“These leads suck!”
  • sales
  • Blog post

“These leads suck!”

If you want to start a fight between Marketing and Sales, it only takes a single word: Leads.

“Hey, we killed ourselves last month to get you a ton of hot leads,” Marketing says. “So what did you do with them?”

“These leads?” asks Sales, pointing to a battered shoebox under the desk. “We haven’t gotten to them yet…”

“Why not?” Marketing demands. “What are you waiting for?”

“Well,” Sales says, “I guess we’re waiting for leads that don’t suck.”

You can find some version of that conversation – perhaps more polite, perhaps less direct – in virtually any sales organization. Salespeople never stop complaining about the quality of their leads: They’re too old. They’re not qualified. They’re not interested. They don’t call back.

Marketing, for its part, insists that its leads are the cream of the crop. They’ve been sifted, sorted, nurtured, qualified. If salespeople can’t sell to this crowd, they must be doing something wrong.

I hate to pick sides. And I hate to say anything bad about salespeople. But I’ve become convinced that Marketing probably has it right this time.

What convinced me was some powerful research, which is summed up in the “Rule of 45.” The research shows that in business-to-business sales, 45% of qualified sales leads – people who’ve inquired about a product — will eventually buy from someone. (The figures are even higher in consumer sales.)

Many salespeople think that number is ridiculously optimistic. But they fail to consider one key point: Those 45% don’t buy all at once. About 4% buy in the first month. Another 4% buy in the second month. And so on.

The problem is that salespeople tend to assume that leads go stale quickly. So they call, say, 100 leads in the first month, find 4 or 5 active buyers and maybe close 1 or 2 sales. They conclude that the rest of the leads are worthless and stop following up.

Too bad. They’re throwing away good money.

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