What is wrong with marketing’s sales leads?

What happens to a lead once it is handed over to a sales rep will demonstrate of how much value it was to start with, writes Peter Strohkorb.


My team works with sales and marketing teams in medium and large B2B organisations. We hear all the time how sales reps complain that marketing doesn’t produce high enough quality sales leads. There are statistics around that say that sales only follows up on about 15% of the leads that marketing provides. That’s 85% of leads being wasted!

Sales says that marketing doesn’t produce ‘qualified’ leads and marketing says that it isn’t their job to ‘qualify’ them, that their job is only to generate enough general interest in their business offerings for prospective customers to just contact Sales. While they are really unqualified leads, often sales refers to them as ‘cold leads’ or ‘tyre kickers’, rather than a real genuinely interested buyer.

That is the crux right there: marketing may think that just a name and a phone number are a sales lead, whereas sales reps ideally want a ready purchase order and probably the accompanying payment for the product or service they are selling. Ideally, marketing people argue, they want to be order takers, not sales people.

The old sales funnel is dying and the concept of the buyer’s journey is upon us, which means that the entire way organisations attract interest and sell things is changing dramatically. Organisations that do not adjust to the new paradigm really risk being left behind only to go the way of the dinosaurs.

My experience, with a lot of different organisations, is that there often is no coordinated effort between sales and marketing on how to manage leads. Instead of an agreed, documented and managed lead nurturing program, often the initiative is handled solely by marketing and then imposed on sales without much collaboration between the two.

This results in sales leads of various quality being simply thrown ‘over the fence’ for the sales people to follow up and then weave their magic.

Marketing gloriously acclaims that they have successfully generated x number of leads, while sales exclaims they aren’t worth their attention.

If the organisation doesn’t have a mutually agreed plan in place on what constitutes a lead and how to handle them, then the leads will most likely end up wasted with the response from the sales rep something like this: ‘I called them and they weren’t interested,’ or, even worse, ‘I called them and they didn’t remember making an enquiry about our product.’

I believe this is where the ‘death of a lead’ happens, because what happens to a lead once it is handed over to a sales rep will demonstrate of how much value it was to start with.

In many organisations the quality of the feedback from sales to marketing is either non-existent, very poor or, at best, rudimentary. What is missing is a structured, measurable and – most importantly – consistent and constructive way for sales to inform marketing of what works and what does not.

Once marketing receives constructive feedback from all sales reps it can then make informed decisions on how to better support them. So, if we can close the feedback loop between sales and marketing we can create what we call a virtuous cycle of collaboration that stops wasting time, money and effort on both sides and allows both teams to live up to their full potential. We call that sales and marketing collaboration – some call it ‘smarketing’.

But no matter what anyone calls it, most would call it nirvana.

And wouldn’t it just be a wonderful thing?