Despite some signs of economic recovery, we're not there yet. And other market trends are making it even tougher for sales teams to hit revenue goals.

Relying on social media, an abundance of valuable content, and peer recommendations, buyers are now self-educating and driving the buy/sell process once controlled by field sales. Buyers today are making purchasing decisions in a more deliberate manner, and reps are reporting longer sales cycles.

As a result, sales teams are missing revenue targets, and sales executives are looking for ways to boost sales performance and drive more revenue. Their first impulse is to cry out, "We just need more leads," and to turn to high-volume lead generation in hopes that some will turn into sales. After all, it's only logical that more leads will generate more opportunities and more sales, right?

In reality, just the opposite turns out to be true.

The Sales Paradox

A sales paradox is at work here because reps actually need fewer sales leads—or, more accurately, fewer raw, unfiltered, unqualified leads from Marketing.

Drowning your sales reps in more leads—especially those of poor quality—can simply make things worse.

Standard lead generation's focus on quantity floods the pipeline with far too many low-value leads that don't deliver sales and marketing ROI. Qualifying criteria are rarely met due to lack of marketing resources.

It's no surprise that many recent surveys of sales executives and sales reps report that an overwhelming majority of marketing-generated leads are not being pursued because their quality is perceived to be poor. Rep calendars are cluttered with unqualified meetings; ultimately, money is being wasted on marketing and sales lead-generation programs that simply don't work.

Sales teams need qualified leads that have been carefully and consistently nurtured, as well as appropriately developed into high-value, sales-ready opportunities. Reps can then invest their time more effectively on the most likely buyers.

Attributes of a Well-Qualified Lead

A qualified, short-term lead typically has 10 attributes. Unfiltered leads rarely have more than three of those attributes, so a sales rep working on a commission check would be delighted to get all 10:

  1. SIC or NAICS code provided
  2. Firmographics (revenue, number of employees, number of locations) provided
  3. Decision makers and influencers identified
  4. Environment documented
  5. Decision-maker engaged
  6. Business pains uncovered/validated
  7. Decision-making process and timeframe documented
  8. Budget allocated or process for budgeting documented
  9. Competitive landscape documented
  10. Sense of urgency or compelling event found to exist

Armed with a detailed picture of the prospect's business drivers, plans, and buying processes, the sales rep can work as a knowledgeable adviser interested in the prospect's business challenges.

Less Is More

A "less is more" approach and systematic prospect development will provide sales reps the best opportunities. That will also renew the value of Marketing's lead-generation programs because reps will receive leads they can actually use.

Also, overall sales efficiency will improve because sales managers can accomplish more with fewer resources and highly compensated reps can focus on doing what they do best: closing deals.

Unlike high-volume lead-generation programs, best-practice sales lead management—and its focus on a smaller number of higher-quality leads—fills forecasts with sales-ready buyers.

Fewer but higher-quality opportunities means greater return on sales and marketing program investments—and higher company revenue.

(For more, see the whitepaper titled "Why Your Sales Force Needs Fewer Marketing Leads."

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image of Dan McDade
Dan McDade is the CEO of PointClear, an Atlanta-based prospect development company that helps B2B sales and marketing executives fill their forecasts with sales-ready buyers.