Funnel vision: the dangerous trap of lead stages

30 second summary:

  • Great B2B GTM is a partnership between the sales and marketing functions that work synergistically to understand the prospect’s needs
  • Dated nomenclatures such as MAL, MQL, SAL, and SQL misrepresent how closely the sales and marketing teams are really intertwined during these phases
  • Companies can heal this “funnel vision” by removing the association of “marketing” or “sales” with leadership phases

We’ve all heard CEOs and board members say, “We need more leads up the funnel” or “Marketing needs to generate more leads.” These statements are often followed by a discussion about how the sales team will evolve and close all of the tasty leads that marketing will generate. Everyone nods and goes to do their thing. This is a classic case of what I call “funnel vision”.

Distorted perspective

What’s wrong with this picture? To be honest, everything. For too long and in too many companies, the persistence of this “funnel vision” has hampered the success of revenue generation activities in different teams. I describe the phenomenon of funnel vision as such:

  • Marketing is responsible for attracting potential customers through a variety of demand generation activities such as advertising, SEM, social networks, and events in the funnel (MAL)
  • As soon as a prospect “raises their hand” (fills out a contact form) or scores enough points (measures such as downloading a report or attending a webinar), they become an MMS and are handed over to sales
  • Now sales take control and are responsible for progress through completion or loss
  • Marketing, get you more leads

This perspective ignores the actual reality of how the process really works. Marketing is involved in every step of the journey from prospect to customer. Marketing attracts, informs, trains, empowers, and empowers customers with customers long before they think about a purchase (this is where the brand comes in) and long after they become a customer (through loyalty and other programs). In fact, often the most important job marketing does is when the prospect is in talks with sales.

How? Well, after that great call to a BDR or AE, most prospects return to the company website for additional research, confirm answers to questions they didn’t ask in a 30 minute meeting, and likely read this case studies and reports sent to you by the smart seller. Every element here is likely to be content and channels that are created and managed by marketing.

When it comes to those late stages of the business and the prospects are being wooed by a competitor, the smart salespeople compile point-by-point comparisons (based on competitive intelligence managed by marketing) and identify great customer testimonials (often marketing managed). to get the sale over the line.

Lonely partners

A good B2B launch is always a partnership between the sales and marketing functions that work synergistically to understand the needs of the potential customers and help them achieve an outcome that is truly a win. Most sales and marketing executives not only understand this, but embrace it and count on it to succeed. Why do bright minds outside of these roles continue to insist that lead phases are neatly divided into marketing and sales?

Here’s the dirty truth: marketers bring it down on us. Sticking to dated nomenclatures like MAL, MQL, SAL and SQL perpetuates the flawed perspective of others. If marketing gives the stage its name, marketing has to invest time and money here. Likewise for the sales team. Regardless of how much everyone likes to talk about the customer journey, the internal focus is usually on a marketing and a sales journey. This is funnel vision in action.

A new vision

Healing funnel vision requires both tactical and strategic changes. First, the teams have to replace the terms “marketing” (MAL, MQL) and “sales” (SAL, SQL) with something else. It can be as simple as level one, level two, and the like. Better still, it can deconstruct the entire notion of a funnel and really emphasize the client’s actual journey. By aligning marketing and sales promotions with customer intent, the whole process is more likely to be successful.

I admit it is not easy. We still use the classic funnel stages at my company and it will likely be a few more years before we are ready to move away from them. People are trained in the funnel and systems are built with these stages as the core model. We may all have a bit of funnel vision, but we can still see a better future ahead of us.

Norman Guadagno is Chief Marketing Officer at Acoustic, the largest independent marketing cloud, and a member of the ClickZ Advisory Board.