Recently we did our job so well, we got fired. Yep. We increased leads and lowered the cost per qualified lead. We built a marketing machine that monthly delivered more than twice the number of qualified leads our client had ever received without them spending one dollar more.
But something went terribly wrong.
While we were building our awesome marketing machine, the sales closing rate was tanking. Turns out it was continuing a rapid downhill trend that had begun well before we got involved. And everyone was busy blaming marketing.
“These leads are crap.”
Every marketing person alive has heard that complaint an endless number of times. Sometimes it’s true; the so-called leads really are crap. Sometimes it means marketing is tossing leads to the sales team too soon. And sometimes, as in this case, it means the sales people and their sales process are out of touch.
In this story – which is, unfortunately, true – the sales process had not changed in over seven years; but both the market and the buying process had changed enormously.
Competition, much of it on the sleazy side, had piled onto what had once been a lucrative seller’s market. Buyers were not only overwhelmed with choices; they had also become wary of vendor claims. And, the internet with its easy-to-access information for all had made buyers much more savvy decision makers.
Our client was using order-takers in what had become a consultative selling situation.
Has your sales process kept up?
Granted, your market may not have shifted as dramatically as our client’s had; but I guarantee you it’s different than it was seven years ago.
Our client wasted valuable time – and lots of money – with a knee-jerk reaction to falling closing rates. They assumed it was a marketing issue. It wasn’t. In the end it was a leadership issue. But it was also a communications issue. Had marketing and sales really been working well together; had management been asking the right questions; maybe much of this could have been avoided.
If you’re a business owner, I’m sure you’re keeping a close eye on sales and closing rates. If you’re a marketing person, you should be watching those numbers too.
The reason I’m sharing this story with you is to send out two messages:
1. When closing rates fall, it’s dangerous to assume all leads are bad.
2. Never before have markets, buyers and buying processes changed as fast and as much as they are changing now. Your marketing programs have to keep up. So do your sales processes. Just because it worked yesterday doesn’t mean it’s going to work today.
Our client got these messages the hard way. You can avoid that.
When was the last time you took a good look at your sales process?