• February 10, 2010
  • By Jim Dickie, research fellow, Sales Mastery

Avoid the Disaster of 2009

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As 2010 unfolds, with its all-new set of targets for revenue and growth, let’s take a moment to look at the singular disaster of 2009, so we don’t repeat the mistake this year.

First, let me take you back to the very end of 2008. Of the more than 1,800 companies worldwide participating in our 15th annual Sales Performance Optimization (SPO) study, only 59 percent reported salespeople making their quotas for that year—the first decline in sales performance in four years, down from 61 percent in 2007. 

Despite the lackluster results, 86 percent of companies told us at the time that they were raising quotas for 2009, and more than half of those firms stated that individual revenue targets would increase by 11 percent or more. We asked all the participating companies to share the specific initiatives they were putting in place to help sales teams achieve these new numbers. At the top of that list? Revising and/or enhancing lead generation programs.

While the intentions sounded admirable, we started getting nervous in the spring of 2009 when we began to gather data for our annual study on lead generation optimization. Figures gathered from nearly 700 firms revealed that the promise of additional coverage from marketing was not turning into reality. In fact, 67 percent of the firms told us that they’d frozen or reduced their lead generation budgets for the year. As a result, very few sales teams were seeing an expanded stream of leads. 

In addition, only 19 percent of firms stated that they had a lead management system in place to facilitate lead scoring, nurturing, and tracking, and thereby more effectively leverage the leads that were generated.

So how did all this play out for 2009? Data from our 16th annual SPO study, involving more than 2,400 firms, shows another drop in the share of reps making quota—down to just 52 percent. That lowered the level of full-plan attainment across all firms surveyed, from 86 percent in 2008 to 78 percent in 2009. 

The situation gets worse. Amazingly, as we turned the corner into 2010, 85 percent of sales organizations told us that they had again raised quotas for their sales reps. These chief sales officers and chief marketing officers seem to have already blinded themselves to the mistakes of 2009. 

Our findings indicate that marketing teams continue to struggle with tight budgets around lead generation campaigns, but we believe they can increase the effectiveness of those initiatives with some reasonable investments in CRM. Having benchmarked users of solutions geared toward lead generation management, and having received product and directional updates from a number of players in this space, we can recommend that you look at firms such as Aprimo, Genius.com, iContact, Manticore, Marketo, OppSource, and Unica. 

These solutions offer robust capabilities such as help in targeting the right prospects, effectively executing campaigns, evaluating interest and buying intent, getting hot leads into the hands of the right sales resources, incubating those leads that have interest but no current time, and ultimately tracking the disposition of leads so you can learn from your successes and failures to fine-tune your lead generation efforts going forward.

To the 81 percent of you not yet utilizing these types of CRM solutions, adding these capabilities to your lead-effectiveness arsenal can make a significant difference in the results you see in 2010. 

Jim Dickie is a partner with CSO Insights, a research firm that specializes in benchmarking CRM and sales effectiveness initiatives. He can be reached at jim.dickie@CSOinsights.com.

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