How to avoid defocusing sales process myths like “Marketing Leads Suck” and “The Rule of 45”

How many times have you heard sales people say, “marketing leads suck.” How many times have your heard marketing people say “sales doesn’t follow up on our leads?”

Focus on the right thing. "Marketing Leads Suck" is not the right thing.

I try to stay away from these discussions. Anyone with a pulse can always find leads in the system that suck. Likewise, some leads go untouched for a long time at every organization. Yup, both are true, and both miss the point.

So what is the point? Outcomes: closed revenue, new opportunities, growing interest in your company and its products. More on that later.

Why am I stepping into this debate?

Today I read a post on the Marketo Blog that speaks to the importance of nurturing leads over time. Seems like a pretty reasonable claim, but it devolves into bashing sales people as focused exclusively on short term wins at the expense of long term opportunities.

Really? On what basis?

The core argument in the article was a quoted claim: “45% of leads end up buying.”

After a bit of looking, I found no research supporting the 45% claim at all. None. The origin of the claim is James Obermayer through his website, book and consulting work. He has not published support for the claim nor have others.

As H L Mencken said, “Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.”

So here I am sucked into a debate because a made up claim is quoted as a research finding in an article that influences many. Sigh.

A better focus: agreement

In my consulting efforts, I work diligently with all parties to get to a clear definition of a “sales-ready lead” along with qualification states.

Arriving at a definition of a “sales-ready lead” has required hard work across sales and marketing executives and team members. I find getting the organization to examine, debate, revise and critique the collective definition of “sales-ready lead” is fruitful for aligning the team, improving process efficiency and honing investments. Even with an upfront effort, the definition requires frequent re-evaluations and improvements. Continued debate shows that both sides care … care deeply … about the issue. And when unworthy leads arrive,  the issue is no longer do marketing leads suck. The new issue is how can marketing deliver enough sales ready leads to hit our goals.

The investment in agreement pays off for everyone. Marketing can more easily get budget to create sales ready leads, and can be held accountable for meeting the definition. Sale teams can prioritize lead follow-up in their activities understanding that lack of follow-up may result in fewer future leads without any quota relief.

In other words, agreement on definitions and process accelerates outcomes. Not only can each organization focus on contributing its expertise, they share details on whether they are upholding their end of the bargain. Bottlenecks are found more quickly. And both sides can revel in ultimate success rather that small disagreements. If the organization is delivering its revenue goals, its easy to treat improving campaign ROI or sales follow up timeliness and incremental improvements. And that is so much more useful than (un)civil war over what should be minutiae.

Do you know how many sales-ready leads your organization needs? For a limited time, Bill Freedman is offering Inbound Lead Analysis to qualified B2B technology companies at no charge. Sign up today!

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