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February 2013

Advice to a friend: There’s no such thing as an old sales lead.

Hi Tom:
You asked a week or so ago if “new leads” are all that count. The answer Tom, is no. New leads are what salespeople like to see but all new leads have a predictable life span. 

IStock_000017352454SmallSalespeople often complain about not having enough new leads, but they are short on answers about the leads you gave them that are aging and potentially becoming less valuable month by month.

I remember Dan Rogers, the president of SmartLead by AdTrack, stating that sales leads are one of the marketing-created assets that have declining value month by month. Just thinking about sales leads as an ASSET is new for some people.

As a group, sales lead values decline on a predictable sliding scale. Any group of inquiries has a year to run their course; for many products it could be as long as 18 months. Surely, some inquirers buy within three months, but just as importantly a predictable percentage buy within 4-6 months, then 7-9 months, then 10-12 months.

"For most B2B products, 75% of closed sales will occur within the 4th through the 12th month, or even later."

I almost wish it were more complicated than that. If the process were complicated, it would explain why so many marketing managers blow so much company revenue on nonproductive inquiry sources. But, alas, many marketing managers drift through their jobs with little thought given to ROI because no one in senior management has the brains to ask for a return on investment. The C-Level people spend as little on marketing as possible because no one is capable of telling them the truth: that ROI is predictable.

The C-Level people spend as little on marketing as possible because no one is capable of telling them the truth: that ROI is predictable. 

When a marketing manager starts to measure ROI for lead generation, he or she soon realizes that some leads close quickly, while others take a long time; many nearly a year. That is both bad news and good news. It’s bad because so much of the lead generation budget is wasted when salespeople stop pursuing an inquiry after three months. They do this because:

  1. They did not follow up immediately and feel stupid for calling after about 3-4 weeks.
  2. The inquiry is for a product they don’t care about (can’t make enough money on it, or they don’t have a quota on it).
  3. The inquirer is geographically undesirable (less of a problem for the growing numbers of inside salespeople).
  4. The inquirer has inquired before but didn’t buy, so the salesperson prejudges their intent. 
  5. The company doesn’t have a lead nurturing system (spelled MARKETING AUTOMATION) or a telemarketing company to do it for them. 

The results are the same: 90% of the inquiries are not followed up, and therefore never turn into a genuine sales lead. The company loses money on virtually all marketing programs compared to what they could earn with a 100% follow-up policy. Tom, I remember the great hockey player Wayne Gretzky once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.”

If your competitors have 90% of their marketing efforts wasted because they are not following up, you can swoop in and make a large profit on the older inquiries.

This is why so many of the marketing automation companies make the claim that they can get a 200-300% increase in sales by using their system. They know there is no such thing as an old sales inquiry or lead; there are only leads that need what others are not giving them: attention, love, information. A caring salesperson. Follow up.

Tom, I know this answer to your question is lengthy, but it is simple. Now go do the right thing.

Why Sales Loves Lead Nurturing

By Lisa Cramer, President, LeadLife Solutions

Why Sales Loves Lead NurturingI speak at a number of events, on webinars and in one on one discussions with prospects. One of the latest events I spoke at was uncharacteristically full of sales execs versus marketing executives.  We mostly speak to rooms full of marketers anxious to learn about marketing automation and how to apply it to their businesses.  However, in more and more events we see sales and marketing executives working on the lead management process together. So after surveying the room, I anticipated a lackluster response to my topic about lead nurturing and its effect on revenue. I was dead wrong.

The audience couldn’t have been more interactive, copiously taking notes and making sure they understood exactly what I was saying. Essentially this focus seemed to be about these sales executives starting to understand why the dynamic in their world of selling has changed.  They all were struggling with it but having a difficult time understanding what was happening. The reality is the buyer has the leverage, and as a matter of fact, doesn’t even have a conversation with the vendor/supplier until they’ve proceeded through 60% of their buying process (Corporate Executive Board).  To a lot of these sales guys that was shocking, staggering and scary. So the question in the room then became what can sales do to get in front of people?

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