The Cranky Product Manager is SUPER LAZY these days. Once again, she’s letting someone else do the work – the Cranky Marketer – the dude/dudette in charge of Marketing at a B2B tech company. This is part TWO of three (see part one here).
This post is a longie but a goodie, so check it.
The Cranky Marketer on The Problem with Sales and Senior Management
While I really had a tough time with Engineering when I was a Product Manager, it was nothing compared to the problems I have with Sales, now that I’m in Marketing.
As individuals, most salespeople are pretty decent folk. There are a few assholes in every company who don’t give a sh*t about who they abuse en route to meeting quota, but when it’s getting late in the quarter or the economy sours, and account reps are hustling to hit their number, even the normal ones turn into the highest paid set of babies and whiners you’ve ever seen.
And while they’ll blame everyone in sight if needed, a lot of the complaints point to Marketing.
“There weren’t enough leads.
“The lead quality was sh*t.”
“I needed new success stories. The existing ones aren’t relevant to my prospects.”
And my favorite of all:
“My territory is different than other territories. The standard collateral doesn’t apply to my patch. What else have we got?”
And while this is clearly an exercise in creative excuse making, Sr. Management never fails to give in to this crap and an edict comes down from above to generate more “quality” leads, “refresh” the collateral etc. And the downward spiral continues.
There are ways to address this, but most companies don’t have the patience, skill set or culture to fix the problem. They’re too caught up in the quarterly tactical objectives than to do what is right.
First of all, even in companies where there are way too many leads – and believe it or not, I once worked in a company where even an order taker could meet quota – a number of reps complained there weren’t enough leads.
Why is it that no matter how good the lead generation programs, 98% of leads end up in the dustbin? And isn’t it such an amazing coincidence that no matter what company, no matter what product, 49 out of 50 people who are counted as leads turn out to be uninterested or unable to buy the product? What are the odds of that?
Here’s a novel idea: put some accountability on the sales people beyond simply “making their number”. I’m pretty sure some territories are better than others, but there’s no way all sales reps are doing their jobs even moderately well.
I’ve seen sales reps who can’t tell you what business their prospects are in, what the business issues are for some of their larger opportunities or whether any channel partners have in roads at a prospect and can help move the deal forward. Forget about channel conflict or compensation issues for while. The question here is whether or not the rep even has a clue about the dynamics of the account. But that’s rarely analyzed. It’s time consuming to actually keep on top of sales reps. It’s a lot easier to tell Marketing to do a better job.
For many reps it’s simply a numbers game. With enough leads, even a very unsophisticated approach can yield results. And instead of trying to maximize the value of the deal, they’ll discount more to close the deal sooner. But then, they’re compensated on quarterly revenue so why not take a smaller amount now right?
So it’s not their fault. It’s Sr. Management who set up the sales compensation plan that forces them to behave that way. And that compensation plan along with Management’s tacit consent of the “big baby” behavior, in turn forces Marketing to fall into line and ensure the reps are properly “fed and nurtured”.
Moving beyond the sales issues, it turns out that virtually every Sr. Executive wants to be a Marketer. Yup, absolutely true. Why else do they forward emails they receive from competitors to the Marketing department, with comments like “FYI, check out the messaging in this email I just received.” Or, “Has your team seen what X is doing lately?”
OK, thanks Mr. CFO. First, I’m glad you are taking such an interest in our competitors that you’ve decided to surreptitiously add yourself to their marketing database. But do I forward you links to our competitors’ 10K statements pointing out how much better they are doing financially than we are? Or how about this Mr. CTO? Maybe I should start forwarding the patents our competitors are filing, you know, just as an FYI.
And I hate nothing more than the Sr. Exec who decided to spend 5 minutes actually reading our website, and then starts making suggestion on how to “tweak” it. Listen, those pages on the website have been like that for the last 9 months. What took you so long to send your suggestions forward? Needed a bit of time to think about them? Thanks, but we’re way ahead of you.
By the way, we don’t “tweak” anything in Marketing. We have a plan and we’re trying to execute on it. We’re measuring our work at every stage in more detail than any other part of the business. I’ve got so many metrics and measurements I could unload on you, you’d think you’re an actuary.
And one more thing. The website isn’t simply a “website”, its a freaking web application. It’s got integrations into our CRM, bug tracking and order processing systems. The Partner and Customer portals are sitting atop a home-grown CMS (cuz the company was too cheap to let us license a real one) and both portals are tied back into our Identity Management System. There is a lot of content on the site that we have update regularly. It’s a critical part of our business operation.
And yet, we have to keep it up and running with no budget, on second rate servers and without full support from IT. Why? Because they’ve decided they’ll only support the “back end” databases etc, but the “front end” belongs to Marketing. Gee, silly me. I thought we all worked for the same company.
I could keep going but I’m sure you get the point. Somewhere between having to baby sit the sales team, let everyone think they are a marketer, and maintain a complex web application with only a minimal development staff, we still have to do our marketing jobs. And none of this includes all the crap we have to put up with from Product Management.
I’ll get to that in the next installment.