By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing
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This week’s show is called “The (Surprising) State of B2B Lead Engagement“. My guest is Doug Bell, CMO at LeanData.
Join in on our conversation to learn about the importance of a lead management system for B2B companies while learning more about:
- Understanding what the “messy middle” gap is for B2B companies that is constantly overlooked
- Changing the dynamic of prospecting and lead management strategies
- Investing in your tech stack and Ops tools
- The ability to capture a lead and create a new compelling experience
Listen in now, watch the video, and/or read the transcript below.
Matt: All right. Welcome, everyone, to another exciting episode of the Sales Pipeline Radio. My name is Matt Heinz. I’m your host and I want to thank everyone for joining us today. If you’re watching live on LinkedIn, thank you so much for making us part of your workday. Really happy to have you here. If you’re listening or watching on demand, either on LinkedIn or through our podcast feed, thank you very much for watching, for subscribing, for downloading.
You can catch every episode of Sales Pipeline Radio past, present, future, always available on Demand at salespipelineradio.com. I think we’re somewhere north of 300 episodes now. Been doing this for a little while and having a lot of fun with it as well. We’re always featuring some of the best oand brightest minds in sales and marketing today. Very excited to have the CMO of LeanData, Doug Bell joining us today on Sales Pipeline Radio. Doug, thanks for being here.
Doug: I am so happy to be here, Matt. Thanks for having me.
Matt: We recently worked together. Our teams worked together on the latest iteration of this state of lead management research and it was something that your team did in 2017. Here we are four to five years later and, without giving away the headline here, you would think that things would’ve progressed a little better in five years, related to lead management and what people are doing with those leads once they generate them but unfortunately, based on what we saw, it didn’t seem like it’s gotten a lot better.
Doug: There’s good and bad news in that, right Matt? The good news is there’s lots of headroom for people to improve, right? I think one of the stats that jumped out to me from the state lead management, by the way, the report, thanks to the support of Heinz Marketing and Sales Hacker had 1700 responses. So we’re really robust data set, right? So everything about read to say is true just based on that data set, right? The size the data set. But one of the things that stood out to me was about half those companies were struggling with growth, probably not a shock. The other thing that did stand out to me though, is what you just referred to less than 10% of companies actually have a lead management system in place most are using Salesforce or some form of apex coding or Marketo or some other system to manage their lead flow.
Matt: I’ve started to refer to this as the messy middle, because a lot of companies invest a lot of time and effort in demand generation, getting the demand created in the first place. And many companies increasingly have a more robust sales enablement program that sort of helps the sales team mostly focused on once an opportunity’s been created really the active sales process tools, content, processes. You’ve got this messy middle that once a lead is generated, like where does it go? Who does it go to? What follow up happens? Is it the right person? And the bigger deals, the deals are you working, the more you have to focus on doing that the right way.
Buying committee members, multiple people inside an organization, it’s great news if multiple people in a company are showing interest in your product or downloading your stuff. It’s bad news, if you now take those and send them to Round Robin them to multiple different sales reps or send it to someone that doesn’t have the relationship with the account. And that’s one of many examples of this messy middle that seems like a lot of companies still don’t have a very firm grasp on.
Doug: I agree. I think there’s the messy middle. I also think that maybe we’re stepping outside of the report a little bit here but I would also speculate and say, there’s a focus issue, which quite often is the end, the beginning, the Omicron, the Zedd is the lead.
If that’s the case, then why is it that we’re treating it so poorly? That’s the messy middle. If the lead is so important, why is it mistreated? And so other stats I’d pull out and mention were that most people felt like their response times were good above average, if you will. And that’s great. But then 60%, the number was 60%, 57% Matt said, but it’s going to the wrong person.
If this messy middle and this lead is so important and we think our response times are great, but it’s going to the wrong person. That’s clearly messy, middle. What is that? Why are we allowing that to happen?
Matt: There’s been so much focus on lead follow up rates. Honestly, I think the follow up time is overrated. If I’m asking for a demo or asking for someone to follow up with me, like by all means you follow up with them right away. If someone has exhibited some intense signals or attended a webinar or downloaded a white paper. I mean, from a prospect standpoint, like my transaction’s over, I gave you my contact information or I download whatever and I got what I wanted within one minute or five minutes or 10 minutes, I think is a lot less important than who does that follow up. And what’s the message in that follow. In an industry where I think sales teams pride themselves on like getting back to someone right away. If that person doesn’t have the relationship with a context of what’s happened with that company, with that account in the past, it may not just all be all for nothing, it might be counterproductive.
