Some debates seem timeless. Keynesian economics or laissez-faire? Liberal or conservative? Yankees or Red Sox? Sales or marketing? Admittedly the last one may seem out of place, but the arguments are just as passionate and their supporters, just as vocal.

At Compile we work with both sides. We witness firsthand how well marketing and sales can function together with the proper systems in place. Sadly, we also see how dysfunction can creep in. In working with our customers over the past few years, some patterns have emerged that separate “best-in-class” companies from those that are not.

Here are six things that the high functioning ones do differently.

1. Invest in lead qualification

Invest in lead qualification

The existence of a team whose sole purpose is to directly touch and qualify leads is positively correlated with a happy marriage between marketing and sales. You can call them Sales Development Reps (SDRs), Account Development Reps (ADRs), Lead Development Rep (LDRs) or even tele-prospecting and (gasp!) tele-marketing agents.

Regardless of the name, the presence of a XDR team makes us breathe a little easier. The reason is simple: focus. A team that owns the lead stream and can develop its “muscles” around executing and qualifying leads of all types, becomes highly proficient at just that. It isn’t constantly whipsawed by the demands of closing business and/or dealing with the inevitable post-sales fire drills foisted upon a quota carrying rep.

Here is how you can make a XDR team work in your organization.

In-house or outsource: We have seen companies have great success building these teams internally, as well as using third party outsource appointment setting companies like Point Clear, Green Leads, SalesStaff and others. As long as someone is appointed to manage the resources (a strong XDR manager), it doesn’t seem to matter whose logo is on the XDR’s pay check.

Distinct inbound and outbound: Very high functioning teams sometimes have separate XDRs for inbound and outbound leads.

For more details on the XDR function, I recommend this piece by Craig Rosenberg, aka the Funnelholic.

2. Agree on terms

Agree on terms

Marketing and sales must agree on the definitions of marketing qualified lead (MQL) and sales qualified lead (SQL). There have been many good pieces on this topic and here is one from our friends at Marketo.

This isn’t just a semantic issue, it is the core component of your sales engine. The odds of success are exceedingly low without this mutually agreed upon blueprint.

3. Design the right incentives

Design the right incentives

Once the definition for qualified leads has been agreed and signed in blood by both parties, the incentive schemes and service level agreements (SLA) for the XDR team need to be put in place.

We have seen many situations where the sole metric for success is the number of meetings. If you reward people for setting meetings, they will pursue leads that promise such an outcome. The meetings may not be with a decision maker or influencer (harder to connect with) but rather with tire kickers and the un-empowered. You get what you pay for.

Well run organizations reward their XDRs not on the basis of the meetings scheduled, but the ultimate outcome of the meeting (SQL) or even the outcome of the sales process (revenue).

Here are a few tips on designing the right incentive structure.

Make the compensation based on outcome. Pay your SDRs base and incentive. Reward your reps solely on activity like the number of dials or number of meetings set up.
Have an SLA agreement on how quickly the XDR team follows-up on leads. Discard leads which aren’t sales ready. They may be relevant for nurturing .
Have an SLA agreement on the number of touches and the channels of outreach used by the XDR team. Disqualify leads after a few failed attempts to connect. It takes 9+ touches to reach a qualified lead.

4. Measure outcomes

Track, Measuer

Even the best designed schemes will fail in the absence of continuous monitoring. To tune your sales machine, you need to track the leads in your system.

  • How many leads did marketing deliver to the XDR team?
  • Of those leads, how many appointments could the XDR team arrange?
  • Why were some leads cold?

Winning sales teams use marketing automation tools to religiously track and measure lead RoI. What may be less obvious, and is sometimes viewed as to hard to capture, is the activity level data. How many calls, emails and social media outreaches did a XDR perform for each lead? There are some great solutions that can help automate some of the calling as well as tracking (and much more), like and ConnectAndSell.

5. Review metrics

Review and tune

Marketing and sales need a forum to review the activity and outcome data at a granular level, and discuss rejected leads.

  • If leads were not dispositioned per the SLA, why not?
  • If the agreed number of touches didn’t take place in the timeframe set forth in the SLA, why?
  • If the XDR team is struggling with poor quality leads, dig in to the details to understand exactly what that means.
  • If the field is struggling with the meetings that are set up, on what dimensions?

This review discussion should take place frequently, ideally even weekly.

6. Train and re-train

Train and re-train

Finally, most well-run organizations that we see place a high premium on training. Even with all the pieces in place, the importance of the skill level of your XDR team cannot be overstated. The difference in outcome between a high functioning XDR team and a mediocre one is striking.

XDR teams are often in flux as veteran XDRs sometimes move on to quota carrying sales roles and new, hungry, talent is on-boarded. An annual cadence for all to be re-trained by an expert is a must.

The six steps may seem like a lot of work, but we’ve seen customers that have used the techniques above to reinvigorate their sales pipeline.

Editor’s note: This is an edited version of a previous post, which was published on 16 April 2014.