In most organizations, when it comes to lead generation, some margin of error is expected. While the goal certainly is to identify the highest quality, most sales-ready leads, the unfortunate reality is that much of what gets put through to sales is incomplete, inaccurate, outdated, and often completely useless.
How and why does this continue to happen? There are likely a multitude of factors: lack of effective qualification criteria, pressure to meet lead quotas, lack of understanding of the ideal buyer. Regardless of the reason, this disconnect can have a serious impact on the success and synergy of the marketing and sales functions.
Rather than just chalking up this situation to the nature of the beast, it's time to take a cold hard look at the real cost of unready leads and devise a new plan to stop the wasteful spending of time and money.
Sales and marketing misalignment: When sales and marketing teams disagree on lead quality, it's almost impossible for them to work together efficiently. Sales will hand-pick leads based on intuition and ignore the lead management process. Marketing is hung out to dry for poor lead quality, and the system quickly falls apart, hindering pipeline health and revenue.
Productivity loss: If sales throws the lead management process out the window and starts qualifying leads on its own, productivity and efficiency hit rock bottom. Ignoring the scoring models and lead management rules is a big mistake that wastes everyone's time and money.
Revenue slowdown: When the lead process breaks down, a decline in sales and revenue is inevitable. The lack of an efficient and effective process to fill the pipeline with the best quality leads gives your competition an opening to find them first and swoop in to close the deal.
Buyer dissatisfaction: Without an effective qualification process, sales and marketing can easily miss legitimate buying signals or send the wrong communication to the wrong leads at the wrong time. If this happens, potential customers will soon become frustrated and irritated, opting out of your communications and likely walking away from your product forever. Not only does this take them off your radar, but it could potentially hurt your chances with any of their colleagues as a result of negative word of mouth.
Focusing on delivering better-quality leads from the beginning can dramatically improve marketing and sales synergy, productivity, and, ultimately, sales and customer satisfaction. Start by clearly defining your ideal customer—both the organization and the individual—based on current customers. Then use this criterion to identify similar organizations and individuals.
Tap into social channels to take a pulse on what your ideal customers are up to and learn more about their needs, desires, and wants. What do they follow or discuss on social media? What do they say about their challenges, solutions, and questions on industry forums? What events do they check into, attend, or discuss? Use these clues to gain a more complete ideal customer profile, and leverage this contextual information to make relevant, valuable connections that build trust and credibility.
With the right process for generating sales-ready prospects, your sales and marketing team can eliminate the high cost of unready leads and spend more time and energy on nurturing the right prospects for maximum results.
Doug Bewsher is the chief executive officer at Leadspace, an SaaS lead generation company. Previously, he served as chief marketing officer of both Salesforce.com and Skype.