On a recent webcast, I had the opportunity to discuss Sales-Marketing alignment and lead conversion best practices with two industry experts and BombBomb executives, Steve Pacinelli, VP of Strategic Marketing, and Dale Warner, VP of Sales. Their company has created an amazing technology platform for integrating video into marketing and sales communication, and because they’re a Conversica customer, I had a chance to meet Steve and Dale and learn their great story.
We had a great audience for the webcast, with half representing marketing and another third representing sales.
To kick things off, we surveyed the attendees on the current state of alignment in their organizations and were not surprised to see that nearly 50% rated alignment as fair or poor. On the other hand, we were optimistic about the 17% already at the “exceptional” level.
In our final poll question, we identified the top challenges to alignment for this audience, and were not surprised to see that lead quality and lead follow-up were the top two. As Dale pointed out, even with 50% of the audience identifying as marketers, lead qualify was still a significant challenge, indicating that even marketers are sensitive to the age-old dilemma of how to hand only the best qualified leads to sales.
In the remainder of the webcast, we focused on the key attributes of the successful Sales-Marketing alignment at BombBomb and answered questions from the audience. Steve and Dale shared a lot of great information (which you can hear in the recorded version here), and I summarized their top tips as follows:
- Drive collaboration: get your Marketing and Sales teams tightly integrated and sharing information. At BombBomb, some marketers work for sales and vice versa. The teams meet in daily huddles to make sure everyone is aligned.
- Provide visibility: share key performance indicators (like free trial downloads, conversion rates and revenue goals), track them using the right systems and make them visible to everyone. At BombBomb, large monitors throughout the office track KPIs for both marketing and sales, so no one is ever surprised by performance. And, not only are the actual values tracked but also the pace to goal, so performance issues can be identified early, worked as a team and solved without finger pointing.
- Align compensation: nothing drives alignment better than having compensation tied to the same outcomes. At BombBomb, both Dale and Steve are rewarded based on shared goals, such as revenue, so there’s no incentive to suboptimize one function’s performance at the expense of the other’s.
- Automate everything: put the right systems and tools in place to remove as many manual steps as possible, ensuring that people focus their energy on the most value-added tasks and that key metrics are automatically and consistently tracked. At BombBomb, Dale and Steve have built a complete technology stack that includes Salesforce CRM, Pardot marketing automation, Conversica lead engagement, InsideSales dialing and their own video email platform to identify the best prospects, make it easy for sales to contact and qualify them, close the ones ready to buy and nurture the rest. The automation means salespeople spend more time having quality conversations and closing deals rather than chasing down prospects and manually updating activities.
We had lots of great questions during the webcast but couldn’t get to all of them in the live session. So, I’ve asked Dale and Steve to share their insight and answer these top questions from the audience:
Questions about BombBomb
Q) What verticals are you targeting for your inbound leads?
We don’t specialize in any one particular vertical, however we got our start in the real estate industry and still do a lot of business there. We target sales professionals in any industry that need to boost their engagement with leads and customers by making their outreach more visual and engaging.
Q) How many inbound leads do you receive a month?
Through our various channels, we get about 7,000 new leads a month and 4,500 free trials. Free trials are critical to us, because those are the leads we hand off to our inside sales team for follow up.
Q) How do you measure success for your inbound leads?
We have two ways to measure success: engagement and free trials. Obviously, when a lead signs up for a free trial, we have a qualified prospect that we want to put in front of Sales. However, we also look for signs of deep engagement with our content, even if the lead doesn’t go for the free trial. For example, if a lead watches 15 minutes of one of our video training sessions, we see that as significant engagement and worthy of sales outreach.
Q) How many of your free trial leads turn in to customers?
Our conversion rate is about 20% today, up from 14% last November before we implemented a number of new initiatives, including using Conversica to engage inbound leads.
Q) Do all the leads come from Marketing?
Yes, we are lucky to be able to fill our sales pipeline with inbound leads generated through our marketing. Not all businesses are in that position, however, so they need to also include outbound prospecting or cold-calling in their mix.
Q) We find that our inbound leads often look more attractive than they actually turn out to be. How do you weed out the “false positives?”
Great question. This is where Conversica really helps us. Through Angie’s outreach, we are able to determine not only who is interested in speaking with Sales, but also importantly, who’s not interested. Maybe they’re not ready, maybe our solution isn’t a great fit, maybe they just stumbled on the wrong site. In any of those cases, we want to week them out before they get to Sales so we can boost productivity and frankly keep our salespeople motivated with a steady flow of the “good” leads.
Q) What is the average time to close a hot lead?
We try to close hot leads during their 14-day free trial. Often, we can close a lead with one phone call from our Inside Sales team. However, consider that our average selling price is lower than other offerings, so this may not be typical for your industry.
Questions about Conversica
Q) Who owns the AI solution, is it Sales or Marketing?
It can be either, as it often depends on who takes ownership of lead qualification. For example, in BombBomb’s case, the leads go to the inside sales team for follow-up, so it’s natural for Sales to be the owner of the Conversica system. In other organizations, Marketing runs the SDR team doing initial lead qualification, so they tend to get the value of automating all that initial contacting and engaging inbound leads.
Q) How do salespeople respond to Angie’s follow-up?
Angie is BombBomb’s name for their AI-powered virtual assistant. When Angie discovers a hot lead, an alert goes to the Sales rep indicating the best time and number to reach the lead. Since the lead agreed with Angie on the preferred time and method of contact, when the sales rep reaches out, the lead is ready and willing to take the call. Although you might expect some collisions when both salespeople and Angie are working the same leads, this rarely happens. Angie is a sales assistant and different from the sales rep, so if she “accidentally” emails someone who is already in contact with a sales rep, it’s never a big deal.
Q) How often are the AI emails sent?
The timing varies depending on the specific use case and on the lifecycle of the lead. In a B2B context with a longer purchase decision timeframe, the Conversica persona may reach out on a slower cadence, maybe every 3, 4 or 5 days, just like a good SDR. In a B2C context where that lead may be apt to make a quick decision, the cadence can be much faster.
Q) What was the greatest impact Conversica had on BombBomb?
BombBomb’s use of Conversica has helped boost the free trial conversion rate from 14% to 20%, resulting in more revenue from the same marketing spend.
Q) How does BombBomb use Conversica and InsideSales together?
Angie, the Conversica persona, uses email to identify hot leads and verify telephone contact information. That updated phone information is passed into the Salesforce lead record and then into InsideSales so the salesperson can quickly dial and disposition all the hot leads.
Questions about alignment
Q) What are one or two tangible and specific things that you would recommend be done to get Marketing and Sales working together to improve lead conversion?
Clearly define the requirements to pass a lead from Marketing to Sales, ensure every lead is consistently and persistently followed-up, and track all of this in your CRM system.
Q) What inbound lead conversion rate is considered to be good?
It’s impossible to answer that specifically, as it will vary for every market, product and channel. What’s most important is to first measure the rate and then build a financial model that validates your cost per lead and conversion rate still drives an attractive revenue stream for your business. A 5% conversion rate for expensive leads that lead to a high-value transactions may be perfectly acceptable to grow your business.
Q) What is the threshold for a lead to go to a Sales Development Rep (SDR) or salesperson? What is the right score?
As mentioned above, this should be defined for your business in a mutually-agreed service level agreement between Marketing and Sales. It also depends considerably on your inbound lead volume. If volume is low, you can afford to contact every inbound lead with a small team. If volume is high, then you’ll have to prioritize using scoring, or as BombBomb has done, implement Conversica so you can economically apply the human touch to every lead and pass just the ones ready to speak with Sales.
Q) In what stage of the sales process is it best for Inside Sales to reach out by phone?
Like the previous answers, it will depend on your business and lead volume. If you have an inbound team and reasonable inbound lead flow, then it makes sense to contact as many leads by phone as quickly possible. Break through the email clutter and apply that human touch. However, if your team is also doing outbound prospecting, or if your lead flow really accelerates, then you can’t call everyone, so you’ll either need to prioritize based on score or behavior or, like BombBomb, use Conversica to identify the hot leads and always call them first.
Aligning Sales and Marketing continues to be challenging even for the best-performing organizations. If you have some tips on how you’ve done it successfully, please leave them in the comments.