Doug: Let’s take that right, Matt: let’s take that paradigm. The paradigm is that, they who follow up on the lead, the fastest wins.
What if it’s not about speed delayed? What if it’s about they who create the most compelling experience in that interaction wins?
Doug: How does that change your perspective as a marketing leader, as a DG leader, as a sales leader on that interaction? I think it is. I agree. It’s important. It’s important that the prospect feels like they’re having the appropriate level of content based on the activity. And you’re right. If somebody’s like raising their hand going, “I want to demo.” Get on it right away. What’s the experience? Make sure they get scheduled for the demo and then make sure the demo’s awesome.
But what if somebody downloads as an example, Matt, they go and they download the state of lead management report. What does that say? Well, that says that person feels like they can learn from others or they feel like they potentially have a problem.
When somebody downloads the report, what should our reaction to be? It should be one where you say, “Hey, how can we help as opposed to, would you like to buy?” And that’s like a minor kind of snippet or look into what a compelling experience might buy, just changing that dynamic slightly.
Matt: It’s interesting. We sort of kind of focusing on this, the word experience, because when we intentionally called this like state of lead management, it’s what you called it five years ago. Most people think about like, “What’s my lead management strategy.” And people when they think about lead management, they think about things like routing. Like who’s going to get this lead. They think out the process of what happens when you get that? What’s your follow up process? How is that tracked? But if we just change that one word from management to experience and what is the prospect’s experience as part of this? If you’re exploring a large potential purchase, that is a months if not quarter long sales process, how fast you follow up on a Tuesday is less important than the experience you create with that prospect and with that account.
Its not only investing then in that experience, not only, who are they going to go to? What message are they going to have? What pieces of the puzzle is your sales team going to put together for the prospect? I mean, it could be that someone downloaded that report because they know they have a problem, they know need to fix things. You could say, “Hey, you know, I just looked in our system. There’s a couple other people that I talked to a month ago that also did, you know, they’re also exploring this problem.” I mean, part of our job as sellers in these complex deals is to build consensus with the internal buying committee. And if you can connect those people together, if you can connect the dots with them, for them, that can be a real accelerator of reaching consensus and a commitment to change internally.
Doug: I agree, Matt. I think we just created a new metric, right. A new leading indicator, which is how do we measure the experience of the person, the other end of that lead, if you will. And if we’re saying that our experiences are getting better and better, I have a feeling conversions are going to go up and I have a feeling that person’s going to come back. Maybe that’s not the moment they really need your help.
They’re going to come back if they feel like, “Yeah, that’s a good experience.” The organization I feel like that does this really well is Gong.io. As an example, I feel like having shopped for their software a couple times, I feel like they get that right? They get the, this is about creating an impression with that first contact. It’s like the Hilton way back when, a thousand points of not light, what was it? A thousand points of perfection, like every little detail thought through.
Matt: God help us. If we create another acronym out of this, the experience called lead, not our goal here, but I think this fascinating topic we’re talking today on Sales Pipeline Radio with Doug Bell, he’s the CMO, Chief Marketing Officer at LeanData. We had a CMO retreat in Austin in December and at one point we went around the room. There’s only about 125. So it went pretty quick. But we went around to say what’s your technology secret weapon? And the most mentioned, I’m not just saying this to sort of blow smoke. The most mentioned tool was lean data saying like this, I cannot, I will not operate without this tool in my marketing technology stack.
Yet when we asked the question on LinkedIn recently and we sort of asked it to a LinkedIn community sort of in parallel with what we did in the survey, we said, “You know, please evaluate the effect in this of your lead routing.” There was a high percent of people and I was high percent meaning like, it was a 30 people that said like, our process is fine.
And if you looked at the comments, there were some people in marketing operations that said they were calling bullshit on that saying like, “I don’t think you understand what effective, what adequate is.” Is there a gap that exists between people that say like, no, we’ve solved this problem and the experience that your leads need and deserve that can actually help move those deals forward.
