Leads aren’t enough: How BI can help SFA & CRM

The refrain I constantly hear from both corporate marketing and sales is “more leads!” They seem to think that lead generation should be a KPI for marketing success. I beg to differ.

As someone who has spent years in product marketing, my view is that lead tracking is only the beginning of the job. People talk about “lead quality.” When they define the term, they typically talk about the number of leads needed to close X dollars of sales. However, that’s discussing two end points without discussing the journey. There is basic benefit to that, such as understanding you have enough leads to close quote for one product so you can shift lead generation spending to another product line (or to other marketing tasks when the leads meet near term for all sales), it’s not sufficient for increasing pipeline effectiveness.

B2B sales are complex. They aren’t instant and they involve many stakeholders in multiple organizations within a prospect’s firm. To hand over leads and then discuss close rates is akin to the classic Sidney Harris cartoon with the magical formula on the blackboard.

Sales force automation (SFA) systems typical track sales through a pipeline with something such as a percentage estimate of close. Customer resource management (CRM) systems track individual contacts at companies. However, I’ve never seen the systems linked in such a way to track what contacts happen where in the pipeline and link collateral and messaging used in each step.

That information would help fine tune how well sales and marketing work to close a prospect. If you’re losing 40% of your prospects at a specific point in the sales cycle and feedback shows there’s information missing or some other issue, marketing and sales can focus messaging for that step in the process.

I’ve yet to see SFA and CRM systems work in concert to clearly provide such information, so an opportunity exists for business intelligence (BI). Both ISV’s and SI’s have the ability to work with those systems and provide dashboards to help collect information from both organizations and present in a clearer format, linking pipeline and contact information to build a clearer picture of messaging and tools used throughout the sales cycle.

Eventually, SFA and CRM systems will provide their own links as they move back to the original concept of single systems from the early days and companies such as I worked with in the 1990s, but if BI companies get a jump, their solutions can be incorporated in an OEM fashion and can be extended. There’s a window of opportunity for BI vendors to help improve a critical aspect of the sales/marketing relationship.

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