North American Association of Sales Engineers

North American Association of Sales Engineers

European Association of Sales Engineers

#StrategicInsight: Blind Spots #5 & Sales Enablement

(By Michael Dodgson)

Learning about the blind spots in your #salesfunnel can provide significant benefits to your sales teams. In these two images, you can see that one level of the sales funnel is struggling but the level below is performing quite well.

Do your sales funnel have areas where you have higher conversion rates? Why is this?

Symptoms of the blind spot: ignoring new leads.

At a Fortune 500 company, I started up a demand generation marketing team to provide better leads to our sales teams. This included setting up a call center, online PPC and SEO marketing, microsites, promotions, events, trade shows, content creation … the works. In that year my team generated nearly $20 million in marketing qualified leads (MQLs).

But, for one division, #Salesforce reporting showed the ROI on the activities was terrible. In fact, most leads were never addressed. What the heck?

To research the problem I had my telemarketers conduct a quick customer satisfaction survey and I learned that 75% of the leads were never contacted, or if they did, the sales team did not know the products well.

When I collaborated with sales management we looked at the problem, conducted some research and talked with our reps. What is up? …

We learned that because our process to request special pricing for large projects depended on HQs response time. In many cases the approval for special pricing took days, and in the worst cases could take a month or longer. Well, that’s a problem!

This result was shocking. If the sales team was spending too long on the final stages of the selling process then the result was that upstream sales and marketing efforts were being wasted. Clearly, the processes were broken and we had limited options in our region.

Thus, to make marketing more useful for this division I considered many options. Try to set up special pricing exception rules for the local GEO – nope. Not allowed. We tried getting better at forecasting and promoting what we have – yet large custom projects often required specialized capabilities only available in high-end, high-cost products with problematic forecasting and very high cost of inventory.

Finally, one option we ended up using was to change the marketing messages on special orders so they knew these items would be specially built at the factory and shipped based on their order. And this would take 3-6 months. Then, marketing focused on high run-rate products that were forecasted and were available in most channels.

Sales Enablement = Communication

The sales teams were much happier because customers were not abandoned and the volume of leads was directed to channel partners, not to the internal sales team. And, when the channel partners had opportunities and the large clients were properly prepared with a 3-6 month delivery time expectation, the process ran more smoothly.

Thus, through analysis of the sales funnel we learned why there was a conversion problem. Now, this is an unusual situation for an unusual company. Many software companies would lose their mind if this type of delay in the purchase process existed. Similarly, channel partners and distributors will communicate manufacturer offers but they will focus on what they know will sell and that is available – but clever business leaders will now focus on product quality because it impacts their customer loyalty.

In short, every business is different and has different problem areas … opportunity areas. And, each opportunity has a myriad of options that could address the situation. Approaching the problem from a “help make selling easier” is one role of a great product manager who knows the business environment and can find useful solutions. This approach helped identify that this division could not handle more business opportunities so I used the same methodology to help another division and targeted channel partner sales increased by 400% based on YoY analysis.

(This article is the 5th in a multi-part series by the author. To reach Michael, please visit )

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