Doug: Absolutely. Here’s subject after your own heart, Matt, I mean, I think it starts, and we saw this in the survey as well, right? Only 20 something percent of folks felt like sales and marketing were well aligned. It begins there. It starts there. If you unpack that, there’s a bunch more in there, right? That’s not in the survey, but I think we know from our experiences, leaders for a long time, that misalignment is not just people and processes also could be data. And for me, the kind of the tell tale side of that is that you’ve got half the organization going, “Our response time is fantastic.” And then the other half is going and it goes to the wrong rep.
I think that’s a little bit of what you’ve tapped into there with that mini survey piece. The other piece I’d point too, is that there is a reckoning coming and the term I would use is growth winners. We’re seeing them out there: I love Gong. I really like what they do but I would call them a growth. Four years ago, when I first purchased their software, they were less than 20 million in rev. They’re a unicorn. What do they figure out? They figured out the messy middle is where you went.
Matt: I’ve been thinking a lot about this, about this gap. We see this a lot now where when the rise of sort of, it was more and more tech tools get bought to support the sales and marketing processes. As we say, you know, we’ve had marketing ops for a long time, and then there’s a growth of sales ops. And now we’ve got these rev op teams that are sort of stitching it all together and trying to also figure out sort of customer management as part of that as well.
It’s a little dangerous when you start to see those organizations sort of just check the box on certain features and say, “We’re done.” Putting the plumbing in place and saying like, yeah, we know that leads get distributed around and we’re working on speed, but they at least get to someone and there’s a follow up rate. That’s adequate. If you’re just looking at speed to distribution, if you’re just saying like leads all show up somewhere and leads get effectively followed up and there’s enough. And the reps are doing the follow up. A lot of companies, that’s where they stop. They’re looking at those metrics. And so if you’re looking at, if you’re saying we are effective at lead routing because we have checked those boxes. But if you’re not thinking about the difference between lead routing and lead matching. These effective rate of the lead matching, and it’s not just, “Did the rep follow up and follow their followup sequence.” But like, look very carefully, like what happens with that lead afterward.
Are those leads moving forward? Are you matching and routing to create the experience that is giving those leads an opportunity to understand the problem better to build that internal context and consensus. Now doing that is going to be a lot harder for some organizations to do some poor guy or gal on marketing ops may have trouble doing that. But I would also argue that every department in the organization, marketing ops, revenue ops: if you’re not thinking about the business metric behind the routing, it’s not about like routing success and conversion rate. It’s about what happens after that. That’s the metric you look for that hopefully starts to help people see that the status quo is no longer and maybe never was adequate.
Doug: I think that’s a really good way to look at it. I also think we could just be, we could go back to our key institute roots and just say, what’s going to happen. Which is the market forces will ultimately determined the winners and losers. If you’re not able to recognize, it’s not just about lead capture, it’s about the ability to create that experience, but also the ability to be effective in making sure it makes it the right person to create that compelling experience. Right? You’ve already lost. You’re losing, sorry. This is the not meant to be the conversation where we scare people. Matt, let’s do some happy, happy instead. I would say like, if you’re not paying attention to this stuff, by the way only 10% of the market has an effective lead management solution, you’ve got some headroom here folks to make improvements.
Matt: I don’t mind a little bit of a wake-up call. Oftentimes, MarTech and Revtech and these tools have become so complex as sometimes you sort of have to say, “This is fine. This is fine. This is on fire. I have to go focus over here.” Things that are fine may not get your attention as much, but I think you bring up a good point. There’s enough companies that are now doing this better. Thanks to account based efforts. Thanks to looking at leads that aren’t just individual leads, but thinking about those in context of where those people work and who else they work with and knowing that in a competitive market, if your competitors are connecting the dots and you’re not, then you know, I think there’s a real challenge there.
Matt: All this said, let’s go to the positive side of this. I mean the advantage doing this and I think focusing on solving this problem has such high leverage for organizations that will do it. We’re seeing a higher percent of money being spent on MarTech and Revtech and increasingly lower percent on media as companies realize that, like we have the relationships, we have the context, we have the content, we have the tools that are engaging these prospects. Our efforts are better put on connecting the dots on the backend to make sure we’re having the right conversation with the right people at the right time. And the incremental costs, I mean, we’re seeing marketing budgets go down, MarTech budgets go up and marketing impact on revenue increasing as well. We’re in this sort of golden age of what Revtech can do for companies. I think for many companies we’re just hitting the top of the iceberg here.
