Why You Should Not Let Sales Work the Booth at Tradeshows!

Unless they are in sync with your event goals.

 It is kind of hypocritcal that I write this post given my actions as both a direct sales contributor and sales leader working tradeshow exhibits.  I say these things in repent knowing that I was wrong in my actions and ask for forgiveness from my previous co-workers. 

I used to manage a large sales team for a $120 million company in Seattle; we sold a large enterprise application with an average sales price of $125,000.  I had a total of 25 sales reps reporting to me from three regions and was one of four Regional Vice Presidents managing a team.  The culture within our company was very competitive across these regions on a quarterly basis with each of us vying to out-perform the other regions from both a revenue generation and forecasting basis.   Jim and I managed regions that were the primary contributors and we both respected and hated each other.  Essentially my team and I had two competitors we were dealing with on a day to day basis, our cohorts within the company and those external competitors we were competing with for new business. 

Now imagine deploying this culture at a tradeshow where there are no geographical boundaries with regards to ownership of leads and opportunities.  I had three primary goals with regards to my company’s exhibit:

1 )  A percentage of my pipeline was walking the floor; I did not want Jim or his team anywhere near these opportunities.

2)  I also did not want a new temp Marketing just hired or Marketing in general pitching these opportunities. 

3)  I wanted to make sure we got more leads than Jim. 

I can’t believe how shallow I was.  Jim was the same way though.  Bastard. 

By the way, Marketings goals were not in alignment with mine. 

Anyway, when I or my team was working the exhibit we naturally worked it with these three goals in mind.  If an opportunity from New York visited (not my region) we would pass these individuals to someone in Marketing or simply hand them a brochure and covertly send them along their merry way.  We would also inadvertently forget to scan these leads.  Actually I usually did not scan at all.  For my leads, I would grab their business card and slip them into my pocket.  Marketing was scanning everybody they could anyway to win a “Who can drive the most leads” contest.  This contest usually got a little out of hand.  I was often scanned by our own company to increase their counts.         

I was watching the NE region (Jim’s) closely and could care less about the scans Marketing was capturing.  We knew if an opportunity appeared because Marketing was instructed to get one of us in these cases.  Event success was determined based upon the number of business cards we captured versus Jim. 

Man, if our CFO knew this was happening I am quite certain he would have been pissed. 

For you marketing leaders out there, remember you have no boundaries so please make sure your team treats their leads with the company in mind, not themselves.  If you are inviting sales to participate, let them know you are working for everyone on the team and jointly create an event strategy.  Focus on driving leads that are categorized to Sales specifications (Validar eatings its own dogfood).  Get your CEO involved with the planning as a means to set the ground rules.  Don’t bring them in if this investment is coming out of your budget and they are not aligned.  Jim is a prime example of what will happen!  Let me know if you have any stories to share as well.  I know they are out there.

It’s budget time! Was your marketing budget cut?

 As a former sales leader and direct sales contributor, I have been on the receiving end of leads for many years.  Throughout I have seen firsthand the challenge marketing teams have in articulating their value to a CFO.  By value, I mean revenue production.  If your marketing budget was $4 million, what revenue impact did your company receive through this investment?  These are the types of questions that typically come up:  

1)      How many deals did we land through the 40 tradeshows we attended?

2)      How much revenue was driven from our user’s conference? 

3)      How many leads came in and were closed via our website?

4)      What is the revenue figure associated with these marketing assets?  

I can go on and on with these types of questions in which accurate answers can be very difficult to obtain.  This usually leads to a reduction in budget, which forces the marketing department to do twice the work with half the resources.  Sound familiar?

True story:  Larry, Vice President of Marketing, and Victor, Vice President of Sales are in an annual review in preparation for budgets with the CEO and CFO.  Larry, in his annual review presentation proudly stated that lead volume across all touch points (Website, tradeshow, and direct marketing) was up approximately 20%.  He stated that his literature distribution volume was up as well.  He was kicking butt and wanted the boss to know.  Victor piped in and stated that Larry should stop sending him leads.  He didn’t have the bandwidth to work that activity and most weren’t even followed up on.   Argument proceeded and the meeting was over.  Afterword, they put us both in the same office and ended up cutting Larry’s marketing budget by 20%.

 What did we do?  We ended up collaborating on the definition of a “Sales Ready” lead.  We also agreed upon two additional metrics, average sales price and average close rate across three product types.  Marketing agreed to only hand over leads that were categorized “Sales Ready” and Sales agreed to meet or exceed the agreed upon average sales price and close rate metrics. We also adjusted our compensation plan to encourage Sales to update the status of their opportunities within our CRM system.  Essentially, if their territory activity/pipeline was not depicted in CRM and closed orders updated, they did not receive commission. 

Through these efforts, Marketing was able to more accurately depict their projected, pipeline and actual revenue production from a campaign to campaign perspective.  Sales was getting what they wanted as well, qualified leads.

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Based upon this experience and many others, I cannot stress enough how important it is that both sales and marketing are in sync with regards to their efforts.  The benefits of effective collaboration are tremendous; increased revenue, reduced lead management costs, improved CPOD (cost per order dollar) improved deployment of CRM and ancillary marketing tools and corporate sanity! 

In our next annual budget meeting, our conversation revolved around adjustments in our “Sale Ready” definition, strategies to improve close rates and adjustments in campaign investments based upon the aforementioned results.  We found some campaigns were driving in 50% fewer leads but 15% more “Sales Ready” leads.   The cost benefit of adjusting was tremendous! 

Let us know if you have any other stories regarding budget challenges and wins.

Are you losing business because of your landing pages? Let your leads control how they are treated

You might find yourself thinking: “Landing pages are a turnoff. I hate providing information simply to get access to a white paper or content that is of interest. I like to shop around before making a decision and definitely don’t want a pushy salesperson bugging me if I inquire about a webinar. Just let me have the content and I will tell if I want to talk. OK?” I think this myself when grabbing content from the Internet.

Marketing organizations today spend millions of dollars annually creating great content describing their company’s products and services as a means to educate customers, entice prospects, and streamline the sales process.  The effort and creativity I have seen produced by our customers’ is amazing. But all of those departments suffer from the same fundamental challenges:

  1. How can I articulate the true value of these efforts and make sure that gets back to my organization?
  2. How much revenue did I generate for my company based on this content or campaign, and how can I get credit for this effort?

As we all know, marketing budgets have a tendency to be the first ones cut due to these challenges.

Sales perspective

I have been the recipient of leads for many years as a direct sales contributor and have also managed a large sales team of lead recipients. Through this experience, I know firsthand the frustration Sales has in following up on leads who visited your trade show exhibit or downloaded a white paper only to find out eight touches later that those leads were interested in the squishy ball or just curious about the white paper topic.

It’s a strange problem: the respondent, marketer, and lead recipient all experience frustration with regards to landing pages.  Sales wants good leads, Marketing wants the credit they deserve for their great content, and the respondent wants to be treated in a specific manner. What should you do?

Ask.

Ask appropriately, though, given your goals and objectives. You are doing yourself and the respondent a favor by enabling them to tell you how they want to be treated. If your campaign goal is to build a mailing list, keep your form clean, simple, and inviting. Always include an opt-out. You’ll be amazed at how many people will complete a form when given an opportunity to tell you they are just curious and don’t want to be bothered. Also, if they tell you on their form submission that they don’t want to be bothered, don’t incubate them. This will build trust in your community.

There is a tremendous value to organizations in asking.

“Drive Higher Sales Conversions: Ask the Right questions during Lead Capture”

There is also an art to it.  We’ll be publishing a white paper soon on this topic. Stay tuned.