The Lead-to-Revenue Management Process with Pam Hege

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To start out let’s get the 30-second pitch on Revenue Influencers ... 

Revenue Influencers is a B2B lead-to-revenue management company that works with B2B Marketing and Sales teams. Our focus is helping – we call them revenue influencers – to assess and design their lead-to-revenue strategies, processes, and programs to generate more sales.

I've spent 20 years in Marketing, Sales, and Ops, and I'm the Managing Partner of Revenue Influencers. I spend the majority of my time working one-on-one with our clients, trying to figure out where they are now and what we need to do to help them get to the next level.

The topic for today is what you do day-to-day – the lead-to-revenue management process. To start out, what’s involved in that process?

The best way to look at it is that it's the foundation that buyer’s journey sits on. We use it to ensure that as buyers go through the journey, the business is able to engage them with the right information at the right time.

The process details what happens, how it happens, and most importantly – who's responsible in that moment of engagement. From the first touch (they fill out a form, they see you at a trade show, they attend a webinar, etc.) all the way through to the end status of closed won or lost. It’s about closing gaps along the way and clearly defining what happens at each step.

"Everything in your lead-to-revenue process – one way or another – is supported by technology."

Every company is different and so every process should be different, but are there some universal components to it?

When we go in and we sit down with a client, we focus on six components. There's always additional ones depending on circumstances, but these six always apply.

First and foremost, we start with alignment and look at things like roles and responsibilities, who's involved in the process, how the buyer is involved, and that everyone is in agreement on shared terminology.

Whether you flip the funnel or you have a regular funnel, it’s important that you have an understanding of how you define the stages. What's a marketing qualified lead? What's a sales accepted lead? When does it turn into an opportunity?

This all feeds into your communication loop – how Marketing, Sales, Ops, and even IT share information.

You need to go in-depth when it comes to identifying personas to really understand who your target audience is. You should be able to answer the question of who your best buyer is … if you could only have 50 customers, who would those be and what do they look like?

With a lot of companies we work with, there isn’t any sort of segmentation – everyone gets the same messaging regardless of where they came into the process, who they are, what their company size is, or what their interests are.

This is about finding the channels that are going to engage the prospective buyer. What is the necessary content needed? How exactly will it engage them? What format will it be in? How will it work with other activities along the buyer’s journey?

Then there’s the idea of treating prospects differently depending on how they find you and tailoring calls to actions to specific segments of prospects. What if they come in through a trade show? From a webinar? Should those be two different messages? All things to think about.

We want to focus on what we call interaction points – which is anytime the prospective buyer is engaging with you. That can be the initial engagement, in a nurture activity, as they’re downloading a new piece of content, or reaching out directly to a salesperson.

Whatever those interactions are, look at the decision points and when they decide to either move forward or disconnect from you and do what you can to ensure they’re likely to move forward.

Then we take a look at transition points – which are the times in the process that the buyer is transitioned to Sales or back to Marketing. Are we going to use technology that's integrated together to pass those buyers along? It’s important to understand how those transitions happen to make sure you’re not letting prospects fall through cracks.

Everything that you're doing – one way or the other – is supported by technology. We audit and evaluate your platforms to understand the configurations and integrations within the tech stack.

From there, we identify tasks that are manual and if we should automate it. We determine what will be used as triggers to remind Sales or Marketing of a manual piece of the process, as well.  

This is the most important step – how are you going to measure the process? You’re looking at the benchmarks to see what the improvement has been. Set realistic KPIs, not just for Marketing and Sales, but across the whole company. It’s important to ensure everybody's working towards the same goals.

Reporting and dashboards make all of that measurement real. I'm always amazed how folks don't have information at their fingertips to understand how this part of the business is doing, or how that specific process is performing.

"A successful lead-to-revenue process requires continuous flow and 360-degree visibility."

You've worked with a ton of companies to tweak and fix their processes. In what areas do they commonly make mistakes in their process?

The first and most common mistake with a company’s process is that it’s fragmented. Marketing has a process, Sales has a process, and Ops (if they have there own department) has a process – but they’re not connected in any significant way.

A common story I like to share is a client who had great Marketing, Sales, and Ops teams. In the initial assessment of their process, we found that they had 29 steps and I thought great, 29 steps, somebody has really thought this out.

The challenge was that Marketing only knew about the first six, Ops on the next eight, and Sales on the remaining. They were leaking leads, losing track of SQLs, and wasting opportunities and nobody knew who was responsible for any of it. They were wasting opportunities and there was a tremendous amount of finger pointing going on that negatively impacted revenue growth.

For a process to be successful, it has to have a continuous flow and 360-degree visibility from the moment you engage with a prospective buyer until they are closed won or lost.

Another common mistake I see is companies not going deep enough in their process. I’ve had clients say that they know all the steps, and they can write them down, but there’s no documentation and their technology isn’t set up accordingly to support it.

What are some symptoms of process problems companies can look for that would indicate that they need to work on their revenue process?

I like that you use the word "symptoms" because we often find that our clients treat these symptoms over and over again, but never get down to the root problem.

