If Marketing Plants Seeds, Sales Can Pick Cherries

Are you sick and tired of the prima donna sales rep who cherry picks the best leads and leaves the hard work for someone else? Well, Marketo President and CEO Phil Fernandez suggests putting this supposedly bad behavior at the center of your revenue performance management process.

This bold idea is one of many in Fernandez’ new book, Revenue Disruption: Game-Changing Sales And Marketing Strategies To Accelerate Growth. In this excerpt, Fernandez explains how a simple shift can help marketing and sales teams work together to create a more efficient, cost-effective process that better reflects the new realities facing the modern sales team.


Always be Prioritizing

A sales team well stocked with leads can achieve significant improvements in productivity, quota attainment, and revenue production. The percentage will vary widely depending on the type of business, but it’s safe to say that mature, profitable businesses spend between 15 and 40 percent of revenue on their sales organizations. That percentage is even higher in earlier stage, high-growth companies. Because the cost of sales is such a large part of what organizations spend, even small improvements in the efficiency of the sales process can have significant top-line and bottom-line impact and generate growth.

If your sales representatives can spend 20 or even just 10 percent more of their time talking to positively-inclined and motivated prospects, instead of cold calling or wasting that time on unproductive territory administration, they will radically improve their quota achievement and booked revenue results. And the good news is that we now know exactly how to make it happen.

When marketing adopts effective processes for awareness building, inbound marketing, lead nurturing, and lead scoring using methods that they’ve shaped around buyers’ needs, they are able to supply a continuous stream of well qualified leads to their sales colleagues. And once sales realizes the value of this new generation of nurtured leads, their inherently acquisitive—some might even say greedy—nature will lead them to stop wasting and start embracing marketing-originated leads.

Sales teams need to strive for the same consistently high level of productivity. And it’s achievable. Sales prioritization, along with lead qualification with a human touch and lead recycling, extend the revenue productivity improvements available to marketing and carry them directly into the heart of the sales department.

Sales can be a frustratingly herky-jerky operation in many companies. Buyers come and go; they cancel and reschedule meetings, and make new and unusual demands. They manage to keep even the best sales reps on their toes, oscillating between feast and famine every day of their jobs. So in order to achieve any sort of reasonable productivity, let alone exceed their quotas, sales reps must always be working on more deals than they can reasonably expect to close. Sales managers call this “pipeline coverage,” a situation where sales teams often work on 4 to 10 times as many deals as they’ll actually close in that particular month or quarter. The same factors come into play in a sales development team, whose members should always be talking with the greatest number of leads they can efficiently manage.

So, in what has become a recurring theme across the entire revenue cycle, sales personnel not only need to “always be closing” and “always be helping,” but also need to “always be prioritizing.” To put it more bluntly, sales professionals achieve maximum efficiency when they can cherry-pick among opportunities and allocate their time to the very best.

I realize that this sounds like heresy to some sales leaders. The problem of the prima donna sales rep—who only cherry picks and doesn’t dig in and do the hard work—is legendary. However, this turns upside down when sales take place in the context of a comprehensive Revenue Performance Management process. The entire process in this scheme is centered on the notion of cherry picking. It starts by planting the most seeds—that is, as many early stage prospects as possible—and then filtering, scoring, and prioritizing at every subsequent step of the process. As long as you plant enough seeds, everyone along the revenue process has the luxury of picking the best ones. And if it they can do so accurately, on average and over time, revenue magic happens.

This is partly because sales teams can repurpose the same sorts of digital marketing tools that marketing uses to implement effective lead scoring processes, using them to prioritize salespeople’s own time. Remember, lead scoring is all about continuously monitoring and evaluating who the best leads are by considering demographic data, company profile data, and near real-time buyer behavior, such as visiting a website, clicking a link, or attending an online event.

Every day, when a salesperson walks into the office or prepares for a road trip, he or she must decide how to allocate their time. Who to call first? Who to visit this week? Part of the art and science of sales involves making these decisions accurately. When you have more information at hand, you can probably make a better decision. And since so much of the buying process takes place online these days, there is a wealth of new information to harness that can help salespeople better allocate their time.

Adapted with permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., www.wiley.com, from Revenue Disruption: Game-Changing Sales And Marketing Strategies To Accelerate Growth by Phil Fernandez, Copyright © 2012 by Marketo, Inc.


Phil Fernandez is president and CEO of Marketo, a global leader in revenue performance management solutions, recently named one of “America’s Most Promising Companies” by Forbes.  He is also the author of Revenue Disruption: Game-Changing Sales And Marketing Strategies To Accelerate Growth.

Meg White

Meg White is the managing editor for REALTOR® Magazine and administrator of the magazine's Weekly Book Scan blog. Contact her at mwhite[at]realtors.org.

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