Keep leads from being ignored is the fifth of 7 Truths about Sales and Marketing that CEOs need to know. This post is part of a series about the CEO’s role in eliminating wasted marketing spend and increasing sales results.
In the last blog we discussed the importance of cost per: Lead, Sales Accepted Lead, Sales Qualified Lead and Closed Deal. Today we will discuss how to keep leads from being ignored and going into a black hole by using something I call the Judicial Branch.
No matter how desperate you are for leads, before investing in lead generation ask yourself these questions:
- How have the leads generated during the past quarter or year performed?
- How many were generated?
- How many were accepted by sales?
- How many were proactively rejected by sales (vs. simply ignored or otherwise passed over)?
- How many made it to the forecast?
- How many are progressing?
- How much did you spend for the leads?
- If you had to come up with a reasonable estimate, how much business will close as a result of marketing’s efforts?
If you can answer any of the questions above you are doing better than most. In many, if not most, companies, raw, unfiltered so-called “leads” are dumped on sales and fall into a black hole. The most common reason for this? There is no agreement between marketing and sales on the definition of a qualified lead. If you don’t start by fixing that problem, you won’t see any improvement next quarter or the one after that. This is a problem marketing and sales cannot solve alone. If they could, they would have by now.
One of the reasons leads don’t get followed up effectively is, according to Mike Weinberg, author of New Sales Simplified and Sales Management Simplified is because there is a lack of persistence and quality in the follow-up. (Note that the seventh “truth” in this blog series will deal with best practices in sales follow-up on leads.)
Mike states: “The harsh reality is that almost no one returns a first message or email from a salesperson. Truly, almost no one. Even “warm” leads typically require multiple attempts to earn a reply or call back. So it’s foolish to pretend people aren’t interested or that you’re doing something wrong when your first, or even second, contact attempt doesn’t produce a response. And it’s also a waste of energy to whine and complain about repeatedly getting someone’s voicemail. Instead of whining, try preparing. Instead of dreading your repeated follow-up attempts, look forward to them. Be ready with a series of touches, each one a bit unique. The keys to earning the call back or reply are creativity and perseverance. Drip little value nuggets with pieces of your 'sales story' as you go. Be creative; be interesting. And most importantly, be persistent.”
To address this tendency to ignore leads, senior management intervention AND the establishment of what I call a judicial branch is needed. The judicial branch, a concept borrowed by our country’s forefathers, intermediates between marketing and sales to make sure that no lead is left behind. The judicial branch reviews every lead that is proactively returned by sales to marketing (which doesn’t happen very often as most leads are simply ignored). They also review leads that have not progressed to the status of “sales accepted,” but for whatever reason haven’t been returned to marketing (the ones that are ignored).
While the process is tedious, there will be no improvement if both of these steps, lead definition and the judicial branch, are neglected.
Here is my recommendation:
- Marketing, sales and C-level executives agree on the definition of a lead—at every level, including Sales Accepted Lead and Sales Qualified Lead.
- Leads rejected by sales are evaluated by the most appropriate, highest level executive(s) (I call this the judicial branch)—not just marketing and sales. The objective is to determine if the rejected lead was not in fact a lead, or if the sales follow-up was insufficient. The judicial branch makes the call and sales and marketing act accordingly.
- Fix both problems and make sure that bad leads are NOT being sent to sales and that good leads are NOT being wasted by sales. In other words, encourage both marketing and sales to do their jobs for the good of the organization as a whole.
Does your team cherish or ignore leads? Do they cultivate or neglect leads? Do they nourish or starve leads? It’s worth your time and attention to find out—and fix it!
In the next blog we will cover the how nurturing can triple your lead rate and revenue from marketing programs.