Thought Leadership Interview #10: “Bridging” the Gap Between Sales and Marketing with Trish Bertuzzi

Here’s another great interview … and I really like this one. The interview is with Trish Bertuzzi, who I met on Twitter via @damphoux. She is the co-founder, CEO and chief strategist of The Bridge Group Inc., which helps technology companies build highly successful inside sales teams. She has 20 years of B2B technology sales leadership and has worked with over 100 clients, so she has earned her chops.

One way you can verify her B2B sales and marketing credentials is to check out the surveys she creates at The Bridge Group. I just got through reading their “2009 Lead Generation Metrics & Compensation” report and have started downloading many others. Read this interview and then check out her strategic reports; they are extremely insightful.

As Funnelholic fans know, I’ll tell everyone who will listen the importance of building and maintaining a lead development/qualification process. This interview lived up to expectations with some really helpful information on what it takes to be successful with this process.

1. In your opinion, why should B2B organizations have a lead-qualification function?

First, to make sure we are on the same page, we need to define what we mean by “lead qualification.” Just like the phrase “inside sales,” lead qualification or lead development can mean different things to different organizations. Lately the role has expanded significantly and now encompasses the front end of the sales process from account research and account mapping through preliminary needs analysis and vision creation. The days of calling a prospect and asking the BANT questions are far behind us!

So, getting back to your question, B2B organizations should have this function because it does focus on the front end of the sales process. Your sales organization is fabulous at the back end of the sales process and, no matter what you do, that is where it will spend its time. Assigning resources to own the front end will ensure that you have someone who owns your pipeline and all the associated metrics that come along with that responsibility.

2. When is the appropriate time for an organization to begin to build their lead-qualification function?

Stole this right from our report …

The lead-generation model is typically implemented when:

  • The company has moved beyond the start-up phase. It is then able to invest in an organization that is focused on creating pipeline via both inbound inquiry conversion and outbound calling.
  • The company is established enough that marketing generates a consistent pipeline of inquiries to be qualified. It also has sales-distribution channels that are focused on opportunities further along in the sales process, which mandates that lead generation not only creates leads but also nurtures them till they are ready for sales intervention.
  • The company is selling to the innovator through early majority technology buyer. These buyers need to be educated and require more touches by both sales and marketing. Lead generation is a low cost, yet effective, way to accomplish this goal via a combination of phone conversations and various marketing interactions.

3. Said differently, is there an organization that wouldn’t need a lead-qualification function?

Yes and no. “Wouldn’t need” is a very strong answer. I might phrase it as “may not receive the full benefit of” a lead-generation function. There are several situations where this might be true and they are at opposite ends of the selling spectrum.

If you are selling enterprise solutions into enterprise accounts where your entree into the organization is at the “C” level suite only, you should consider outsourcing an appointment- or meeting-setting function. What you don’t want or need is someone creating a first impression with your prospect that does not have the skills to interact with them as a peer. You only have one chance to make a first impression, and you may want to retain that right for your sales executives. Typically this sales model has few “leads,” so staying current with them is not a problem.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is an organization that is using inside sales as its primary distribution model and is selling a commodity product or service. This model typically has a process in place that has them converting a large number of inbound leads or downloads/demos into sales opportunities. If you have integrated a process that separates the wheat from the chaff, you can bypass the lead-generation function and give them straight to your sales organization. In this instance, you do not want to put a filter between the lead and the sales rep. But, and let me make this clear, a critical success factor is that automated filter in place to ensure that your sales reps are only working on high probability leads.

4. What are the key components for creating a successful lead-qualification organization?

Stolen from this report

Clearly define the role and responsibilities. We are beginning to see the lead-qualification function become the “catch all” group for too many activities. We recommend that you:

  • Select the top two or three primary functions you want the LGR to focus on.- and –
  • Develop metrics for measuring success and compensation plans based on those functions.

What you don’t want to do is create a group that is jack-of-all-trades and master of none.

Getting a group up to speed requires a significant investment. It takes one full fiscal quarter to get a rep fully ramped!

Here are three things you can do:

  • Provide sales training, not product training. Prospects really don’t care what your product does; they just want it to address their business issues. Train your reps on how to translate your technology speak into business speak so that it will resonate with your buyers.
  • Provide a documented process supported by compelling sales tools. Do not let your reps figure it out on their own — they do not have the experience. Help them be successful by giving them a road map they can customize to accommodate their style. Among other things, these road maps should detail best practices and also provide them with voice mail and email templates that deliver a consistent and compelling message.
  • Provide coaching. Managers are stretched thin in today’s market and what has fallen by the wayside is good old-fashioned coaching.

5. In your experience, what are the reasons a lead-qualification organization fails?

  • Unrealistic expectations: LGRs deliver your value proposition to the market. If you have targeted the wrong prospects or your message doesn’t resonate, all the dialing in the world will not change the outcome.
  • The wrong strategy: There are many ways to implement a successful lead-generation strategy. Don’t just take what you did at your last company and implement it again. You have to customize your sales and marketing strategy based on your unique market and solution. There is not a one size fits all model.
  • Compensation out of alignment with goals: Compensation drives behavior. Clearly define your goals, build the process and tools to achieve them, coach and train the reps and then pay them for what they have control over.

6. When running a lead-qualification organization, what are some of the key metrics one should be paying attention to?

  • Hiring metrics: Attrition rate, time to ramp, tenure, etc.
  • Activity metrics: Calls, connects, emails, responses, number of touches to convert suspects to prospects, etc.
  • Results metrics: Leads converted to pipeline, leads that stay in pipeline, overall pipeline contribution, leads that turn into revenue, overall revenue contribution.

7. Per my earlier thought leadership interviews, what do you hope for in B2B sales and marketing for the new year?

Vanilla marketing and vanilla sales strategies won’t work anymore. You have to be in-tune with how your buyers uncover information about you and how you communicate effectively with them. The “human touch” in lead generation is so important but to be successful you have to integrate that touch with the three or four others that you need to make to turn a suspect into a prospect. Content is king — your inbound marketing strategy needs to be cutting edge and you need to do an intelligent job of combining delivery of content with touches by your lead-generation group.

Thanks for asking and thanks for listening!

Craig Rosenberg is the Funnelholic. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter