Thursday, February 19, 2009

Lead Management and Football

In one of my meetings these past few weeks I was thinking of an analogy where I could break down the lead management process into much simpler terms so everyone could understand their roles - this is where football comes in. Why football? Well, if I compared it to hockey no one outside of Canada would care. I'm going to introduce the players and coaches below and then summarize how the different parts fit together to create a Super Bowl caliber lead management process. Are you ready for some football?


The Players and Coaches Take the Field

  • Quarterback: The marketing team is the QB. If you're a marketer, you're saying "I don't get paid like a quarterback". No one does - let's assume that salaries don't apply here. If you're in sales you may also disagree as QBs typically get more of the glory but hear me out and you can have your own say if you don't agree. The lead management process should start with the marketing team just as a football play begins with the quarterback getting the snap. It's marketing's job to fill the funnel with leads as it is the QBs job to move the ball down the field and pass the ball off to other players on the team.

  • Running back: The players running with the ball on the ground are the inside sales/demand generation team (different companies give this group different names). Inside sales gets to do a lot of the grunt work to qualify leads and set meetings but they typically don't close the deals. In football terms, these guys can make the difference in the game but typically only pick up short yardage.

  • Receivers: The receivers are the sales team. Who else are the biggest prima donnas on earth and are proud of it? Here are a few football players that come to mind: TO, Chad Johnson and Plaxico Burress. While receivers talk the talk, they also walk the walk. They are expected to make the impossible catches, score the winning touchdowns and throw the odd block to help their team move down the field and score. The good receivers are sought after by every team.

  • Place kicker: The place kicker represents members from the sales and marketing operations team that typically don't get the recognition that the other players get but are key in scoring points. This may include CRM and marketing automation administrators, analyst that pull together the key sales and marketing metrics and key personnel who prepare sales collateral While there are some place kickers that stand out, it's typically the ones that screw up that everyone remembers (Steve Christie "wide right" ring a bell?). These people need to be on their game to ensure all systems are running as they should.

  • Defence: While I could break down every defensive position, I like my rest and honestly, I couldn't tell you every position and you wouldn't care (except you there who plays the right outside linebacker position on the weakside). In the lead management process, the defence represents anything that is preventing the offence from scoring touchdowns. Think of the defense as anyone or anything that is hampering the lead management process. The defense could be a marketing automation system that is not fully synced with a CRM, it could be your competition providing higher quality products or it could be a breakdown in the hand off process between sales and marketing - there are many more possibilities.

  • Coaches: The coaches are the executives in the organization: CMO, CEO, VP of Sales etc... They are the ones that watching the hours and hours of film to review past performances and they are the ones that are guiding their players to prevent interceptions by the defence and to ensure that the other teams in the league (your competition) get their buts handed to them.

  • Fans: The fans of course are your paying customers. Typically, if you have a really good offence and coaches, you're going to have a good team that scores a lot of touch downs. More touchdowns usually means more wins which leads to more fans and the cycle hopefully continues until you need to build a new stadium with more private boxes.

Putting the Pieces Together: Touchdown!


As we know you have star quarterbacks like Joe Montana and Brett Favre who have great vision and deliver quality passes and you have quarterbacks like Rob Johnson and Ryan Leaf who could throw the ball with decent accuracy but never lead their teams to major victories. In the lead management process, you need marketers that not only deliver leads to the inside sales and sales team but deliver leads that are of the highest quality as defined by both marketing and sales. If a QB throws a pass that is a perfect spiral 10 yards down the field, they may define that as a quality pass. However, if the receiver who the pass is thrown to is on the other side of the field then this pass will be incomplete and may lead to an interception by the defence and a loss of downs. The marketing and sales team need to be on the same page and be reading out of the same playbook so that everyone knows if a newly assigned lead is considered of high quality and should be prioritized. This is where strong coaching is needed in football to ensure everyone's head is in the game. When it comes to marketing and sales, the executives from both departments need to be involved to ensure that both sides are in full cooperation (Here is a great video from SFDC Dreamforce 08 on this topic).

Some marketers will use an inside sales or demand generation team to further qualify leads and ensure that when these leads are passed on to the field sales that they are real opportunities. To compare this to football. the quarterback physically hands the ball off to a running back and can be assured that there isn't going to be an interception and will usually get positive yardage.

How can marketers improve their skills to improve the lead management process? Just like in football where you need to constantly practice and upgrade your skills to be a top notch QB, marketers need to take advantage of the best technology out there to make the lead management process as smooth as possible. This will involve the sales and marketing operations teams that may assist in configuring and maintaining the CRM and marketing automation platforms as well as using techniques such as automated lead scoring and routing to make the process run more efficiently. Again, the executives will be key here to decide which "players" should be used and the strategy that should be employed.

Post Game Review

You may hear this conversation on a local radio show following a football game (any Lions fans?): "Hi, I'm a long time listener, first time caller. I called in to say that the our team played like @%&^ today. That's all I have to say. Thank you."

When a game is over and players and coaches have finished doing their post game interviews, coaches watch the game film and do a full review on every play of the last game to learn about what worked, what didn't and can be improved upon to play even better in the next game. The sales and marketing process must have this same type of process where dashboard reports have been set up to monitor key metrics that have been defined by sales and marketing to measure success. Not only should these dashboards be setup, they should be consistently monitored and reviewed to make changes in the process where necessary.

Fumble! A Leaky Funnel

You just made a great catch and you're running towards the end zone. The problem is that you have three defenders ready to take your head off. If you run out of bounds, you give your QB another chance to score a touchdown - what do you do? Do you risk possible brain damage or do you give it back to the quarterback for another shot? In the lead management process, you need to define a process where leads get handed back to marketing in situations where prospects just aren't ready to buy. If we go back to our story, you can compare a possible touchdown to a closed deal. There is no way that the deal will be closed at this time. The sales team needs a way to label a lead to be sent back to the marketing team for further nurturing until the prospect is ready to engage again with the sales team. Don't allow for fumbles where leads fall through the cracks.

Notice how I didn't mention a punter? That's because leads should never be punted anywhere. A punt is unpredictable and can bounce all over the place. The lead management process needs to be much more specific. I didn't even get into the nitty gritty of the lead management process in terms of creating opportunities etc... Perhaps I'll cover that another time. The important item to keep in mind is that you need a process that is clearly defined and agreed upon by everyone. If the team is not in sync, there will be a breakdown which will lead to a possible quarterback sack and in this economy, making the right decisions is even more important. Let's keep everyone on the field, playing the game as it should be played and winning as much as possible.

What do you think? Did I miss any players? Did I misrepresent anyone?

Chad H.

PS: Let's talk about cheerleaders - we can't forget the cheerleaders. Cheerleaders could be part of your marketing team that is building demand for your products or services or your top customers who are your biggest promoters. I'll let you decide.
PPS: Some other posts on this topic:

3 comments:

Steven Woods said...

Great analogy Chad. The one thing I'd add is the need for everyone on the football field to read, understand, and anticipate the other team's actions. If not, you have a football team that can execute some great plays in practice, but will be in trouble on the field. Similarly, a marketing team that doesn't put themselves in the mindset of a buyer and do everything they can to understand that buyer will be running campaigns that don't connect with the buying audience.

In football, and in marketing, understanding the other party is as important as understanding your own team.

Chad H said...

Steve - excellent comment & thanks for stopping by. The lead management process is one that needs to continuously evolve. Buyer's habits change, your product changes, competitors change, the economy obviously changes etc... The other item that is crucial is for sales and marketing to regularly meet. I've had a few clients that have set up these types of monthly or quarterly sessions to review the "plays" as well as results and to make adjustments accordingly. Having the odd sales/marketing "team dinner" is also recommended. Let sales pay for it though. :)

PS - check out Steve's blog. He is an exceptional writer his writings have encouraged and inspired me to keep pushing my own views (thinking further outside the box but with ideas that make sense and can be implemented).

Rebeca said...
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