Working with a lead generation agency can make a big difference in your business. But, if you currently have a sales team producing their own leads, handing over part of their responsibility to an outside agency can be a sticky subject.
Fear you should not, young padawan. Yoda is here and help you he will.
As a lead generation agency (we do more, but that's part of it), we've used "The (Inbound Marketing) Force" to help a lot of clients achieve 10x results. And, we've had to cooperate and align with sales teams of all sizes.
When it comes to getting sales professionals on board, we know the tricks for success. And, we also know a few things that can really hurt.
5 Steps to Lead Generation Agency Cooperation
Step 1: Get Buy-In From Sales
As a business owner or manager, it's crucial to get buy-in from your sales team. We've actually published an entire eBook on the subject, but we'll slip you a couple of quick tips here.
Salespeople may feel threatened by someone else bringing in the leads. That's natural, and shouldn't be ignored. One great approach is to use a common sales technique during the conversation, and lead with questions.
3 Questions For Your Sales Team
- Would you agree that the best way to find customers is to let customers find you? If those are people who are looking for what you have, would they be good leads? Would they be better leads than the ones you're able to find through cold-calling, advertising, and other methods?
- When you finally do get a lead, would you be in a better position to know something about them heading into the conversation? With an inbound lead generation approach, you'll have the chance to see what content they engaged with, to see who they are, and do a little research in advance of reaching out.
- What type of activity constitute's the most effective use of your time? Are you more productive finding someone to talk to, or talking to someone who is actually interested in their product/service and qualified?
Time in front of the prospect is their high-value time. Outside agencies can never replace sales. Marketing will never be able to remove the need for talented salespeople. Instead, they are look to load up a sales pipeline, giving salespeople a great chance at success and higher numbers.
By giving the prospect tips and tools which drive interest and show value in advance of the sale, the brand (and sales team member) commands a stronger position when the conversation happens.
Step 2: Document The Current Sales Process Thoroughly
The agency knows lead generation, but they need to fully grasp the sales process of the company. Once the agency understands how a team sells, they can get creative to make the transition from marketing to sales more seamless.
You may want to have one salesperson make the first draft and then give the rest of the team an opportunity to fine-tune.
Step 3: Have The Agency Assimilate The Information And Present The New Lead Generation Strategy
The agency should be able to clearly define target personas, the marketing funnel, and exactly how and when the leads will be handed off to the sales team.
What contact data is important?
What constitutes a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) or a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)?
Part of that conversation is agreeing on KPIs. What are some realistic goals we can set to deliver MQLs in the right amount? It's not about a greater number of total leads, but it's about getting qualified leads at the agreed upon quantity.
If sales are short, but the agency hit their clearly defined goals, we know it's not a lead generation problem. Then, both sides can work to fix the problem as opposed to both blaming the other for the bad numbers.
This is a great opportunity to begin to build relationships and trust between the agency and sales. Give the sales team an opportunity to pepper the agency with as many questions as they like.
Step 4: Carefully Plan Out The Transition And Assign Tasks
It's project management time. Hopefully, you already know how important it is to execute well and efficiently on strategies. One side is probably going to have to master a new project management tool, marketing automation system, or CRM. Schedule adequate time for training.
Step 5: Schedule Weekly Huddles For The Short-Term
Your lead generation agency and sales team know their part.
But, when things change, there is always a learning and adjustment period. Your agency may have worked with a competitor in your vertical and have a solid understanding of the space, but there are always variables. Even if you know how customers in a segment search, compare, and buy, you have to learn how they interact with your specific brand during that journey.
Prepare both sides for this. Leads are probably not going to spring out of the undergrowth like an army of Ewoks instantaneously, but in a reasonable amount of time, we're all going to win.
Which brings us back to nailing that first step: if sales truly buys in, all the other steps are easier.
Getting Aligned - And Staying That Way
We gave you a couple of pointers for that conversation above, but there's a lot more to it. A great next move would be downloading our 32-page eBook Preparing Salespeople For Inbound Marketing Success.
Read it, you should.
Author Chris Leonard will give you more detail on several of these steps including a sales-person-centric explanation of Inbound Marketing (Step 1), some specific KPIs to consider (Step 3), and some sales-agency conversation starters for weekly huddles (Step 5).