The Funnel Disconnect - How Capacity Planning Keeps Leads from Fizzling Out

Robert McLaws
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Perhaps you know this situation all too well. Your marketing or growth team constructs a killer lead generation plan. It’s carefully crafted to optimize profitability.

Marketing invests time and resources in amazing content, e-mail marketing campaigns, social media marketing, retargeting, gated white papers, and so on. They present an impressive KPI dashboard.

And then, crickets. Or, even worse...

“These leads suck.” “We don’t have the time or people to follow-up.” “I called the prospects and they had no idea who I was or what company I work for.” The sales forecast looks entirely different from the marketing KPIs.

Even in small organizations, a disconnect can exist between marketing and sales. Seasoned sales executives will tell you that when organizations are in a high growth mode and putting a lot of effort behind the marketing machine, they must prepare their sales teams by fostering a collaborative team effort.

Sounds pretty simple, right? In concept, it is. But because humans are involved, executing against that philosophy can take time, effort, and the right relationships and tools.

The keyword is collaborative.

Here’s a great analogy. You decide to surprise your long-distance girlfriend with a dozen roses. But you don’t bother to ask her what her plans are for the week. You ship the flowers to her apartment. She happens to be away for 10 days. She arrives home to find 12 dead and smelly blooms on her doorstep. The intention was great. But the execution was deadly (literally) because you forgot to ask a simple question.

Similarly, if you map out an awesome marketing strategy, but your sales team is down two reps due to vacations or resignations, your well-meaning marketing leads will sit turning brown on their doorstep.

If you had your girlfriend’s Google Calendar, that could have all been avoided. Similarly, if you have the right technology and communications  behind your marketing and sales planning, your efforts will result in a better outcome.

The Big Problem With Current Sales Forecasting Systems

That it’s really simple (and problematic). Most sales forecasting is still done in Excel. And Excel doesn’t allow for timing.

In Capacity Planning 101 we talked about the lead funnel spreadsheet and how most systems don’t really take into account the length of time you need to transform a lead into a conversation, a demo, and a sale.

Top-of-funnel leads will not turn into a sale the month your campaign is deployed. You need to map your sales all the way through the funnel and plan for when leads will actually convert to sales. You also need to plan for follow-up touches along the way.

The more complex your funnel and the bigger the decision by the buyer, the more time that process will take. Enterprise sales and ABM programs are complex. Rather than going into an Excel spreadsheet to adjust forecasts constantly, sales leaders should be focusing their time and efforts on hiring and training talent, improving sales conversation quality, understanding prospect feedback, and keeping the team motivated.

The 6 Key Steps for Planning, Engagement, and Timing of Funnel Management

Here are six keys to ensuring that when you’re building out your funnel you have commitment to and involvement by the sales leader in your organization and that they are rallying their sales team around funnel follow-up (and ultimately new customers and revenue).

  1. Don’t set your goals in a vacuum. For example, if your campaign depends on lead follow-up via phone or e-mail (as most campaigns do), NEVER set those goals without a conversation with the sales team (see #4).
  2. Master your customer journeys. Every member of your sales and marketing teams should have a deep understanding of how, when, and why customers purchase from you, and the different stages involved in that process for each customer segment. To avoid fumbling deals, this process needs to be treated like a relay race, with the right team members in the right places - ready to do their part and pass off the baton at the right times.
  3. Marketing people must explain to salespeople what they’re doing and why. Don’t even assume that your sales team understands your CRM system, marketing plan, and content strategy. Do something fun like hosting a lunch and learn (live or virtual) to explain the philosophy behind funnel-building and your specific content marketing plan to the sales team.

Diagrams and sites like this one are great when you’re explaining funnel-based marketing to people outside the marketing organization. Keep it simple but interactive.

Listen to feedback and engage your sales teams in the conversation. Over communicate. Share creative with your sales team BEFORE campaigns are deployed.

  1. Use the right tool to do capacity planning and make sure that your organization has enough resources - at the right time - to turn leads into warm prospects into purchases. These tools will also obliterate the “Excel problem” and enable you to accurately calculate and adjust deal flow.
  2. Create a continuous feedback loop. If you want to avoid finger-pointing and blame-placing, encourage honest and open dialogue about the quality of leads, the content of sales conversations, and the timing of marketing campaigns. Notes Looper, “Any market intelligence gathered along the way should be shared back with the marketing team to collectively improve campaign efficacy.”
  3. Fine-tune your plans, based on feedback and capacity. When you use a shared cloud-based tool like BurnRate, everyone in your organization can review and fine-tune your capacity plan together, working from a single intelligence and forecasting system.

When you employ these steps, your marketing and sales teams will, over time, become more aligned and collaborative in goal-setting and actually hit the targets you develop.

You’ll be sure that when you’re delivering new leads that the sales team has the right talent and training to follow-up and convert them into customers.

And, when you hit your goals, everybody wins. Blame-placing and tension decrease and you’re able to deliver what you promise to your investors and board members.

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