The Dirtiest Word in Sales

Aren’t you sick of hearing about how companies need to ‘bridge the gap’ between marketing and sales? About the raging ‘battle’ between these two critical components of your organization?

Your leads suck!”

“Your reps suck!”

Sigh.

It’s like a tiresome sibling rivalry, full of finger pointing and blame shoveling. At the root of all of this silly gnashing of teeth and handwringing is a little thing we call a “lead”. And the lead is not to blame.

Lead shaming is rampant

Have you ever heard of a sales team singing the praises of their marketing organization because they are inundated with really good leads? I mean, when’s the last time you heard of a rep being congratulated on hitting quota and saying “Thank you, but I give much of the credit to marketing for all those great leads!”

The complaint we hear most often is that the leads suck because when reps call, they can’t get in touch with anyone.

So this is what it’s come to? A sales person gets to judge the quality of the lead based on whether or not he or she can connect with that lead? This removes all responsibility from the rep.

Let’s flip the script on that. What if the problem is the sales person’s lack of skill to actually inspire that lead to have a meaningful conversation?

(Now, before you get angry at me, I’m not saying that every lead Marketing sends is great and ‘sales ready’. If Marketing isn’t qualifying leads to ensure they match, at the very least, the target account profile, then the sales rep’s job is going to be INFINITELY more difficult.)

Uncovering the true lead killer

Recently we worked with a client whose sales team was only converting 3% of their leads and not surprisingly, Sales and Marketing simmered with frustration. We evaluated the leads and the sales process to better understand the situation and discovered that the leads weren’t universally bad. Poor follow-up techniques were to blame. Sure, they had all the right tools and technology; but it was how they were using those tools in those technologies and more importantly, how they were communicating that impacted conversion the most.

The company put “standard” processes in place, such as:

  • SLA’s on when to action the lead
  • Call scripts
  • Technologically driven follow-up protocols

But the real problem was all the ‘little things’ that added up to points of failure. While they felt the reps were all “doing the same thing”, they were really doing different things.

For example, each rep conducted research differently. They didn’t introduce themselves, their company or their value proposition in the same way and the objective of their outreach varied wildly.  Even the documentation of their outreach efforts was inconsistent.

By simply providing a common, proven structure of how, when and how often they communicated with the lead and driving those communications with maximum efficacy, the results skyrocketed!

Using the same pool for leads, the same tools and technologies and the same sales reps, but merely changing and improving HOW they communicate to those leads, this client improved conversions from 3% to 8% in only 30 days.

That’s a 267% increase!

The ROI on this increase is staggering. At a cost of $50 per scored-up lead, the difference between converting 3% (1 in 33 leads) and 8% (1 in 12.5 leads) resulted in a savings of $1,025 per opportunity.

Put the emphasis where it belongs

The concept of a lead is wildly misunderstood. It is not the be-all-end-all of sales. Its presence (or lack thereof) does not determine sales success, nor is its quality the primary factor in quota attainment. Far too much pressure is put on the lead to succeed!

While I’ll never be quoted as saying ‘Leads Don’t Matter’, it’s far more important to focus on the action of your leads than the lead quality itself. A consistent, effective execution is the most important factor for successful conversion.

So the next time your marketing and sales teams are quibbling about leads, take the time to really evaluate your sales team’s processes and uncover the small, but meaningful, ways they can improve. Maybe you’ll come to the realization that your marketing leads don’t suck after all.

“Lead” shouldn’t be a dirty word whispered under your breath. It’s time to put that stigma to rest and bring harmony back to the sales and marketing relationship!

Do you think that leads are inherently bad or does the problem lie more in the ineffective processes to convert them?

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