rates, and they are rising. “The ultimate measure is revenue growth, and we have seen a good trend there as well.

“Start with the right people, get alignment between sales and marketing, and have a well-thought-out business process,” the CEO advises. “You also need to exploit tech- nology and have dedicated executives.” He believes the new model can work in any B2B market. 


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