How to Get Out of Lead Purgatory

Best-in-class sales organizations that leverage B2B teleprospecting stand out. How? They consistently achieve 90 percent of their sales team quota; they experience at least a 10 percent year-over-year increase in average revenue per sales rep; and they gain an average 7 percent year-over-year improvement of the bid-to-win ratio, according to analyst firm SiriusDecisions.

What sales or C-level executive wouldn’t want these results? If they’re possible and proven, why aren’t more companies pursuing the best practices that allow them this kind of success?

The Problem

With marketing focused on lead generation and sales geared toward closing business, these functionally divergent groups are often out of alignment. Marketing doesn’t understand why more leads are not followed up by sales, while sales has been conditioned to discard all but the most obvious and short-term opportunities. So what happens? Leads end up languishing in what SiriusDecisions calls “purgatory” — a wasteland of effort, money and time.

The result — if this vast gap isn’t bridged in part through teleprospecting — is that a large number of opportunities are overlooked. They lie buried in purgatory, among dozens of relatively insignificant leads from direct marketing campaigns, tradeshows, whitepaper downloads and webinars, and are lost — simply because no one takes the time to separate the real deals from the handraisers, and prioritize everything in between.

The Cause

There are numerous causes of this problem, including failure on the part of sales and marketing to agree on what the company’s message is, on what tools are needed to support the buyer’s journey, and even on what constitutes a lead. This misalignment, coupled with the view that lead generation, prospect development and response management are tactical, virtually guarantees that marketing gets measured on the wrong results and sales underperforms.

While sales VPs are willing to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in marketing and sales strategies and training, they often balk at the cost of the very services that could bring a substantial return on these investments. A well-executed teleprospecting program will yield a 5:1, 10:1, even 12:1 ROI — accomplishing what neither marketing nor sales is currently accomplishing, and helping to make a significant contribution to the bottom line.

The Cost

So there’s work to be done — but just how important is it? It’s critical. Only half of all B2B sales reps made their numbers last year, and those quotas went up this year. Without an effective teleprospecting program in place, qualifying and nurturing prospects over time, leads generated by marketing will continue to be wasted. And sales will continue to be frustrated at the unrealistic expectation that they should cull through unqualified leads. On average, only 6.3 percent of the total lead stream is worked to a viable conclusion — and that’s not good news for marketing, sales or the company.

Despite continued investment in marketing and sales (and corresponding non-investment in the teleprospecting that can make a measurable difference), 70 percent of B2B solution buyers report that they “found” the solution — the solution didn’t find them. This incomplete market coverage, poorly executed prospect development, and lack of personal contact with qualified decisionmakers come at a staggering cost to your organization.

The Solution

The answer is complex and the problems surrounding the misalignment between marketing and sales aren’t easily fixed, or every company would have done it by now. However, a focused effort toward bridging the two organizations and eliminating lead purgatory can go a long way, as best-in-class sales organizations will attest. Whether in-house or outsourced, a teleprospecting function can take on the tasks that neither marketing nor sales is taking on: managing response, qualifying leads, engaging prospects and nurturing opportunities.

While some level of outbound teleprospecting, supported by personalized email and voice mail, has long been a part of the B2B sales arsenal, those in the best-of-class category today have unequivocally proven teleprospecting’s value. They’ve shown that effectively leveraging teleprospecting to impact success involves implementing strategic, collaborative planning to be sure messages and tools are appropriate for every stage of the selling process.

It also involves employing experienced, educated teleprospecting professionals with the sales training and experience to engage prospects in meaningful dialogue. And it involves applying the best-practice processes organizations need to convert targets to wins.

These best-in-class sales organizations are doing teleprospecting right, helping them break from the pack, sell more solutions and drive more revenue.

Dan McDade is president and CEO of PointClear His first book, The Truth About Leads, will be published in November.

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