Tech Marketer Talks: Harley Lehmann, Cisco Systems

Garrett Mann
Garrett Mann

Director, Content Marketing

harley lehmann Tech Marketer Talks - marketing and sales alignmentHarley Lehmann is the Global Demand Centre Head of EMEA Demand Planning for Cisco Systems and is focused daily on delivering best in class marketing services for Cisco field marketing and Partners. He has been with Cisco for 16 years and has served in a number of roles supporting the EMEA markets including: Contact Center Operations, Data Strategy, Marking Execution and Demand Generation. We sat down with Harley at our latest London ROI Summit to talk about how critical the relationship between marketing, inside sales/contact center, and sales teams is. Specifically, Harley discusses the best practices that Cisco follows to create better alignment across organizations and how marketing fuels the pipeline that it delivers to sales. 

Can you tell us a bit about the journey you’ve been on working with marketing or sales – what are the items that you think have made it better over the last few years?

Demand generation for me started turning a corner probably about 2 to 3 years ago. That’s where as an organization, we really rallied behind the concept of needing to speak a language that sales understood. That’s not just about closing this apparent gap between marketing and sales to begin with but actually making it a much closer more integrated experience. And we did that in a number of ways:

One was making sure that we spoke a common language across all of marketing when it came to what we call pipeline. We took some guidance from a company called SiriusDecisions and we standardized our naming convention on things like what a lead is. Before then, there was a big difference of opinion in exactly what a lead was for our teams. And having the MQL, Marketing Qualified Lead, the sales executive lead and the sales  qualified lead as a standard definition backed up by the data itself was a key turning point for us.

Secondly, we have created a much better collaboration platform as far as the data, reporting, tools and process between marketing and sales. On the back of we’ve created a collaboration platform for our partners because one of the concepts of closed loop lead marketing was about making sure that we could report end-to-end. Not only just a volume of leads that we were generating for sales but also what sales and our partners were doing with that. So we created a platform for data sharing and created a base to be able to report back to marketing what the effectiveness of our programs and our channels both digital and outbound have actually enabled us to do.

These two things have really helped shape the conversation between the two sides of the organization, meaning we’ve been able to focus more on the quality of leads we’re sending rather than just being tied to volumes. Also, making sure that marketing is accountable for a number that’s a pipeline number that is in all of our business objectives across all parts of the marketing organization has meant that we’ve been able to actually be more accountable to what we’re delivering to our sales organizations.

How do marketing and sales align for maximum productivity?

One of the greatest challenges we face right now is getting much more effective with our most expensive resources which are inside sales and telemarketing guys. So, when my contact center operations manager comes to me and talks about how to squeeze a little bit more productivity out of our presales agents, he’s talking about how we can motivate them because a lot of time these guys are relatively young, and it’s not the most glamorous of jobs to be banging the phones day in and day out. Being able to share more of the insight for those individuals about what’s the reason to pick up the phone, what’s the type of conversation you’re going to have.

That sharing of information from marketing to the presales agents is actually one of the biggest motivators. It’s not necessarily about increasing the paycheck every time a result comes in, it’s about actually making them an extended part of the marketing workforce and then back the other way from sales. We want to make sure that engagements our agents having with our customers are actually being given to the sales teams as insight about what to go after first.

So we stack rank for different sources and different types of activity and the (LDRs) follow up with sales to help give them some of the insights about why we think this is pipeline that will turn into revenue for them and help direct them to what’s going to be most effective.

How do you integrate sales feedback into your marketing programs?

Our agents are speaking to our customers day in, day out, they are the ones that have the voice to the customer that they can provide back to marketing. They’re the ones that are getting the insights to how successful the marketing campaigns are.

And we need to be as receptive to that type of insight and feedback from them so we can build and interrupt programs, dial up some activities and dial down others. It’s a two way street. It’s not just about us in demand generation saying, I believe that this is the best that you can get. It’s about saying why and if that doesn’t work, being able to accept that feedback and actually build that in to how we spend budget and how we go after sources, so I think that’s great.

Finally, we’re not trying to just chase that one dollar down or that one pound down. It’s about making sure that we have an agreement that we will be nurturing more. And using automation and the tools and the process to have that nurture, I think that’s something we’re going to be focused on in the future which will keep these contacts warm for sales.

When you have multiple sources of generating responses and leads, how familiar is sales with what marketing programs are purchased?

