4 Fixes for Lackluster Leads

Dan McDade

The battle for the success of your company is all about revenue, and it is being lost. Every day, I talk with executives who report revenue is coming up short, being left on the table and can’t be sustained. Profits are lost early in the sales cycle and at the close. Numbers are not being made despite much effort and huge investment. Why?

In a nutshell, the processes, initiatives and tools that historically generated return just aren’t getting the job done, and many of the failures are occurring at B2B lead generation pressure points. In this context, pressure points are the critical people, process and technology areas where problems cascade into casualties in productivity, wins, revenue and ROI.

Here are four key pressure points to look at – along with interventions to achieve desirable outcomes:

1. Marketing and Sales Alignment
As much as has been written about the causes and costs of marketing and sales misalignment, one would think we’d be much closer to comprehensive and permanent resolution. A key challenge continues to be the erroneous belief on the part of senior managers that the two teams should be trusted to align themselves. In fact, the two are not going to come together on their own. Expecting the alignment problem to be fixed by incumbent (or even new) marketing and sales team members is simply wishful thinking. A single strong manager (CEO, president, or senior VP of sales and marketing) is going to have to stand up and demand change. 

2. Lead Values
Disconnects around lead definition, lead volume and lead quality continue to plague the sales lead management process. Salespeople complain about poor lead quality. Marketing complains that sales doesn’t follow up on the leads marketing produces and they don’t get lead feedback. Unfortunately, both sides are right. The reasons are fairly straightforward. Agreement on the definition of a qualified lead is missing. Marketing is incented to deliver large volumes of leads at a low cost-per-lead – and sales receives an avalanche of leads that do not fit its needs. Sharing a common lead definition correctly shifts the focus from high volumes at low costs-per-lead to the right quantity of correctly qualified opportunities.

3. Sales Lead Management Processes
In response to reports that B2B decision makers are proceeding through 60 to 70 percent of the buying process before engaging with a sales rep, many sales groups are taking marketing dollars and investing them in e-mail campaigns and low-end marketing automation solutions. We continually hear from marketing and sales execs that responses to these tactics come from lower-level decision makers, and that deals are of lower dollar value. For companies providing complex solutions – those characterized by multiple decision makers, long sales cycles and high investments – lead generation, lead qualification and lead nurturing processes should be grounded in proactive outbound personal contact. Initiatives should be characterized by multiple-touch and multiple-media contact approaches across the number of sales cycles needed to reach the buying window. All of this activity should occur in a dedicated lead generation and lead nurturing group that is not owned by marketing or sales.

4. Lead Measurement and Accountability
Lead measurement and accountability for providing lead feedback are closely linked. In many companies, no processes or methodologies exist to track anything except the number of leads generated, their cost and total revenue. Forecasts are thin and/or inaccurate. There is no closed loop to measure the effectiveness of marketing programs, hold marketing accountable for quality and value, or make the sales force accountable for quality feedback and results. Insist on weekly reports. Few companies have so many prospects that the entire management team could not review every one of them (for example, their environment, what they’re doing, and who they’re talking to) in just a couple of hours each week. It’s that important. And a best-practices view of lead measurement shifts the focus from top-of-the-funnel metrics to outcomes farther into the funnel like cost-per-sale.

In my book, “The Truth About Leads,” I share four questions I hear most frequently from marketing and sales executives: What can I do to earn more revenue? How can I increase sales? How can I increase market share? How can I do more with less?

Answers to these perplexing questions come when executives face their pressure points head-on. Addressing your lead generation challenges with these interventions will deliver dramatic improvements in sales, revenue and profits.

Dan McDade is president and CEO of prospect development company PointClear and the author of “The Truth About Leads” (Onsei, 2011). He can be reached at dan.mcdade@pointclear.com.