Put an End to the Lead Generation ‘Groundhog Day’ Loop

HD Data Tell me if you’ve heard this one before …

A sales leader and a marketing leader walk into a conference room. The sales leader announces sales are going to miss their month/quarter/year and they need more leads pronto from marketing. Ever obliging, marketing slams on the gas (often by increasing spend) to produce more leads.

The incremental leads don’t turn into incremental sales. Three to six months later, rinse and repeat.

It’s the sales-and-marketing leader equivalent of our very own Groundhog Day, repeating the same conversation over and over. Across my 30 years in marketing, it’s a discussion I’ve been in many, many times.

Indeed, it’s so prevalent a scenario that our friends over at SiriusDecisions published a cartoon about it.



What brought me to XANT two years ago was the realization that with good business process and the application of science, this Groundhog Day demand gen conversation could be zapped into the ether.

It’s been my experience that the best sales and marketing teams (and it has to be a coordinated team effort) align around two key agreements to end the Groundhog Day cycle:

  1. An objective standard of lead quality
  2. A service-level agreement (SLA) covering sales follow-up on qualified leads

An objective standard for lead quality

There are lots of myths surrounding lead quality. Maybe that’s why sales and marketing have been arguing over lead quality about as long as there’s been sales and marketing.

Yet, it’s very clear to everyone that not all leads are good leads. For example, the first week I started here at XANT, we had a college student from Tokyo sign up to attend one of our webinars on sales best practices. We were thrilled to welcome this student on our webinar, but to be clear, he was not in a position to purchase our sales acceleration platform at that point in time.

For me, a corollary is that sales staff – in my experience, anyway – are not an objective, consistent resource for measuring lead quality. I’ve personally seen very similar leads get accepted and rejected by different reps in the same sales organization. Or by even the same rep, depending on how lean or full their sales pipeline was at the time the lead came in.

No disrespect to sales reps – we’re all human and look at things differently from day to day.

What’s needed is a definition of quality that both marketing and sales collaborate on, and agree upon, and that’s objective and stable. Something that marketing can use as an immediate feedback signal and around which sales and marketing can align – this lead is worth following up on.

That’s where science comes into the equation. By looking for patterns among the leads that eventually closed versus those that didn’t close, teams can identify lead sources, marketing channels and offers that have better odds of producing leads from the right people at the right companies.

If you only have a few inbound leads, you can analyze your lead records yourself in Excel. But anything more, and the variables get too complex – you should consider using a more powerful predictive analytics solution that leverages big data to provide a more accurate assessment of lead quality.

But both sales and marketing have to agree on the scoring approach and the underlying technology. If just sales or just marketing pick a solution, it seems to fail every time.

Lead follow-up SLA

The second step to ending lead gen Groundhog Day is sales and marketing agreeing on how qualified leads will be handled by sales. XANT has a lot of research around the optimal sales processes to wring maximum value from qualified leads, but here are two best practices to implement immediately, if not already in place:

1. Follow up on qualified leads immediately. Or sooner. Our data shows that contact and qualification rates drop dramatically in just minutes after a lead is created, and continue to decrease over the next few hours. There is a 10x decrease in contacts after just the first 5 minutes. The average response time among the last set of companies we secret-shopped in September 2015 was 37.75 hours.

2. Follow up on every qualified lead at least six times. Only 27% of leads ever get contacted. By just making a few more call attempts, sales reps can experience up to a 3x increase in contact rates, yet 40% of reps give up after the first dial attempt. By calling at least six times, you are 90% likely to get ahold of a contact.

Sales and marketing teams should agree on an SLA that establishes how quickly sales will follow up on each qualified lead delivered by marketing, and that sets a goal for follow-up attempts for each lead.

When sales and marketing teams agree on an objective standard for marketing lead quality and establish an SLA to cover lead follow-up, they begin the process of breaking the Groundhog Day cycle that most teams find themselves in. Properly aligned, you can partner more effectively to drive predictable revenue growth.

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