More than 40 percent of salespeople claim that lead prospecting is often more difficult than qualifying and closing the actual deal. This could be why so many salespeople struggle with lead generation and instead spend much of their time on current business.
But difficulty and a lack of time are merely surface reasons explaining why sales teams often fail to generate more leads. There could be more than one reason why a team isn’t finding as much new business as it could.
Lack of a Plan – Sales teams might have a goal of generating leads, but they often don’t follow through on it. It’s easy for prospecting to get pushed to the back burner, especially when dedicated time isn’t set aside for the task. Without a concrete plan to find additional leads, salespeople might remain more focused on their current clients than they are on discovering new ones.
The Thrill of the Sale – Closing a sale is often the most rewarding phase for a salesperson. Because of this, it can be tempting to spend a majority of his or her time discovering client needs, presenting solutions, and making appointments in order to make a sale. Sales teams might spend entire days servicing current accounts without doing any prospecting.
Poor Communication Between Sales and Marketing – A lack of communication between sales and marketing is arguably the biggest obstacle to developing new leads. Neither team is able to improve lead generation without first providing feedback to the other.
Even if the marketing team is providing leads, salespeople might not follow up on them — especially if they don’t find them useful. Communication is key for these two teams to work well together. There’s no way for these teams to develop additional leads without providing both positive and negative feedback to one another, emphasizing which types of leads work well and which ones lead to less fruitful relationships.
4 Ways to Fix These Problems and Generate More Leads
These tips can help your sales team remedy below-the-surface mistakes and generate more business in the long run.
1. Make lead generation a priority — and measure it.
Just 13 percent of sales companies describe their lead generation as successful. Don’t be like those companies. Prioritize lead generation with the rest of the sales team’s goals — it can go a long way. Setting a goal for lead generation can challenge your team and measure the effectiveness of your current strategy. Monitoring these results can give you more practical data to develop your sales strategy and ultimately generate more leads.
Still not convinced? Close to 90 percent of businesses that aligned lead generation efforts through sales and marketing reported noticeable increases in leads that converted to actual opportunities. Bottom line: Focus on lead generation, and make it a team priority.
2. Enhance communication with your marketing team.
Use the information you gather from observing your sales staff to assist the marketing team — especially if marketing hasn’t been providing high-quality leads.
It can be easier to improve the overall collaboration between sales and marketing when your marketers have a clear idea of what’s happening internally, enabling them to begin a more productive search for new business.
To make the communication more seamless between your sales and marketing teams, invite feedback. At The Center for Sales Strategy, we do this by creating a defined feedback process: Once a month, we hold a meeting where our sales staff provides feedback on generated leads. This isn’t a meeting to complain; rather, it’s a meeting to improve our process.
But feedback is only valuable if it’s specific. Tell your salespeople to share their likes and dislikes about the leads they’ve gotten — the more specific and accurate the information, the more successful both teams will be as a whole. Only with strong back-and-forth dialogue will you see improvement.
3. Master the art of the service-level agreement.
Establishing a division of labor between marketing and sales is crucial to generating more leads. Creating a service-level agreement can help solidify the roles of both parties so each knows its exact responsibilities.
Marketing might have its own success metrics, like the number of downloads or clicks, but it’s equally important that marketing team members provide qualified leads to the sales department.
Likewise, salespeople must know that it’s just as important to follow up on the marketing team’s leads and provide detailed feedback in order to accomplish their own goals.
4. Revisit each salesperson’s compensation ratio.
There might not be any current financial incentive for your salespeople to generate leads rather than concentrate on their current accounts. The focus in the sales compensation plan may be placed on the total revenue generated rather than on acquiring new business.
Restructuring this plan might incentivize salespeople to devote more time to prospecting leads instead of earmarking their time for customer service work for existing clients. Redirecting the compensation plan’s focus could help your team generate more leads in the long run.
It can be easy to trick yourself into thinking that your lack of lead generation isn’t concerning. While focusing on current business might keep your numbers up for now, that strategy might do more harm than good within six months’ time. That’s why it’s crucial to prioritize lead generation for your team and start taking tangible steps to ensure your future success.
Matt Sunshine is a managing partner for The Center for Sales Strategy and LeadG2, a company that specializes in improving sales performance and lead generation. Previously, Matt also worked as the center’s executive vice president and a senior consultant. He has more than 20 years of experience in sales and media relations. Follow him on Twitter at @mattsunshine.