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Do All Good Leads Become Sales?

by Mal Watlington  |  
November 30, 2004

It's the fourth quarter of the fiscal year. Let the finger-pointing begin!

All across the land, marketing and sales people are reconciling leads, proposals, bids and sales. Those responsible for Web marketing, email and advertising are busy tabulating campaign yield figures. And those who selected and staffed industry trade shows are comparing their leads with ones coming from other sources to rule out "double-counting."

All of them are hoping to show that their efforts were the ones that "converted." At first glance, getting accurate conversion statistics would seem to be a simple matter. Just divide the cost of generating leads by total sales (stir in the company's "time value of money" formula), and you've got your lead-generation ROI.

Right? Well, not exactly….

What we hear instead is this:

  • "Well, it didn't turn into a sale, but it helped our brand recognition."

  • "The lead was great. It was the salespeople who…."

  • "The lead was great. If we were only more competitively priced…."

And so on. The maddening thing is that these responses are as likely to be right as they are to be wrong. It all depends on the expectations that were set and agreed upon at the beginning of the year.

The key to accurate lead-conversion ROI calculations is "self-honesty." While every company has the right to create its own definition of "R" to compare with "I," it is critical to look back at the justification that was used to support lead-generation activities prior to funding.

When 'R' Means Sales

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Mal Watlington is president of City Square Consulting, Inc. ( Contact him at

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