The increasing trend of having marketing take over the MDR or lead qualification role of inside sales has been hotly debated and tested in recent months. I still think it’s a good idea, but needs certain expectations and circumstances across sales & marketing to work long-term.
Here are four advantages of having marketing own the inside sales function, followed by four reasons why it might not work. At minimum, if you’re already trying or considering trying this shift, it’s important to have these in mind.
Simply put, marketing by definition puts itself closer to revenue by owning inside sales. The more marketers take ownership of revenue in partnership with their sales counterparts, the better.
Sales focuses their time only on active, qualified opportunities
Does this mean your sales team could be smaller and generate the same or higher sales results? Perhaps. Will this make them more efficient and focused on deals that actually have life in them? Undoubtedly. If your inside sales team is focused on qualifying leads, make that a marketing function and allow your sales team to focus on selling.
A more efficient, lower cost revenue generation engine
Marketing often complains that sales ignores good leads, thereby decreasing what should be a higher conversion rate. So if marketing owns the MDR function, they can put their money (literally) where their mouth is. With marketing owning the lead generation & qualification, I would expect to see higher conversion rates and lower per-opportunity and per-sale costs with flat resources.
Higher lead to SQL conversion
Similarly, marketing now owns the entire lead capture & follow-up process. They control and can coordinate follow-up activities and messages across channels – online, via email, via phone, etc. I would expect this to generate higher conversion to sales qualified leads immediately, as well as in the short and long-term as those leads are nurtured and mature over time.
Little/no sales management experience
Managing individual contributors in marketing, and managing inside sale reps, are completely different skill sets. Sales can be an emotional job, and some of your best reps may also be some of your most high-maintenance employees. Simply put, sales management is a skill that few marketers have. And that can make for a bumpy road.
Managing inside sales can be a full time job
Unfortunately, most of the time I’ve seen inside sales handed over to marketing, it becomes part of a manager or VP’s job to manage that team. They’re expected to spend 20-25 percent of their time managing inside sales, and the rest of their time on their “regular” marketing duties. In reality, managing the inside team can take the majority of your time. And if you don’t give it the time it needs, results will suffer. Few marketing organizations plan for or expect this kind of time commitment.
The sales team might not give this up easily
Despite the advantages of giving up inside sales to marketing, the VP of Sales might not exactly like the idea of having someone else run part of “her” sales organization. Will they still use the same CRM systems? Share the same sales trainers? Who pays for resources that are needed or used jointly by sales organizations that now report into different executives? Not always easy questions to answer, and often these complexities are used to maintain the status quo.
More staff & CMO bandwidth is needed
Several people in marketing will need to devote time and energy to making the inside sales team successful. It’s not just he who is directly managing the team, but also the creative and content needs to support their prospect follow-up, the CMO or VP who needs to tighten coordination across a broader swath of the demand generation waterfall, etc. Owning lead qualification sounds good in theory and on paper, but the reality of long-term resource and focus needs (and the lack of organizations to fund that) can lead to this little experiment failing for the wrong reasons.