Global Fishing Markets and Demand Generation
Every morning during the fishing season, fishing boats and commercial ships go out into the seas and oceans to make a catch. Beating the waves and the heat and sometimes storms and thunders, hours and days and sometimes weeks together, these boats and ships keep casting their nets wide in the giant sea.
However, globally 10% of all fish caught are discarded for various reasons, like the fish may be too small, damaged, inedible, or of little market value. That’s billions of dollars in losses annually.
Wondering why are we - a B2B SaaS company discussing the global fisheries market? The answer lies in two key phrases: “sales prospecting” and “Middle of the Funnel.”
In sales and marketing, a term derived from fishing is “casting a wide net.” Like fishermen use a net to catch as many fish as possible; you would go after as many leads as possible. For example, doing an email campaign for everyone who scanned their badge at your event booth is ‘fishing with nets.’ So is emailing everyone who attended your webinar. This method serves the Top of the Funnel (ToFU) well - it is a game of building quantity and brand equity.
However, like fishermen discover days and weeks after their fishing expedition is done that 10% of their catch does not meet their requirement; likewise, go-to-marketing teams realize their pursuit of going after poorly qualified leads days and weeks later in the Middle of the Funnel (MoFU).
The traditional goal of the ToFU is to create brand awareness and instill an inquiry into the right prospects nudging them into speaking to you. While the intent of the Bottom of the Funnel (BoFU) is to ensure the prospect decides to buy your product.
The MoFU aims to bridge the gap between ToFU and BoFU by ensuring that only serious leads are in conversation. These are leads that want a product like yours but are still determining. The job of the MoFU is to show them the value of your product and push them down the funnel to BoFU, where the purchase happens.
The Slowdown in MoFU: A diagnosis
As I write this blog, the month is December - for most organizations, the last month of the fiscal and a soul-searching month at that, where you analyze what worked and what did not in the current year to build a GTM strategy for the following year.
A critical analysis that goes into this planning is how long did the deals take to move down the funnel. And unsurprisingly, most organizations will find slower movements in the MoFU.
Many reasons cause slowness in the MoFU, but we will focus on the three most important ones.
1. Going after the wrong target persona
The good thing about casting your net wide when prospecting is you have a great brand splash and awareness to as many leads as possible. However, the problem with this approach is that you have now invited too many guests, many not a great fit, to the holiday party!
The point is that your Sales Development Team (SDR) is now following-up with every lead similarly. Prospecting is not a great place to be when buckled under pressure to meet “First Response Time” and the quota of leads to follow up with. Inadvertently, your SDR team will qualify some of the misfits leads too.
2. Sales do not want to over-commit
“Sandbagging” in sales is when a rep hides deals or pushes out the close dates to limit expectations from the management and then exceeds anticipated results. This behavioral problem is best solved by monitoring your funnel metrics and instilling a robust sales process that incentivizes faster deal closures.
3. The case of Pseudo-Pipeline
When SDRs have been converting poor-quality leads into the pipeline, the MoFU is suddenly inflated with a pseudo-pipeline of deals that are not truly relevant. An outcome of this scenario is that sales will only figure out the real deals from the rest after going on the discovery or demo calls - time they could have spent working the movement of actual deals through the funnel.
The Slowdown in MoFU: the Solution
We have covered the definition and diagnosis of what causes the slowdown in the MoFU. Now over to the remedy to speed up the MoFU from a snail into a rabbit.
1. Validating your ICPs and personas
The above explanation sure catches hold of “people-driven” problems. But a peculiar problem emerges when you believe you are targeting the right persona, but no one has realized that this persona does not work in every sales territory.
Let’s dive into an example. Director of Demand Generation as a persona has worked for your product in the AMER region. Your management hired you to scale the business in EMEA and has trained you to go after the Director of Demand Generation. However, a quarter into prospecting, you are not seeing many conversions and blame yourself for the poor performance.
You go to the Business Analyst (BA) in the Sales or Revenue Operations team requesting help analyzing your data.
