When Leads Don’t Convert, the Blame Game Begins

Inbound Marketing

Part of this article originally was published by Sales & Marketing Management. It was written by Paul Nolan and the sections used in this blog appear below in their entirety.

It's the end of the quarter — and you see your boss approaching your desk. "How did we perform this quarter?" They ask, leaning over your chair. And then suddenly, your heart sinks in... "We didn't hit our numbers for leads generated, but they aren't converting." You say to yourself — not out loud, of course. Instead, you say something like, " Our leads aren't converting because...

'The sales team isn't following up on the marketing team's account-based marketing (ABM) efforts on LinkedIn.'

'The content marketing team missed the mark on the last few blogs; they don't align with our Buyer Persona.'"

And the list goes on... when times are tough in the business world, we tend to lay blame on others at our company.

Image of a man writing more leads with a sharpie

Sales & Marketing Management shares a story on where the blame goes when these leads don't convert.

Jessica Magoch's phone rings when businesses are struggling to close sales. "When they call me that first time, they say they need help generating leads and help closing," says Magoch, founder of JPM Sales Partners. With a laugh, she adds, "I want to say, 'Oh, just those two things?' That’s the whole sales process."

It's where many companies land when they fall short of sales goals a few quarters in a row: Something's wrong, but they’re not sure what. Sales blames marketing and marketing often points a finger back at sales. With many of the small and mid-size companies that Magoch works with, sales and marketing are one in the same.

"'The leads suck!' That's been the complaint of salespeople forever," Magoch says. "If we’ve established that, then now what?"

She argues that salespeople who constantly complain about weak leads misunderstand their purpose. "Leads aren't orders. They're supposed to take you on a treasure hunt of sorts to find out where the sale is. A lead is just someone expressing interest. It's up to the salesperson to take them on a journey to convert."

Where do leads come from?

Misconceptions about leads start with the fact that their origin is often imprecise, points out Jeremy Smith, a serial entrepreneur, trainer and conversion consultant for Fortune 1000 companies. In a blog post for The Daily Egg, Smith references a bar chart from HubSpot depicting the various sources of companies' leads. The mix includes trade shows, direct marketing, social media and other usual suspects. The tallest bar by far, however, is "other."

"What the heck is 'other'? It means that we have no freaking clue where B2B leads come from," Smith states. "Basically, even smart people don’t really know where their leads are coming from all the time. A lot of getting leads has to do with a lifestyle of consistent marketing efforts, a constant cultivation of industry relationships, and the organic mashup of all kinds of interactions, activities, behaviors, and efforts. Voilá! There's a lead! But where did it come from? It’s hard to say."

The takeaway, says Smith, is that rather than focus on a single silver lead bullet, understand that B2B lead generation is a composite of unquantifiable activities and behaviors that just work.

The Dark Funnel

Latane Conant refers to companies’ unidentified prospects as "the dark funnel." Conant is the chief marketing officer of 6sense, an account-based orchestration platform. She says 6sense integrates with a company's CRM and uses predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to identify who is researching your products and score leads to help salespeople prioritize their efforts.

Effective conversations with prospects requires a deep understanding of their needs. But what if these self-educated buyers don't want to be reached with sales pitches?

Sales & Marketing Management was kind enough to showcase my thoughts on this topic in their publication. Here's what I had to tell them.

The role of a salesperson used to be to provide the type of information that companies now share through content marketing. Despite the buzz, some businesses remain hesitant to share too much through whitepapers, webinars and other free downloadable content.

Too often, companies want to write about things that feel good to them, but not about what prospects actually want to learn. They’re fearful that competitors are going to steal information from them, so they don’t talk about what is actually important. They also don’t want to give too much information online because they want their salespeople to nurture them. That’s a missed opportunity. Being fearful to provide the right information is going to lead to losing the opportunity to speak to them at all.

Some companies that are effectively using content to market fall apart in their follow-up. I’m amazed at how many companies do not close the loop on marketing to sales leads. We’ll generate a lead for a client and send it to sales, and sales never informs us what happens. What were the conversations? How much did that close for? What did they actually find in there so we can learn and iterate from that?

It’s shocking, even for very large companies that we work with, how dysfunctional that marketing-to-sales process is. There is so much more opportunity with even current clients if they’d just communicate. I’m not proposing they stick with a dead lead, but they can’t just walk away. There is a system that you use to nurture them. Too often, you hear, "They’re not right." Based on what?

Read more on this article by Sales & Marketing Management and learn about social media's role, the dark funnel, and knowing your customer by clicking this link.

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