Lead Generation is one of the most important activities marketing teams do for sales.  And for at least the last 5 years topics like "Increasing Lead Conversions" or "Achieve Sales and Marketing Alignment" or "How to Execute Effective Campaigns" are consistently at the top of the agendas at major conferences across the country and the source content for dozens of "Guide to's...." out there.  

In addition, since marketing automation is rapidly becoming mainstream with adoption growing in all industries, lead generation is still a primary focus of marketing--with some organizations even spending more than 1/2 of their budget on lead gen related activity.  Unfortunately some of the companies that buy marketing automation now have a high powered email blasting tool to drive their prospects nuts with offers to give them pricing. Let's set the record straight, everyone already knows you are happy to give them pricinguse the 2 seconds you have their attention to help them build confidence in your knowledge of their space, not point to the delete button.

So what is the problem?  Why doesn't anyone seem to have the solution to increasing conversions or coming up with the magic formula to an actual qualified lead?  A Google search on "Lead Generation" will bring up 17,600,000 results.  Everyone is looking for LEADS, and lots of them.

One of the things I see consistently missing from all the discussions is that what is least taken into account is that "leads" are in fact "people."  Understanding human behavior IS the secret sauce to converting leads to revenue.

Somehow in the process of lead generation, the fact that what you are really trying to do is convince people your solution is best right?  But time and time again, those prospects you spent thousands to get into your pipeline are being driven out by poor relationship management.

A "Lead" is a person, not a piece of data that behaves in a certain way or when it doesn't do what it is supposed to do as if it's a system problem. Unfortunately leads are sometimes treated like "things," forgetting the human psychology behind it.  The way many companies talk about their leads, pipeline, buyer behavior, and prospects--is with the same emotional intelligence as they would have talking about changing a tire.  The thing is, "leads" ARE people.  They buy because of the experience they have with you and your solution, the management of the relationship, the problem(s) you solve for them, and the positive impact you will make to their organization and operation. 

Who owns this?  It varies, there are many breakdowns right on the front lines of well executed campaigns that generated leads, but the interaction with them breaks down at that last mile.

What are some ways leads are being killed on the front lines?  Let me share just 10--there are literally hundreds more.

