Why That Mountain of Leads Is a Molehill of Sales

In the struggle to grow revenues in tighter markets, most companies are pushing their marketing departments to provide greater market coverage and deliver more sales opportunities. Yet statistics reveal that an astonishing 79 percent of leads generated by corporate marketing departments are never contacted by corporate sales groups.

Unless that issue is addressed, stepping up marketing efforts simply amplifies a core inefficiency rather than leading to increased sales.

The problem is not that marketing departments are delivering such high numbers of leads that follow-up is impossible. And it’s also not that sales professionals are willfully ignoring good opportunities passed their way.

The problem is that marketing and sales departments by nature see leads very differently from each other. Within that difference lies a huge gap in which most corporations waste a tremendous amount of time, money and resources.

How Marketing and Sales Become Misaligned

Marketing campaigns are typically — and appropriately — designed to generate awareness and stimulate demand among a large body of prospects. For example, marketers within a CRM software company want to ensure that the product they’re promoting has positive top-of-mind among the greatest number of C-level and senior sales and marketing executives, as well as among IT professionals.

Toward that end, advertising, webinars, social media campaigns, trade show exhibits, direct mail campaigns and more are coordinated to deliver consistent, reinforcing messages to the entire target audience, with an emphasis on reach and breadth of coverage.

The leads that result from these activities are by nature representative of a general pool of potential prospects, of which only a fraction are real prospects. Large numbers of this audience will swipe cards at trade shows, respond to social media invitations, and fill out Web-to-lead forms.

Some of the resulting leads will turn out to be prospects who really are ready to buy now, but a much larger number will be individuals who are casually investigating, and may not ever be genuinely interested in buying.

When raw, unqualified leads are passed directly to sales departments, reception is understandably less than enthusiastic. In tough markets, savvy sales professionals struggle to get the greatest return on their efforts. Spending time repeatedly contacting and eventually talking with someone who turns out to have merely swiped his card at a tradeshow to get swag, or to have filled out a Web form to get a white paper, becomes very discouraging.

The more it happens, the more the sales team will reject marketing-generated leads for being low quality, high risk and too long-term. At the same time, marketing becomes discouraged at delivering leads that sales does not follow up on. This gap between marketing and sales works completely against the notion of driving revenue growth through increased lead generation.

What Works: A Prospecting Bridge

B2B teleservices — often referred to as “inside sales,” “telesales,” “teleprospecting” or “telemarketing” — can close the gap between marketing and sales organizations. When properly deployed, teleservices teams perform an important intermediary function that takes raw leads from marketing, engaging and nurturing prospects to identify the right leads to be passed to sales for harvesting, at the right time.

To perform at its best, the B2B teleservices organization should be responsible for managing leads and actively generating high-value opportunities, not for generating revenue.

Teleservices functions aren’t sales, and they aren’t marketing, either. Rather, they are the missing link between the two that translates marketing’s idea of leads into sales’ idea of leads. The task for teleservices is to deliver fewer, not more, leads to sales — that is, to deliver a compact body of filtered and highly qualified leads so that sales reps can devote their time to the most likely prospects, and can therefore close more sales.

Typically, the teleservices methodology will include the following elements:

  • focusing on market segments with proven results for the product or service being sold;
  • targeting not necessarily the exact job function associated with the lead, but rather the most likely C-level and other appropriate executives for all communications, until directed elsewhere;
  • contacting each executive through multiple media, including some mix of voice mail, email, direct mail, and live calls, with multiple touches over several weeks. This is absolutely key, as busy executives almost never respond to initial contacts, and must be touched repeatedly to get through at the right time;
  • further qualifying each responding prospect through dialog to accurately identify executives and companies that are ready to enter the sales cycle; and
  • capturing market intelligence on prospects who are qualified but not interested at this time, for re-contacting at a later date.

Through these activities, the teleservices team can effectively determine whether a raw lead actually is or is not a prospect ready for sales contact — and it’s a process that has repeatedly proven to translate directly to sales efficiency.

In fact, Aberdeen Group estimates that best-in-class companies deploying B2B teleservices in 2009 experienced a 90 percent achievement of sales team quotas, and at least a 10 percent year-over-year increase in average revenue per sales rep. That’s the kind of revenue growth most companies would have loved to have achieved in 2009. Teleservices can put you on the right path for generating that kind of progress moving forward.

Dan McDade is founder and president of PointClear, a prospect development company. To learn more, visit the PointClear blog.

1 Comment

  • Great article!!

    Lead follow up is most important. We also have a greater variety of methods to reach dated leads than ever before. Just 20 years ago, there really were only two methods of contact: direct mail and land-line telephone. Now, along with those two you have cell phones (voice and text), e-mail, unlimited social networks, and many other e-methods.

    The key to lead nurturing is to keep your prospects informed and stay in front of the competition with out coming across as harassing.

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