Why are so few of the marketing leads converting to sales pipeline?

Content Marketing ‌• February 28, 2017

Needing Water in Desert

In the past several weeks I have spoken with multiple companies that are experiencing poor conversion of their inbound leads coming from their marketing automation platform. One could easily put these data points together and surmise a trend that leads generated or captured by marketing automation systems are of poor quality.   But, before you get all excited and mistakenly jump to this conclusion, please read on.  In almost every situation, none of these companies have implemented any type of top-of-the-funnel lead follow-up or response team that is dedicated to the effort of prequalifying these leads before they are passed to sales.  Instead, they are taking their automatically scored leads using primarily digital interaction and engagement scores and passing the leads that meet a certain digital engagement score directly to the sales team for follow up and pursuit.  

This should work great in theory, but here is where theory meets reality.  The Bridge Group conducts an annual survey that tracks the difficulty and effort required to get in touch with B2B prospects.  The average number of attempts required to connect with a prospect has increased from 4.7 in 2010 to 8.2 in 2016 and it is approaching 10 attempts today.  Think about that, the level of effort just to have an initial conversation with a prospect has nearly doubled in the past 6 years.  

When salespeople get an automatically qualified lead (AQL) passed directly to them from a marketing automation system, most of them just view it as whole bunch of work they don’t have time for.  And the truth of the matter is, they are right.  They do not have the time required to pursue these leads and at the same time do all the work required to retire the sales quota they have been assigned.  I would submit to you that this reality is the root cause (and associated behavior) for why leads from marketing automation systems are not converting into sales pipeline opportunities and ultimately new revenue.  It has nothing to do with whether the AQL leads are good or bad.  It has everything to do with the fact that no provision has been made for the amount of time and effort required to truly pursue and qualify these leads as sales ready.

As a result, B2B companies across every industry spectrum are starting to realize that automatically scored leads require some type of pre-sales lead triage and qualification.  To make this happen, companies are hiring dedicated resources who are responsible for lead follow up to develop AQL leads into a more sales-ready status before they are passed along to quota carrying sales reps.  This trend has exploded over the past 18 months.  Just go do a national search for the terms “Sales Development Rep”, “Market Development Rep”, “Business Development Rep”, and “Lead Development Rep” and you’ll see a consistent set of openings that are on average eclipsing 250,000 open positions nationwide.  B2B Companies of every type are hiring people to do this type of lead follow up and development.

Of course, this shift in how the sales organization is staffed creates a whole new set of issues related to how you manage the activities, efforts, and results of these dedicated lead response and prospecting teams.  Most sales and marketing leaders who are in the early stages of hiring these lead development and prospecting roles assume their current marketing automation platforms (MAP systems) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM systems) have the capabilities and features necessary to support their new sales development and prospecting teams.  What most find out after initial attempts in managing these new sales roles is that is a wrong assumption.

 Traditional CRM systems were designed for a totally different sales organization approach, one that we’ve coined the “all-in-one” sales rep model.  You know, the rep who is supposed to hunt (prospect), stalk (pursue), shoot (engage and qualify), kill (propose, close, and win), and then eat (collect commission).  All in that order.   Consequently, these systems were not designed to support today’s modern sales prospector where they need purpose-built prospecting tools that enable them to cover a much higher volume of leads at a higher velocity than their all-in-one counterparts.   

Typical Real World Example:

Let’s take a look at a real life example to illustrate the challenge these new age dedicated prospecting reps face.  Suppose that marketing generates enough AQLs to feed a Sales Development Rep 10 AQL leads each work day.

  • 10 AQL leads per day x 21 work days in a month = 210 AQLs per month
  • Average number of outreach attempts to connect with each AQL = 8.2
  • Total number of outreach (touches) needed to connect with allocated leads = 1,720

The average number of outreach attempts per day that is required to adequately cover that level of AQL lead volume is 82 attempts.  While it can vary wildly from company to company, most end-users of legacy CRM systems will tell you they can average about 35-40 sales prospecting attempts per day.

Volume and velocity are just the beginning of the system deficiencies however.  There are a whole host of additional lead response and follow up capabilities that today’s modern sales prospector needs:

  • Moment of Interest alerts that allow perfectly timed follow up immediately after the prospect engages with digital content
  • Account-based contact identification and pursuit tools
  • Automated touch plans that keep the lead developer sending the right next message to the right next prospect at the right next time
  • Message and touch plan analytics that help team to see which messages are working best with each segment of the addressable market
  • Training and coaching tools that allow supervisors to monitor calls, whisper coaching tips on call active calls, recording calls, etc.
  • Automated Local presence dialing that radically improves call connection with stranger contacts
  • Day and hour analytics that show the heuristics for optimizing the ideal time of day and day of week to make calls and send emails into your addressable market
  • Daily stack ranked sales development team scorecard to help drive healthy competitiveness and gamification of the lead follow up and development process

These are just a few of the capabilities that we’ve found necessary to make dedicated prospecting and lead development teams effective.  It’s also why we created PursuitPro, the definitive sales development platform for today’s B2B sales development teams.
Sales development and prospecting is hard work.  It doesn’t have to be made even harder by trying to do this specialty job with an all purpose tool.  If you’d like to learn more about PursuitPro, please visit our site https://www.oppsource.com/product/ and sign up for a free demo.

Sam McCue
Inbound Marketing guru, avid fisherman, and all-around backcountry enthusiast.

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