The Crisis in Lead Generation for Complex Sales

Many organizations rely on inside sales departments and/or third party firms to generate leads for their outside sales teams. Investments in marketing automation systems, such as Marketo, Hubspot, Eloqua, and others, along with increased inside sales headcount and program budgets, have set lofty expectations for big and fast results.

The crisis is that for many firms, the investments are not generating significantly more qualified leads for the sales organization. Why is that?

Four major factors are contributing to the crisis:

  1. Office Phones Are Not Being Answered. Contacts that are able to make decisions within large firms are rarely in their offices due to meetings and travel, so they rarely answer phone calls from unknown numbers. Calling their cell phones would be a logical alternative, right? Two major challenges exist in that department: the contact’s cell phone is often not in the lead list or CRM system, and calling cell phones is risky except for the most skilled people making outbound calls that know when to call. And in many organizations, leads are delivered to outside sales people for the sales person to try to set an appointment. Think about it—the inside sales or third-party organization succeeds in getting through to the prospect. Then they say thank you very much and I’ll have the outside sales person contact you to set up an appointment.
  2. Emails Are Not Getting Through.  Your and your competitors’ marketing automation systems are carpet bombing email addresses, so getting your snazzy template emails through is hard and getting harder. There is a whole industry focused on stopping the mass emails from marketing automation systems, and they are good and getting better. And if your outbound emails are not highly targeted and customized, they are rarely opened. Email average open rates are in the low 20% range, with average click through rates (CTR) less than 5%. The higher the person is in the organization, the lower the open and click through rates.
  3. Sales People Don’t Like Leads From Marketing Automation Systems. Marketing automation systems easily handle hundreds of thousands to millions of email addresses and related marketing campaigns. Companies didn’t make marketing automation investments to deliver the same number of leads as before automation. Typically, we see lead generation goals increase by significant multiples once the systems are up and running. So the number of leads handed to outside sales teams increases by approximately the same multiple. The problem is that the quality of the increased number of leads is often of lower quality than before. To that end, the outside sales teams lose confidence in the leads they receive and tend to ignore all but the most encouraging leads.
  4. Sales Leaders Are Key to Solving the Crisis. Sales organizations scream for more and better leads from marketing. Unfortunately, rarely do sales managers incorporate lead management discussions with their sales people. Sales leaders need real-time reports and dashboards so they can monitor how well their teams are following up on leads and what the results are. It is critical that low quality or bad leads be tagged with the right amount of feedback so marketing can understand how they need to adjust their processes and qualification criteria and monitor the effectiveness of their calling resources.

The crisis can be addressed in most organizations, but it is not for the faint of heart or something that the marketing department can tackle on their own; they’ll need help from sales leadership and sales and marketing operations teams. It often requires a revamping of processes, adjusting expectations, reestablishing trust with the sales organization, and providing sales leaders with tools so that they can be front and center on addressing the crisis. It’s not easy, but we can’t afford to ignore the crisis, as it will continue to be a drag on firm growth.

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