Two weeks later, the BA responds:
Director of Demand Generation has worked as a strong persona in the AMER region. However, dissecting the companies you prospected, I discovered that the Director of InfoSec is emerging as a strong persona because of stringent privacy laws in the EU market much before Demand Gen Director shows up as a Decision Maker.
This level of detailing from an analyst is beneficial but limited and time-consuming. You need a solution that ties up your funnel right from ToFU through MoFU to BoFU to tell you what personas are working and not.
There are new ICPs and personas emerging from the data all the time that is hard for even marketing to keep a manual tab on. Identifying these invisible ICPs is as important as going after the realized personas that work.
Demand Generation Campaigns can then be tweaked accordingly basis real-time data coming from different channels and campaign types like content & webinar. Demand Generation can dissect what is working on First Touch & Last Touch Campaigns among other things. Maybe Whitepapers work best as a First Touch Campaign in generating a strong pipeline and revenue but Conferences do well in Last Touch Campaigns. That level of detailing is a shot in the arm for the Demand Generation team.
2. Stop assigning all leads to SDR teams
A strong practice in Marketing Operations is to ensure that only leads that meet the Marketing Qualified Score or criteria are pushed from the Marketing Automation tool to the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool like Salesforce. This does two important things:
- SDRs are only assigned MQLs to work and follow up with
- Gives time to leads that have not qualified yet, to meet the criteria before being worthy of SDR’s attention
We wrote at length about how not all leads are created equal and how a full-funnel feedback loop helps to prioritize the most important leads basis its pipeline potential.
3. Introduce a qualification playbook for SDRs
Every organization trains its SDRs about the business, prospecting, and sales process. However, far too many still need to instill a checklist to ensure only the right ones get converted into opportunities.
Once created, you cannot reverse a wrongly converted lead into an opportunity. It's like a caterpillar morphing into a butterfly - there’s no going back. So when your SDR converts a poorly qualified lead into an opp, they have set in motion a series of mistakes that will happen and need corrective action at each step of the downstream funnel. The best measure is to ensure the wrong conversion does not happen in the first place.
Introduce a checklist of criteria to ensure SDRs qualify the right leads. Introduce validations to ensure those that do not meet the conditions have no chance of conversion in the first place. Many of these can be automated, to ensure the criteria are met and a wrong conversion doesn’t occur.
4. Introduction of Quick Feedback Loops from SAL to MQL
Sales have an advantage over SDRs when gathering firsthand deal-specific intel from prospects not available to marketing. However, if this information stays in a silo with sales and is not passed back to marketing which usually can tell conversion rates through the funnel, given they look at this data more closely - a dangerous precedent has been introduced unknowingly where marketing misses accounting for this variable in their campaign spending to go after the personas they believe are working. In contrast, sales will continue rejecting or, worse still, not acting on deals they believe not to work.
Quick feedback loop back into marketing campaigns on what Sales reject is critical for both sales and marketing teams. Sales will soon find themselves in a drought of good leads and a flood of poor ones if they don’t share.
The onus of enabling this loop befalls on SalesOps or Marketing Ops and is a right of the Demand Generation teams. And again, RevOps, in the absence of real-time app monitoring metrics in the funnel, will find itself in a dozen spreadsheets looking at old data while the live deals and data suffer.
Realtime funnel monitoring for the rescue
In the most recent 2022 State of Sales Enablement research, 37% of executive leaders said the buyers have increased expectations of value-added insights, and 28% of executives responded, saying the buyers are more impatient and expect an immediate response.
In a world where buyer behavior is fast shifting, you want to avoid your MoFU being flushed with poor-quality leads that slow down your selling cycles and steal from you the opportunity cost of attending to the real prospects in your pipeline.
What solves the slowdown in the MoFU that critical part of the funnel, where prospects are potentially considering a purchase, is visibility into historical trends of what persona has worked: titles, countries, industries, departments, and so on. Along with real-time contextual alerts on which leads or deals to focus, this hastens the decision-making in the MoFU.