Yes, you read the title
correctly. Marketing campaigns that produce an abundance of leads can
actually do your organization more harm than good. Why, you wonder? For
starters, high-volume lead generation is a lot like creating a haystack
in which the sales rep is responsible for finding the proverbial
needle. Bona fide candidates do exist, but they’re often hidden among
the onslaught of unqualified leads being pushed to sales.
This is why
many sales reps cast a jaded eye toward leads generated by
marketing–it’s too hard to find the leads that translate into real
sales opportunities. By forgoing lead generation practices that deliver
volumes of mostly low-value prospects, companies can begin to focus on
identifying and targeting their most likely buyers.
Quality Over Quantity
Research has stated that "Often, improvements in lead generation are at
the expense of better lead management, resulting in an overabundance of
unqualified leads of differing quality that cannot be handled by
current resources and sales capacity. These leads compete for the time
and attention of customer-facing employees who have no way to
prioritize them. Having fewer, but higher-quality, leads provides more
value to sales employees and improves the visibility and accountability
of marketing." Sounds simple, right?
on lead quality over quantity represents a seismic shift in the way
that most organizations operate today. These organizations tend to
evaluate the success of marketing initiatives based on the number of
leads generated or worse, the cost per lead. Consider "Jennifer" in XYZ
Company’s marketing department. In her monthly report, she writes:
"We’re on track for a great quarter in lead generation. This month we
generated 1,278 leads–a 30 percent gain over last year. And in spite
of higher ad rates, we continue to keep our cost per lead under $100."
report says absolutely nothing about lead qualification, how leads are
nurtured, or what the sales force has done with previous leads. This
causes one to wonder whether anyone in the company’s management
understands why investments in sales and marketing aren’t resulting in
more closed business.
The Lead Funnel
You can think
of lead qualification as a funnel. Marketing pours raw, unfiltered
leads from a variety of sources into the top of the funnel. Ideally,
what emerges at the other end–ready for professional handling by a
lead-hungry sales force–is a steady supply of qualified prospects,
each with a defined process and timeframe for buying.
simple truth is that reality rarely matches the ideal. Too often, no
one is managing what happens to leads once they enter the funnel. As in
our scenario with Jennifer above, marketing has been told to focus on
things like the number of leads generated and lead cost. It thinks it
has done its job simply by dumping in a lot of unfiltered leads. No one
contacts or qualifies the inquirers. No one augments the leads with
demographic and "firmographic" data. And no one nurtures long-term
prospects into short-term ones. These are all critical steps in the
lead refinement and management process that are being overlooked.
When Less Is More
many raw, unqualified leads can clog the sales funnel, and actually
impede sales performance. The bottom line is that sales reps don’t need
more leads; they actually need fewer ones–or more accurately, fewer
raw, unfiltered, unqualified leads.
In the past, sales reps
have wasted huge amounts of time following up on unqualified leads from
marketing. For this reason, sales reps–especially those who make their
money through commission– become resistant to marketing-generated
leads, assuming they’re the same old, same old. Thus, these leads are
This cycle can be broken through processes that
identify and nurture the most likely sales candidates. By sending your
sales force only highly qualified leads, they’re empowered to use their
time more effectively and close more business. At the same time, by
identifying and targeting only the highest-return segments, it’s
possible to actually decrease marketing costs.
recommendation flies in the face of today’s large-scale, costly
marketing campaigns designed specifically to generate volumes of leads.
But if you’ve tried that course of action and it hasn’t delivered the
bottom-line results you envisioned, it might be time to consider a
Quality, not quantity, is a proven adage.