Doug: I agree. I’d also say we were scolds there for a moment trying to warn those who are not paying attention to the messy metal. Let’s look inward for a moment if we can. Let’s admit to some things. The first is, I agree I mean, if you look at the number of unicorns being turned out of sales tech right now, it’s just insane, right? It’s like FinTech, beWarrant sales tech is producing all these folks. What that looks like for me, that’s sort of an indicator, you know, you follow the money if you will. If you think about the investors, they’re basically productivity, they’re playing productivity arbitrage. Their job is to put the money where the productivity gaps are. Right? So they’re pushing money into sales tech right now.
I think there’s been so much consumption by Rev Ops leaders of this new software and I think they’re standing back and they’re going, “What have I got, like, I’ve got this, I’ve got this stack. And I don’t know that stack is working well together.” One of the things I’ll point to in the state of lead management survey. Which should be called, you’re right, the state of experience management survey. One of the things I point to in there is that, you know, the number one priority was insufficient pipeline shock. Half of people having trouble with growth. But number two is a lack of automation. And then if you dig a bit deeper and you look at well, what are people’s priorities for the air course? Number one was I’m going to grow a pipeline. But what was dead last? It was investing in your tech stack.
To me, that’s really interesting, because what that says is, first of all, we’re populated by really smart, talented people. We get to sell to and work with these incredibly talented people who know what they’re doing. What are they saying back to us? They’re saying, “I know how to lift this. I’m going to improve my automation because I’m struggling to hire people.” And I know I can win through automation. And then what are they saying at the same time is, “I’m not looking to buy more stuff.”
To look inward to the industry, I’d say, think about how your software supports other software. It is not just you, where do you fit overall? And are you helping lift? Are you just yet another tool on the stack?
Matt: I would agree. I think a lot of the change, a lot of the improvements we’re seeing in B2B marketing going from just pure volume of leads to sort of identifying and going after the right accounts. The increased complexity of getting sales and marketing teams to work together, this is all forward progress. It all requires a level of change management and culture change, acceptance within organizations, you know, demand programs sometimes can be sexy. Like doing events can be sexy like buying and seeing your name on a billboard and at a conference can be sexy. Like MarTech, isn’t always sexy. It’s probably why it’s at the bottom of list. It’s the check box. It’s like, okay, we have to do it. But if, instead of seeing this as sort of like a table stakes and least important things like the tools that are available and to your point, like when you can combine tools together that stitch together a better internal and external experience for your sales team and for your prospects, it enables the sexy.
What’s sexier than sort of creating and maintaining that momentum. Connecting the dots for our prospect. Having a more meaningful conversation that your prospect says, “Not only do you understand what’s going on in the context of my account, but you’ve given me insights about my very own company that can help me make better decisions and improve what I’m doing.” So that tie together. It’s up to us as vendors and its consultants to make sure people see the forest for the trees and see the sexy that comes out of this level of investment. Not only in throughput, a pipeline, but quite honestly, and quite in a more efficient utilization of marketing resources.
Doug: I couldn’t agree more Matt. And, and I think that it’s really a great, I think it’s up to people that are pushing the envelope. It’s up to the Matt Heinz of the world that are, are kind of proselytizing this, right. At the end of the day, the software vendors are going to be pushing out the software that meets some very specific needs. They’re not always going to look at that total picture. So Matt really it’s up to you. You’re going to be the Jesus of change here my friend.
Matt: Damn it. No pressure.
On that note, we can wrap up this episode of Sales Platform Radio. Was really thrilled to work with you guys on this. I think this is definitely something we’re spending more time talking about in the market, talking with our clients about, you know, using the technology that’s available to create better experiences for your sales team, for your prospects. This is, and I hate that, you know, this is separating winners from losers right now. This is a precedent moment in the industry from an investment standpoint, to do this well and to create what we have now coined the lead experience. Doug Bell, CMO, Chief Marketing Officer at LeanData. Thanks for joining us today.
Doug: Thank you, Matt.
Matt: Thank you everyone for being part of this, for joining for listening, we’ll be here again next week. 11:30 Pacific. 2:30 Eastern. Thanks for watching and listening. This been another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio.
Sales Pipeline Radio is produced by Heinz Marketing.
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