Unsolved Mysteries: The Lead Gen Disappearing Act

A big part of my job is lead generation. Clients turn to me when they need to “stoke the pipeline” and bring in qualified leads to hand over to their sales team. In a perfect world, the sales team contacts leads immediately, makes sales and exceeds the company’s revenue goals. However, despite the intentions, there are times when no sales seem to close and the campaign is automatically deemed a failure in the eyes of management or the board.

Let’s face it; the lead generation process is not rocket science. You embark on a campaign (maybe direct mail, a tradeshow or email marketing); you identify the appropriate media outlets in which to run promotions; you present a compelling offer (perhaps a webcast, free trial or a whitepaper); you capture leads when prospects register for the offer (custom landing page with name, title, email, etc.); and then you send the leads to sales, sit back and watch the magic happen – right? Wrong.

All too often there is some kind of misconnect that happens as soon as marketing hands off the leads to sales – I call this the “disappearing act”. I’ve run programs that have generated 500+ leads, only to learn that the sales department has only received 20 (or worse, none at all). Sometimes it’s because someone has decided a lead isn’t “qualified” – but no research has been conducted or even an exploratory phone call logged to make this determination. Instead, the judgment has been made simply by looking at the company and title. Sure, sales needs to prioritize the list somehow but imagine how many prospects fall through the cracks this way!

While generating high quality leads is the number one priority for B2B marketers (69% compared to “generating PR buzz” at 33%), the biggest challenge has always been getting sales to follow up on leads. A webcast (eMedia: “Lead Generation for the Complex Sales Cycle”) I attended today enforced a great way to help with this very issue. If you haven’t already, develop a “universal lead definition” so sales will know how to prioritize the huge list of leads you’re about to give them. For some clients, we do this based on an upfront qualifying question asked during the registration process. For others, we do web research to see if the company falls within the client’s target zone and rank the leads based on this. Whatever your criteria is, sales will be much more excited with a prioritized list and is more likely to follow up with 100 Tier A leads first, followed by the 200 Tier B leads and 300 Tier C leads, versus if you just hand them a raw list of 600 names.

And, don’t forget about the leads post-campaign. Develop an ongoing lead nurturing program and reach out to them on a regular basis with simple monthly email updates, new product features, etc. You never know when a lead might turn into an opportunity.

Source: eMedia's “Lead Generation for the Complex Sales Cycle” Webcast, Sept. 29, 2009

Source: eMedia's “Lead Generation for the Complex Sales Cycle” Webcast, Sept. 29, 2009

That said, it’s important that management and boards remember that marketing is not the only accountable party when it comes to lead generation. Yes we identify, design and execute the campaigns. But it’s up to sales to follow through on each and every lead to determine whether it is qualified or not, and update their progress in the company’s CRM tool so metrics can be applied and the campaign can factually be deemed a failure or success. And if the leads are qualified but still no sales are occurring? Well, then it’s likely a larger business issue and some market research should be conducted to determine if the product/service is something the audience actually wants and needs.

Whether you’re a marketing or sales person reading this, remember that we’re all on the same side and answering to the same authorities. Good money is being dished out to execute these lead generation campaigns, so let’s help each other be successful and push the leads down the pipeline.

— Posted by Melissa Coyle

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