It's the first week of the quarter. You're on deadline to get new programs and sales tools in gear. Meanwhile, the sales team is having its kickoff—and changing the success criteria for your lead machine!

They're not deliberately changing the game on you. They're in "New Quarter's Resolutions" mode. If they made goal last quarter, their quotas are higher. If they didn't, they're in the hot seat. Either way, they're re-evaluating and retooling the sales model—and now your carefully planned lead-generation programs are out of alignment.

Case Study: From Starving to Farming

A company I consulted with staffed up its inside sales team after missing quarterly numbers. Marketing was consistently generating 50 new leads per sales rep, per month—an ample amount for the outbound sales team, which developed most of its business through prospecting.

But 50 leads/month was a starvation diet for the new inside reps, who did not have outbound calling skills. They required 200 leads per rep, per month, to make their sales goals. And there was no more room in the budget.

So how did we feed the hungry reps, while staying on goal and on budget? By putting the sales minds and marketing minds together.

We focused on sales productivity instead of sales staffing—each outbound rep was paired with an inbound rep to cover the same territory. The inbound reps qualified leads and were mentored to make outbound "warm" calls within existing accounts. Marketing programs were focused on up-selling and cross-selling new products and services.

Cultivating new opportunities within the installed base was more than enough to cover the revenue shortfall, and because we used the company's own house lists for the programs, we stayed within the existing Marketing Programs budget.

Aligning Marketing and Sales

How do you make sure your metrics are matched to the sales model?

  • Be part of the planning process—even if your schedule is tight. Don't miss the sales kickoff because you're too busy! Make sure marketing has a seat at the sales management table. When marketing programs are aligned with sales goals, by territory, by industry vertical, by target customer... everybody wins. Have a metrics review at the weekly sales meeting—and make it a working session, not a presentation.

  • Get advance notice—watch every step of the sales cycle. Most B2B sales cycles are at least 90 days. If you're just measuring lead generation and sales numbers, you won't know whether your programs are working until it's too late. Most CRM systems can be instrumented by sales stage, so use them to track which prospects have seen a demo, received a proposal, are in contract negotiation, and the revenue is forecast by opportunity.

  • Stay in sync with the sales reps—sit in on customer calls. Set aside an hour or two a week to sit in on introductory sales calls and demos. Find out what customers really respond to and how you can help shorten the sales cycle. Since many sales presentations are Web conferences, you won't even have to leave your desk. Consider adding remote sales reps to your IM buddy list to get their feedback when you launch a new program.

  • Know sales skills and motivations—decode the comp plan. Sales teams aren't monolithic. They have different skill sets and compensation plans. You need to know whether they're being motivated to bring in new business, sell into the base, push specific products, qualify leads, etc. Their skill sets determine the scope of your programs and budget—inbound reps depend on leads to make their numbers. Field reps may be too busy to follow up with the leads you generate.

  • Watch the revenue stream—start tracking average sale value and lifetime value of the customer. Regardless of what's on your price list, you might find that your top-of-the-line product is being deeply discounted. Conversely, your low-end product may benefit from recurring revenue or repeat business. Your finance team can tell you the average sale value by rep, by product type, by customer. Instrument your lead machine to predict how much revenue your programs generate over time.

Now you're not just on the leads team, you're part of the revenue team. So go ahead and have fun at the next sales kickoff!

Note: See part 1 of this series here.

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Su Doyle is a go-to-market strategist who has served as CMO and GM for high-tech and media companies. She writes on marketing and product strategy at Email her at