Go for Role, Not Title

The battle between sales and marketing on lead quality has been going on since the beginning of business-to-business marketing. Salespeople have always complained that they do not have enough leads. Marketing is always presenting charts on the number of leads provided to sales and highlighting that more haven’t turned into closed deals. The problem likely goes back to the actual definition of a “lead.” Typically marketers are generating prospects based on target market criteria, whereas the sales team is looking to be handed qualified buyers.

A “qualified buyer” isn’t always a prospect that is ready to buy at that time but rather the right decision maker within that company. The sales team can start to build a relationship with this decision maker and continue to follow up at the appropriate time. Frequently different functional areas are measured on dissimilar metrics, so it is understandable there would be some differences in what marketing considers a lead compared with what sales does.

Titles match actual roles less than 1% of the time, yet most b-to-b lists are based on titles, and occasionally some other factors like industry and geography. As a result, sales ends up with contacts they don’t consider to be real leads. And with the increasing accountability of marketing for return on investment, technically marketing shouldn’t consider these contacts as real leads either.

By focusing on titles, marketers have been targeting the wrong people: Role or function is the best indicator of response, and title is not the best indicator of function. When you consider the time, effort, and money wasted on programs delivered to the wrong contact, the benefits of a role-based prospecting approach become even more apparent. With role-based contacts, you can ensure that you are getting your message to the right decision maker. Companies identifying the role of the person within their target market today are achieving double-digit response rates, which turn into real sales activity.

As a long-time marketer, I look forward to the day where the answer to the old question “Is it a lead?” is the same from both marketing and sales teams.

Suaad Sait is CEO of Austin, TX-based automated marketing database services provider ReachForce.

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