In our recent webinar, How European Leaders Can Move From MQLs To Opportunities, Conrad Mills and I discussed the benefits of adopting the Forrester B2B Revenue Waterfall™, our current demand management framework. Recognizing that most of today’s B2B buying decisions involve multiple individuals who make up a buying group rather than a single individual, the model advocates using the opportunity object present in most CRM systems rather than leads. This makes it easier to track buying groups and the relationship between the individuals associated with a deal instead of treating them as though they are completely unrelated. This approach is nearly always well received and makes immediate sense to anyone involved in B2B marketing and sales. Nevertheless, objections to its adoption do arise. Here are a few that tend to come up and how to handle them.

Marketing Leaders Express Concern Over How They Will Be Measured Now

Saying goodbye to marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) can seem like a big move, especially when they have formed the basis of marketing demand generation and success measurement for years. Adopting an opportunity-based approach aligns with the reality of B2B buying motions. Counting leads does not provide a true indication of success, as they do not directly equate to what actually matters: namely, deals that can be closed. This is why we see less than 1% of inquiries turning into new business, because we’re looking at the wrong thing. Building leads into buying groups and attaching them to opportunities, perhaps spanning different solutions and customer lifecycle stages, results in a more realistic picture. Marketing’s credibility will actually be improved by making this shift in mindset.

Moving Away From Specific CRM Functionality Risks Missing Out On Future Innovations

CRM or SFA (sales force automation) systems all tend to be built around a number of similar core concepts, including the idea of leads. Dropping the use of such a fundamental aspect of these systems might feel like going against how they are naturally supposed to be operated. In reality, though, little systematically is being changed, just the focus of where certain activities take place. The rest of the familiar CRM functionally, especially contacts, accounts, opportunities, and also buying groups, all remains in use as normal, albeit earlier in the process. Vendors, too, are increasingly recognizing that an opportunity-based approach makes the most sense and are reflecting this in their products. New features such as AI-based lead scoring are both a developmental dead end and in any case place the emphasis in the wrong place. Fully formed and engaged buying groups are far more indicative of future deal success than individual leads.

It’s Too Complex To Make The Shift From MQLs To Opportunities

Adopting the B2B Revenue Waterfall and moving from MQLs to opportunities doesn’t have to be like going over an actual waterfall in a barrel — an all-or-nothing undertaking. It’s entirely possible to take a more gradual approach, and most often it’s just a case of building on existing processes and practices. Anyone using opportunities and opportunity contacts in their CRM today will be comfortable with this, and it’s just a matter of moving it a little upstream in existing demand management processes. We advocate proceeding on a “crawl, walk, run” basis, adopting the concept more deeply over time. Initially, teams undertaking demand qualification can start building opportunities and associated buying groups before handing them to sales. Next, start automating this process based on indicators and intent data on prospects and making use of lead-to-account mapping tools, which may even already be in use. At the most sophisticated end of adoption, build out opportunities in advance to represent targeted buying groups across the required solution areas and target accounts that have been identified. Populate these as relevant individuals are identified to create the buying groups ready for sales follow-up.

Watch the webinar on demand to learn more about how to adopt the Forrester B2B Revenue Waterfall in your business and move from MQLs to opportunities. Forrester clients can book a guidance session to discuss further.