“No not these leads, I want those leads…”

“No not these leads, I want those leads…I want the Glengarry leads (a bunch of them).”

As sales managers or executives, what’s the most common request we hear from sales people?

Leads! More Leads!

What they’re really asking for is not just more leads, it’s, more, more qualified and DIFFERENT leads… the Glengarry leads.

It almost never matters which leads we have, they aren’t the ones we want.

Here’s something I’ve dealt with first hand. I’m not sure if this makes me want to laugh or to cry.

Until recently I was a VP of Sales for an international technology company. One of our more senior sales representatives was struggling. Let’s call him Paul. His forecast was thin and his pipeline was weak. Paul was concerned about his quarter and he asked for help.

Good on him for being at least a little proactive.

Paul wasn’t into prospecting. He’d wait for in-bound leads from Marketing.

Marketing Leads – Quantity vs. Quality

Paul’s feeling was that he needed to get fewer leads (huh?). He was getting lots of leads from Marketing but they were “terrible” (his words, not mine). Paul also said that although they were bad leads, in good conscience, he still felt compelled to treat them with respect. So he found himself going through dozens of crappy leads in order to find the few, worthwhile leads.

Paul reasoned that if we provided him with fewer but more qualified leads, he’d be able to dedicate more time to each of them and he’d have more time to prospect on his own.

Paul’s declared (and I quote), “It’s not about the leads, it’s about the opportunities.”

Business Development – Honing Qualifying Leads

Since we already had a group of Business Development Representatives (BDRs) that handled incoming calls, it was fairly easy to change the BDR role slightly so that they did more qualifying. We gave them the training and tools (including scripts, templates, etc.) to do the job properly.

The result was that fewer leads got through the funnel, but they were definitely more qualified.

How do you think this translated to Paul’s results?

Surprise! Paul’s results did not improve in the slightest. In fact they got worse.

Neither did he dedicate any more time to prospecting. Instead, complained that he wasn’t getting enough leads!

Go Bigger or Go… Small?

Paul then proposed a different idea. Since he was a senior sales representative (higher base salary, higher commission and higher quota), he was focused on larger companies. Paul wanted to be allowed to sell to our smaller company prospects as well.

It should be noted that our company sweet spot was in the smaller companies. These sales cycles could be pretty short; from a few days to three months.

Paul argued that as a more senior sales representative, he would be able to drive tons of business in those smaller companies and close a greater volume than our representatives that usually sold into that space.

We agreed to do a test. We began to give Paul a bunch of those smaller-company leads.

Any guesses how this went?

After one quarter, Paul had not closed one deal. Not one. He also still had done no prospecting.

When we sat down to have our difficult conversation, Paul said that those smaller company leads were, “not worth my (his) time”.

Moral of the Story

A Sales Professional should expect to generate at least 25% of their business through their own prospecting efforts.

There will always be good leads and bad leads. The bottom line is that all leads should be treated with respect. As sales professionals, the best leads are the ones that we come up with ourselves.

If somebody else gives us a lead it really is just a contact or a suspect until we’ve vetted it and if we don’t like the leads we’ve got, then we need to go out and get some other ones.

What would we do if Marketing disappeared overnight?

– Software Delivered as Promised. No Surprises.

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George Brown

Insight written by George Brown

Senior Vice President at Rand Group

A thought leader and pioneer in the areas of cloud computing, sales and marketing, George is a highly regarded subject matter expert and leader with over 30 years’ experience in strategically propelling businesses forward.

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  • Great article Enzo although I may have a bias being in marketing! Internally we’ve really worked harder to produce more qualified leads by decreasing our existing silos between sales and marketing. In your experience what’s worked best in terms of lead generation? With the increase in adoption to inbound marketing does the outbound cold call still hold its place?

    • Enzo DiMichele

      Good morning Imran. Thank you for your comments on the blog and for your question.

      It’s a very good question….and it seems to be coming up almost daily, these days.

      The bottom line is that pure cold calling (on the phone, first time introductions with no ‘warming’ of the lead) is not nearly as effective as it once was. What’s more, its effectiveness continues to drop like a stone. There are many reasons for this – over load of inbound calls to decision makers….call screening….more and more meetings take decision makers away from their desks so they don’t often pick up the phone, so they return phone messages….poor telephone prospecting skills on the part of the callers….

      More lead gen (especially in our hi-tech world) is coming from web-based programs – search engine optimization and pay per click for example. I have had quite of bit of experience with lead-gen programs that garner syndicated leads (i.e. potential buyers going to a site like TEC to do research on a topic and then having TEC send you the names and contact info as leads); those can be effective, but they require the sales people to call them IMMEDIATELY. Regardless of what the research company will tell you, those leads go out to at least 5 other vendors. If you don’t call the lead within a matter of hours, they will already have gotten at least 3 other calls. By the time you call them, they stopped taking in new information and won’t likely listen to what you have to say.

      This does not mean that the phone is not important. Nor does it mean that sales people have no responsibility for generating leads.

      An in-bound lead is worthless unless somebody (a sales person or a business development rep or somebody else responsible for turning that lead into a real “prospect”) calls them. An in-bound “lead” is just a warm contact. It isn’t a prospect until we talk with them and conduct some ‘Profiling’, or ‘Discovery’ or ‘Due Diligence’ (whatever language is appropriate in your given sales culture).

      Real leads are tough to come by and they can be costly. So every single one of them needs to be treated like gold. Depending on what company you work for, a new lead can cost anywhere from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollar (for a lead, not a sale).

      So we do need to be proactive and generate those web-based leads…..and, we need to jump on them quickly and effectively, by phone. Also, lead gen programs don’t generate sales….selling is done – or at the very least it’s initiated – on the phone.

      I hope this answers your question Imran. Thanks again for reaching out. Have a great day and upcoming weekend.