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Cue the Music; your marketing & sales pipeline needs rhythm

One of the things that CEOs often say to me is that their marketing doesn’t directly drive sales. The CEO or MD either sits between an “it’s their fault!” sales and marketing fight, or they sell to their own network and their marketing is disconnected from their sales pipeline.

There are usually a couple of reasons for this. 

The first is that sales and marketing are mis-aligned in what they’re trying to sell.  Having a single, organizational value proposition will help tackle that issue, as long as your targets are also aligned to it. 

The second is usually that there’s no clear process or discipline around your sales pipeline, so hand-over and follow-up activities never get into a rhythm.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • How visible is your sales pipeline?  Does everyone in the organisation have a way of seeing and ‘touching’ it?
  • Who does what?  What’s the journey for the customer as they move through the pipeline and who is involved at what stage? Where do marketing and sales handover
  • What is a lead?  In music a lead would be a cue.  What’s the cue to handover to sales?  What does the customer do or say, or what need to they demonstrate?
  • Is there consistent resource on both sides with one person overseeing it?  Once the pipeline gains momentum it needs constant, quick attention. It’s not something you can dip in and out of.

In a choral work like Bach’ St Matthew Passion I sing the first alto part.  There are times when the other parts are singing without us, and then we have to join them.  To do that I look to the notes in the other parts to find the pitch of my first note.  I work out my cue. 

Too often sales and marketing haven’t agreed their cues in detail. No marketing automation system can handle this – the first thing the supplier asks of you when you set one up is to define the specific rules for the hand-off (things like how many marketing touches it’s had before it goes to sales, what the demographics are of a good lead, etc).  I suspect one of the reasons these tools can be successful is not actually about the technology.  It’s that they force you to get this clear and agreed.

As a Marketing Director I’ve led teams who have exhibited at trade shows or events.  If you ask the marketers ‘what did we do with the leads from last year?’ they often say “we added them to the database”.  This is a definitive step in the post-event process.  It’s clear to them what to do.  After that it all gets a bit murky and involves collective people making decisions; so too often ‘adding to the database’ is all that happens.

I’ve also worked in organisations where sales won’t share their own prospects. They refuse to add them to the CRM system and make them visible, because they don’t want anyone else to get them.  This is something that as CEO or MD you need to get involved with.  That’s like an orchestral musician thinking that a section of the audience will only get to hear them. 

Targeting and sales incentives are usually the reason behind this behaviour; the more you target for competition without a qualifier of transparency, the worse this will get.

Work out your cues up front and target everyone on both giving and taking them.

Jill Pringle is a Brand and Marketing Strategy consultant working with service-led businesses. She’s the Author of The Brand Symphony book and speaks regularly about branding and marketing strategy. She’s a former marketing director in companies such as Gartner, Equifax, SCM World, Thomson Local and the Philharmonia Orchestra.  She studied music before she studied marketing and combines the two in her Brand Symphony Marketing services. She now offers services to help CEOs and their marketers in smaller service-led businesses.

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