When Leads Aren’t Leads

Demand Creation ‌• August 28, 2012

A great discussion that came out of our smarketing alignment workshop the other week was one centered on semantics, specifically around the term “lead” which we all agreed is quite possibly the most over- and mis-used term in B2B demand generation.

“Lead” has become the default term for someone who is interested in buying from you. There are a myriad of vendors and services that will promise to deliver leads to your door. Sounds good but what does this really mean? Does the contact have a budget? Some authority to influence a buying decision? A need that matches what you sell?

In most cases, what you’re actually receiving in these situations is an inquiry (or a hand-raise or a suspect depending on your terminology preference). These are not the leads your Sales team wants to work because a responder with a cursory interest is probably not someone who is ready to talk to Sales. Handing these leads over only  diminishes credibility between your Marketing and Sales groups and can lead to nasty blame-games when pipeline reviews roll around.

If you’re in Marketing, I feel for you. I know you want to throw up your hands in the air and ask some omniscient being how you know what Sales really wants. How do you put a box around a lead so that you’re delivering something that will actually receive follow-up? It’s actually easier than you might think. It’s easy to get wrapped around the axle with complex if-then scenarios for lead qualification. My recipe for a lead is this:

A lead is whatever Sales says it is check this.

Some Marketers don’t like to hear it put like this. They don’t want to give the impression they’re sitting at Sales’ feet peeling grapes and awaiting further instruction but it’s actually more empowering than you’d think at first glance because it shifts some critical ownership back to Sales. When Sales sticks its neck out to say “This is what I reasonably expect and when I get what I reasonably expect, I will accept and work the lead”, everybody wins. Sales has articulated its requirements and Marketing has a guiding outline that also serves as a fall-back.

It’s never a bad time to review your lead requirements, but especially as we slingshot into the end of the year, it’s a great time to look at what’s in your system and your upcoming demand generation plans and take a hard look at how you’re cataloging leads today so that you can do it better tomorrow.

P.S. – Because you know we live and breathe smarketing love, I’d like to  note that this post was a collaborative effort between myself and Marshall Gage from our Sales team.

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

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