The launch of the solution did not produce an immediate spike in wins for Nortel Networks, according to Pierret, but he says that the company's management was nevertheless impressed by the quantity and quality of new information that the system generated. With better information coming in on the quality of leads, the effectiveness of the lead generation campaigns, and the productivity of different sales reps, Nortel Networks' management felt it was better positioned to see what was working and what was not, and who was working effectively or not.
"After two months," Pierret continues, "we could tell management: Unless this vendor changes its behavior in the next month, it needs to be ‘canned.' Or, unless these users change their behavior, we should get rid of them and replace them with others."
The ROI on Better Data
At the end of the pilot, Nortel Networks elected to sign a longer-term, year-to-year contract with BlueRoads and expand the solution to cover all its product lines across its different geographies using a phased approach. By January 2003 the implementation covered all the United States, and by March, all of North America. South America came under the system by September. Currently the system encompasses a total of about 700 users, representing some 160 reseller organizations, and the uniform process covers all Nortel Networks products.
The new pull approach to lead dissemination did produce improved sales results, but not immediately. Nortel Networks tracked its close rates from leads from the beginning of the pilot in July 2002, and for the first few months the rate remained more or less unchanged from previous levels. However, as the new process took hold, Nortel Networks noted the lead closure rate began to swing upward to the point that currently it is on the order of five times what it was at the beginning of the pilot.
In addition, the company saw the secondary assignment rate for its leads drop rapidly, falling to as low as one-sixth its previous rate. And moreover, the reasons for secondary assignments were now more visible to the company's executives, making this issue more manageable. Beyond this, Nortel Networks saw revenues from leads double every quarter for six quarters in a row.
Life in the Spotlight
Not that the rollout has been without its challenges. Early in the deployment, Nortel Networks did get some pushback from its own salespeople and from its channel partners against moving to what Pierret calls "true accountability." With the system requiring feedback on pulled leads, reps have had to learn how to live under something of a microscope. "People weren't used to having that bright light on them," Pierret explains. "[Now] the spotlight is on. You let a lead expire, you don't provide feedback, or you close a lead and say the customer wasn't interested, and then that customer calls back and says he hasn't been called — that's not good. Those are the sales reps that we took out of the system.
"And it helped to resolve the age-old issue of the perception that marketing is throwing leads over the walls and that sales never provides feedback. Neither of those is entirely true, and if you have the data, it helps to clear up the finger-pointing that normally arises."
Pierret declined to reveal Nortel Networks' total investment in the BlueRoads project, but the provider prices its solution based on the platform and whatever additional modules that a client needs to install. Pierret does not hesitate to say, however, that he believes the system has allowed Nortel Networks to better manage its sales processes. He concludes: "The communications that are built into the system help close the loop. It helps to ensure that there is no change in direction based upon gray, anecdotal information. It's the facts. This is what has happened, this is the person who has either dropped the ball or made a slam dunk and closed the deal. And so we're going to give more leads to the guy who made the slam dunk, and the guy who dropped the ball, sorry, you may get a trickle, or maybe none."