Digital marketing efforts are much, much lower profile so we have to do a lot more work to make sales aware of those. But nothing makes them more aware than seeing the data come through on a weekly basis – the continuity. Sales being able to see the continuity of leads coming through is a much better than anything else that we can possibly do to showcase our programs to them – that makes them pay attention.

Can you share your typical process for lead follow up?

We try and tag pretty much everything that comes through as a response or an engagement in some way, check our form to tie back to what actually generated that response in the first place. It’s an imperfect world – To try and tag and label absolutely everything is pretty challenging especially when you’re dealing in tens or hundreds of thousands of responses. But we aggregate where we need to and we also get granular where it makes sense.

Traditionally, depending on the source, we will have most of our responses in the commercial space at Cisco go through some sort of marketing quality assurance, which is done predominantly with the contact center unless that’s done externally. So, I would say today, that probably about 80 percent of the responses and the engagements that we’re generating in the demand generation space are coming through the contact center.

And the contact center is briefed daily, or at least weekly, on what’s actually coming through, what it’s going to look like, the source, what marketing activity its tied to and what we think the best conversation that they can have is. I go back to the comment I made earlier about making sure that the education of the presales agents or inside sales if you call it that, has to be continuous and it has to be making sure that they are skilled as they possibly can in being able to determine how to have that conversation.

How do your tactics differ based on the source of the response?

If the response comes through content syndication which is your traditional one form fill and then into qualification – if you don’t have the nurture in place to lead it further, then that’s probably going to be a little bit more indirect to the conversation for presell. So hopefully based on having the different sources come through over time means they kind of know what to expect.

With inbound i.e. if a customer is coming to us with phone and request call backs and click to chat on our web property, then there is a chance that that needs to be handled immediately and passed out to sales as quickly as possible because that person is actually at that point of conversion.

And event responses are handled in two ways: Either we identify them as a prospect or somebody who maybe hasn’t been engaged fully at the event, we’ll telequalify based on the fact they were at the event for a reason. Or, if we have our sales or architecture reps at the event and they’re engaging with the customer, then we still want to report the influence of marketing on line and marketing having generated a lead off the back of it.

How does marketing hold sales accountable for the leads delivered?

The more that we get the ability to add intelligence, then we’re more sure that that lead is of value to sales. So there is accountability for the sales organization to actually react quickly to the lead that marketing is sending through. There’s a customer at the end of this lead who has an expectation that marketing is setting and somebody will be in touch with them.

The programs that we’re looking at introducing now, outside of having completely written SLAs between marketing and sales, dictate that we will work more with the willing. If there are parts of our sales organization that say they will work these leads and if another party stalled on that engagement with the customer, we’ve got visibility to that, so we can pull the lead back and redistribute to someone else who will work it.

If it again doesn’t quite get there fast enough, then we’ll send it back to our telemarketing agency and they will nurture or requalify it for sales.

How do you track campaigns – can you share the conversion metrics you use?

The function that I work in is very metrics organized, so we look at all the traditional sort of media conversions all the time – from clicks, impressions, number of chats, form fills, abandons, etc. But when we get into the into the funnel management then we’re looking at it more specifically by source, by channel, by tactic, by play, responses that are being engaged by a contact center and so on. There’s also a list to contact rate, a contact to lead conversation rate, and then marketing qualified leads.

Once a lead becomes a marketing qualified lead, then it moves to accepted lead, and then, ultimately to sales qualified. We have targets across all of those metrics. We’re looking to go further up the funnel and start setting joined targets across different functions within the organization to make sure that we’re bringing those people who are light engagers all the way through campaigns to help them convert.

If marketers are looking to better their relationship with sales, what’s one bit of advice that you’d leave them with to start that process to implement change?

I think being able to speak consistently in a language that your sales teams understand is one thing. And I think the quality assurance that marketing puts behind the fuel it’s providing into the funnel and the pipeline that it delivers to sales. I wouldn’t cut any corners when it comes to hitting a target or to a volume because it’s one thing to provide that into the sales organizations but another thing for them to actually convert. If you’re not assuring the quality that comes in, you’re not going to see the conversion in the end.


Cisco, demand generation, global marketing, Harley Lehmann, international marketing, marketing programs, Marketing ROI, sales, sales and marketing alignment, Sales pipeline, sales productivity, Tech Marketer Talks

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