"Respect"…Ali G.

Throughout the entire evolution of the modern corporate structure, there always has been an inherent conflict between the Sales & Marketing departments. Sales & Marketing fight over many things (budget, organizational recognition, etc.) but their core battles tend to revolve around issues that touch the lead generation process.

Sales typically complains that Marketing isn't bringing them qualified leads. Marketing's usual response is that Sales isn't trying to close the leads that Marketing has generated.

In the 21st century, much B to B lead generation takes place online and B to B sales organizations (hopefully) deploy web forms on their websites linked to their CRM systems that enable lead capture.

Each organization must decide what fields to use in their web forms and whether to make any or all of them mandatory. If Sales & Marketing were to be asked for their input on this question, their respective biases would likely rise to the surface.

Good salespeople prefer to pre-qualify leads as much as possible so they don't waste time talking to non-prospects. They would also like to be able to objectively rank the quality of the leads so as to be able to call the "A" leads first, followed by the "B" leads, etc. Naturally, salespeople will typically favor longer forms with more questions that will enable their prequalification process to be made much easier. Questions about budget, purchasing timetable & purchasing authority would be included in the web form if Sales gets its way.

Marketing professionals view the web form as the primary vehicle for email list generation and they intuitively know that fewer people will fill out long forms, resulting in fewer email opt-ins. Also, Marketing knows that while Sales is most focused on generating short-term revenue (and generating sales commissions), Marketing's priority is capturing as many leads as possible and periodically reaching out to those folks with newsletters and other e-initiatives. Such a strategy will, over time, reel in many prospects and convert them to customers if and when a buying decision is made. Therefore, Marketing will opt for shorter forms in order to maximize the volume of lead generation.

Who's right? It depends. My Internet Marketing background biases me towards shorter forms even though I can appreciate the Salesperson's desire for prequalification. At my current company, when someone applies for a job on our website, they type out their basic contact information into a web form and hit "submit" before they are given the email address to which they need to send their resume. If they don't send their resume after filling out the form, I then send them a "reminder" email and if they still don't send their resume, I know they aren't a serious candidate. Meanwhile, I am able to generate the maximum number of possible email addresses that I can then market to.

Salespeople who favor long web forms might consider the alternative:

1) Change to a short form.
2) Send the prospect a thank you email with a link to a web survey. I have found that Surveymonkey.com offers simple yet robust survey creation extremely cheaply.
3) Ask all the desired prequalification questions and for prospects who answer the survey completely, offer an incentive (like a Starbucks Gift Card or a Restaurant.com coupon).

I think that both Sales & Marketing would be satisfied with the above solution.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.

January 19, 2007

Todd Mintz is the Director of Internet Marketing & Information Systems for S.R. Clarke Inc., a Real Estate Development and Residential / Commercial Construction Executive Search / Recruiting Firm headquartered in Fairfax, VA with offices nationwide. He is also a Director & Founding Member of SEMpdx: Portland, Oregon's Search Engine Marketing Association.

Search Engine Guide > Todd Mintz > The Web Form: The Online Battleground of Sales & Marketing