A popular one that we see is that a company will up their spend on lead generation but sales remain flat. If that’s the case – that's a symptom that your process is broken.

Another one that we're starting to see and we're having some great impact on is call-to-connect time. If that call-to-connect percentage is below 20% (meaning that of the leads passed from Marketing to Sales are not being contacted successfully within a specific time period) then you need to revisit the process.

For companies looking to overhaul their process and implement something completely new, how much of a time commitment should they prepare for?

It all comes down to the motivation level of the company. When a client is prepared and ready to commit to overhauling a process, it moves pretty quickly. A common timeline that we see when the client is motivated is about 90 days.

This first part, we call it the discovery phase, takes about 15 days to really assess the current state of the company – their process, technology, and performance.

After the discovery phase, it usually takes about 30 days to redesign the process and document those changes. Not just what that flow looks like, but everything behind the scenes that make the changes come to life. What do we have to change in the technology? What handoffs are changing and how is that being communicated to the parties involved? It takes 30 days to redesign that with the documentation, and then another 30 days to build out the new processes.

That's where you have to go back in and tweak the technology, make sure that you have the documentation together for your staff, etc. As far as rolling it out across the organization, if it's planned correctly, it can take another 30 days.

All in all, in 90 days you should be able to go from assessing the issues to implementation in your business. Of course, there’s always going to ongoing optimization, but that should get the foundation in place.

If an individual contributor, manager, or director recognizes that the process needs to be overhauled, do you have any suggestions for them to get executive buy-in for the project?

There's a tipping point when leadership begins to listen to those folks underneath them and recognize that the “silver bullet” short term fixes are not getting it done. The conversation starts with asking a few questions:

  • What are you spending across the board on your technology?

  • What about for Marketing?

  • Has the sales team grown?

Really, if you outline everything you’ve done and how much it currently costs, and then you look at what it’s going to take to assess and redesign the process along with the potential efficiency improvements and cost savings, the buy-in comes pretty quickly. Numbers backed by research is usually the best way to get the attention of leadership.

"The lead-to-revenue process isn’t something you can build in a hidden back room."

Now the other side of the coin – if leadership decides on a process overhaul, how should they deal with implementation and the potential resistance to change from employees?

We find that the resistance actually begins prior to any implementation. It begins when you talk about documenting the current process and wanting to make changes to the process.

One of our methods of mitigating any resistance is to find the key stakeholders and get everybody in a room: IT, Ops, Marketing, and Sales. From the start we lay out what the plan is and how it specifically benefits each team.

When the time comes to begin to roll it out, we work with leadership to educate the entire staff. During this time we emphasize the need for things like cheat sheets and shared reporting/dashboards.

Something else we tend to recommend – as goofy as it sounds – is an issues list. It’s a Google Doc everyone has access to that if anything is not working 100% the way it’s supposed to or it’s causing pain, it’s put there and can be addressed in that moment rather than waiting for 60 days or 90 days goes by.

One that I cannot stress enough is constant communication. Something as simple as a 30, 60, and 90-day check-in to highlight where the company and individual teams are having success and how any issues have been addressed.

The lead-to-revenue process isn’t something you can rebuild in a hidden back room – it needs to be something you make everyone aware of from start to finish. That way, when it’s time to roll it out, everyone involved has what they need to understand how the process is going to work and what their individual responsibility is.

When it comes to tools used in the process, what is required and what are some “nice-to-haves” if you’ve got the budget?

First and foremost, you need solid reporting and shared dashboards – that’s a must. For instance, if a client uses Salesforce, then we do everything there – and they should, too.

Marketing automation and CRM are really important to the foundation of the process. I know a lot of folks who invest in marketing automation and begin to treat it as just an email platform. As we talked about earlier there are all those process steps that enhance the buyer’s journey that need to be supported. The technology a company has invested in should be doing that.

As for the nice to haves, I tell clients that you can layer on a variety of software packages. You can add this, you can add that, but ultimately looking at what the core is and making sure that's integrated is the most important.

Now I wanted to grab a few of your favorite resources …

Who is someone we should all follow on social media?

LinkedIn and Twitter are the social platforms I use most often, and there are two folks I want to single out.

The first is David Brock – he’s been in the sales business for a long time and he brings a real freshness to his social presence. He doesn’t sugar-coat it. He pushes you to get serious about what you're trying to do with lead-to-revenue and sales.

Then, Trish Bertuzzi from the Bridge Group is definitely worth following – she does a great job at giving actionable advice.  

What’s your favorite blog or podcast?

Podcast: The Funnel

Podcast: B2B Growth

What is your favorite book?

My favorite all time book remains to be Great By Choice. The 20-mile-march story really resonates with me for the work I do in lead-to-revenue.

Right now I'm reading The ONE Thing by Gary Keller. It’s about prioritizing the right way to be more productive on both the personal and professional levels. There's always a lot of stuff going on, and you're spinning a lot of plates, so you want to make sure you focus on the right things.

What’s your favorite '90s dance song?

Look, the '90s for me, it's all about Will Smith, so it has to be Gettin' Jiggy Wit' It.

Thanks so much for the time today, Pam.