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The Solution to Sales and Marketing Alignment? Introducing the Blended Lead Score.

Posted by Rob Bois on October 16th, 2013 at 1:35 am

Much has been made of the poor alignment between Sales and Marketing departments. And in fact, the rift really does exist. According to Forrester Research, fewer than one in ten B2B organizations claim to have tight alignment between their sales and marketing functions. People are rarely surprised to hear about these challenges given the very different skill sets, metrics, and personalities between the two groups. But what if the problem is deeper than just misaligned priorities and actually ties back to the systems these teams use on a daily basis?

Selling to businesses

Sales people are all about converting qualified opportunities into customers. If you look at any modern CRM application, you’ll find that the workflow is largely built around the concept of an account. You create an opportunity that attaches to an account and you forecast revenue for it. The concept of a lead, or an actual human buyer, does exist but it’s not nearly the same focal point of the system. And I can’t remember the last time I saw a B2B sales forecast that named individuals, and not companies.

Marketing to people

Now, let’s look at the marketing side of the house. Marketing Automation systems have emerged to help marketers keep up with the fast pace of the new digital world. Because marketing campaigns have to address actual individuals, these systems evolved not around the account, but made contacts the central entity. So in the world of marketing, you see segments of contacts being fed into campaigns where individual responses and data are captured and tracked. Leads can be aligned to accounts, but the systems are largely designed to attract individual contacts and move them through the marketing funnel.

The dilemma

What happens when marketing develops a new lead and deems them worthy of follow-up by sales? Typically, the lead is passed to an inside sales group that follows up with the contact for further qualification. If they decide the person is indeed a likely buyer, they assign that lead to an opportunity and an account in the CRM system.

While this seems like a reasonable transition, there are some inherent problems that emerge once you dig a bit deeper. For one, marketing may have just flagged one lead in an organization because he or she opened the right number of emails or downloaded the right datasheet. But there could be a dozen other leads associated with that same account that simply haven’t been responding to their campaigns.

On the other side of the house, Sales now has a good new prospect, but all they know about the account is the information that came over on the lead from marketing – perhaps some basic industry or company size data. However, it’s not clear if the company, is a good opportunity at all – it could have just announced layoffs or budget cuts making it a poor candidate.

This division isn’t really a function of the two groups having different goals or opinions at all. It actually stems from the fact that Sales and Marketing are measuring leads in very different ways and at very different levels of an organization. Perhaps, if we could just get the two teams speaking the same language, there is hope.

Enter the blended lead score

What if Marketing was to start looking more closely at companies in addition to contacts? After all, there are many third-party data providers that offer more complete account-level data to augment the marketing database. But that still just gives you firmographic data, not behavioral data at the company level.

This is where the blended lead score comes in. Lead scoring is designed to track the behavior and profile data of contacts to read their “digital body language” and help identify when they might be ready to buy. Why not look at the digital body language of companies as well?

For instance, a business might get a new round of funding, announce a new CMO appointment, and double the new job listings on LinkedIn – all pretty good signals that a company might have a growing marketing budget. So if you’re selling products that appeal to fast growing CMOs that would be incredibly valuable information to uncover.

The blended lead score captures all buying signals at the account level and uses them to help inform the lead scores at the contact level, meaning that scores achieve a complete, 360 degree view, of the lead. That way, marketing is ensured that the leads with the highest scores are not on the right person, but the right company as well.

Most importantly, the blended score helps Marketing and Sales align – continuing to operate without any changes to metrics or workflow, but making smarter decisions based on a broader set of information. Sales can rest assured the leads they get are for companies with strong buying signals, and marketing can continue to build programs that address individuals that make or influence buying decisions.

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