The leads are weak —  so now what?

Author: 
Paul Nolan

The leads are weak,” Jack Lemmon’s character, Shelley Levene, tells Alec Baldwin in “Glengarry Glen Ross.”

That doesn’t sit well with Baldwin’s character, a big shot from downtown who we only know as Blake. “The leads are weak?” he replies. “You’re weak.” Then he proceeds to berate the entire sales team while building up his own story. “You drove a Hyundai to get here tonight; I drove an $80,000 BMW! That’s my name,” he tells another salesman who asks for his name.

It’s a classic scene from a classic movie that I couldn’t help think of as I put together this issue’s cover story.

Thankfully, not too many sales teams in the real world are subjected to the “third prize is you’re fired” sort of “pep talk” that Baldwin gives. Still, complaints about the quality of the leads seem as much a part of sales as ABC — always be closing.

As our cover depicts, fingers get pointed in some companies when sales slack. That’s the first thing to try to avoid, many of those I spoke with told me. When blame was assigned by those I spoke with, it fell to the sales side more often than marketing. Salespeople, they said, are often not patient and persistent enough.

B2B sales is a long haul. It often takes 10 or more attempts just to connect with a prospect. Statistically speaking, at least six out
of 10 prospects will never convert. As one source pointed out, the double-edged sword of today’s technology is that it’s easier than ever to reach prospects, which means more people than ever are reaching the same prospects.

Interestingly, a VP of an inbound marketing agency told me that salespeople react differently when they don’t dig up their own leads. “If they come in digitally, they have a different perception
of them and they work them differently,” she said.

Technology plays a huge role in how businesses look for business. Companies are bolting sales engagement software to automated marketing platforms, which are connected to CRM systems. However, just as bitching about the quality of the leads will never disappear, many people told me the proven relationship-building techniques of 50 or more years ago are still effective. Trade shows aren’t dying, direct mail gets through when social media fails, and an honest conversation over a cup of coffee is still the best closing tool around.

“The leads suck. That’s been the complaint of salespeople forever,” sales consultant Jessica Magoch told me. “So now what?”

Preferably, not finger pointing.