  1. Examine how your team engages with prospects.  Example: I had a rep tell me "when I see a lead, I think...can I kill em?" I guess that works if you are hunting deer, but in this case it was selling an analytics platform and "killing" your prospect is also killing their interest after they talk to anyone with that mentality.  This is the call that the person is interested, they want to talk to you--they look at your site, they have a major requirement they need to solve and then they get to a rep and within minutes the rep is asking if they have a budget.  If they do or don't, that is a turn off.  Because "leads" ARE people, they respond like people in any other circumstance.  So imagine you are buying a suit or some expensive item, and ask the sales person to take it out so you can look at it and they say--can you pay for this if I show it to you??  Are you worth my time before I get started here?
  2. Stop treating your prospects like "things" and start treating them like people.  They are busy, it isn't all about you, a vendor call is the very last priority they have, and if you want their time you better be able to make it worth their while by being super smart about engagement and relationship management.  Example: Last week I got a call from a company I did some business with last year.  It wasn't a great experience but the Director did a good job of doing some damage control, and we agreed to keep an open dialog.  The next day I get a system generated email from them asking me to update my record in THEIR Salesforce instance to note if I am still a prospect for them or not--that was so incredibly lazy and rude.  Then to make things worse, a few days later I get a cold call from a different rep on their team trying to sell me from scratch and didn't know anything about the last 6 years I have talked to them, the conversation I had last week and that I have been a former customer--and I said to talk to my contact there but this rep pushed me to net it to one word, was it "good or bad" working with them. Uh, bad?  The best part about this example is this is a company that offers a sales related service designed to increase revenue.
  3. Stop worrying about the sale and just talk.  Sales reps are automatically perceived as selfish, self serving, desperate, and pushy--stop doing things that confirm that to prospects.  Example: I had a rep call last week.  I said I would schedule a meeting.  I already accepted the invite, published it on my internal calendar, and planned to have the call. However, the day of the meeting, the rep sent another invite, and emailed me asking if I got the 2nd invite because I didn't accept the second invite? Then when I didn't answer the email they called the front desk and said they are looking for me. My admin was like 'who is this guy??"  You know what that does?  That makes me think, "you know, I don't have time for this meeting anyway--let's just do this another time."  Confirming accepted meetings is one of the most irritating and damaging things reps can do.It just reminds prospects that this is a sales call and they have other things they need to do.
  4. Stop "winging it" on early calls.   I can't tell you how many calls reps make without doing any research on their prospects. Example: If I am on a call with a rep, one of the first things I ask is if they know what we do and did they look at our site.  And if they don't, that tells me they don't care what we do, and in some cases I will tell them to do their homework and call me back. My site is very clear what we do, and if someone didn't take the time to research something that simple, they need to do their homework. If reps wonder why early calls didn't go as great as they thought they would, this is one of the many reasons. It isn't the prospect's job to educate reps about what they do--it is the rep's job to create relevant scenarios where the prospect can see themselves using your platform/solution/service.
  5. Leverage Sales Intelligence. Sales intelligence is a term that is used to describe all kinds of data available on companies. It can be internal information within your CRM, data out in the public domain, purchased data, lots of definitions are under Sales Intelligence. One thing is sure, it's out there and you need to use it. Some of the breakdowns are a lack of capturing data into the CRM record so there is an aggregated record of interaction.  Example: Some companies have long sales cycles with multiple stakeholders. If you looked at the account record in their CRM, you wouldn't see more than a couple of calls, contacts, and emails sent.  Enormous amounts of intelligence are missing because they aren't captured. Take the time to capture what you know so you can use it later when you need it.
  6. Asking About "Strategic Plans", "5 Year Goals", "Business Plans" and all things that irritate prospects. Even today, many reps still open discussions with questions like "tell me what your 5 year plans are for marketing" or some other question that 1) is none of their business, and 2) has nothing to do with the item at hand.  Or asking "what is the biggest challenge you have with..." Those are questions that aggravate prospects and are a self fulfilling prophecy to reps of why calls go bad. Reps need to create value, not get execs to open the kimono about topics that have nothing to do with the solution you are talking about.
  7. Care about the customers that trusted you.  I can't tell you how many times I have heard stories of reps that tenaciously pursued prospects and once they either closed the deal, or the deal got pushed out--the rep fell off the face of the earth.  Example: I use this as an example often, but it's a good one. I had a customer that bought a solution from a company I knew, the rep pursued them like they were the most important deal in the world and jumped through hoops to get the deal.  They got the deal, but then the client had problems for months with a variety of issues and had a tough time making progress to resolve them.  I asked when the last time they spoke with their rep was, the answer was "we haven't talked to them since the day we signed the deal." They were clearly   disappointed all their pursuit wasn't as genuine as originally perceived.  Unfortunately, this is a pretty standard occurrence.  Things escalated to a point where the whole thing almost got unplugged, but something that would have smoothed things over is if the original rep would have just taken a minute to connect the right people and facilitate a fix.
  8. Be Confident, and if you aren't, learn how! Nothing loses attention of a prospect more than someone calling that isn't sure what they are doing, who you are, or what they are trying to sell you.  Your voice will give it away, "Hi I'm calling from Acme? Do you know us?" Or opening a call with "Do you have a minute?" Or "Is now a good time?" It is never a good time, make it a good time by what you have to say.  Executives calling other executives don't apologize or make some class distinction out of the gate, they just talk.  So that is a very important skill to have.  I often hear reps I coach at other companies introduce themselves like it's a question, subconsciously that tells the prospect you aren't confident.  It is a statement, not a question.
  9. Be Honest . I still get calls from reps saying my admin gave them my line, or I downloaded something I didn't or whatever the thing may be that is used to open a discussion.  Again, just call and have a conversation. There is no need to embellish, invent, assume, or do anything but be yourself.  The other tactic is to leave a message with no info so you think it is something else or call back out of curiosity, it might get you a call back but will not get your prospect's trust.
  10. And the biggie....It Takes A Lot of Attempts to Reach Execs. 90%+ of companies out there don't understand it takes 5-12 attempts to reach prospects.  They have a 3 attempt/3 email rule as a standard and they are barely getting on their radar at that point. It is so important to be "Persistent with a Purpose." Not blasting them with calls multiple times a day, but not calling once and expecting a call back.  There is a complete and utter lack of understanding about the frequency required to reach a prospect in today's buyer landscape.  Millions of dollars are left on the table just from this item alone.

For companies to see what is happening on their front lines, they need to look under the covers and really understand where the leads are going, where they are ending up, and how they are being handled.  Doing this will add 20%-50% or more active deals to the pipeline just from systemizing it.  Senior execs are the ones that need to drive this change, it will come from the top down.  The answer often isn't you need more leads, but better handling of the ones you have will take your revenue to levels you never expected you could!