If you’re in marketing, you have certainly heard it. If you’re in sales, you may have said it yourself!

“We need more leads!”

But is this what sales really means? A study CallidusCloud recently conducted suggests it’s not. We polled over 200 sales and marketing professionals about a range of topics, including a question asking, “what is the biggest hindrance to your organization’s ability to sell?” Almost 40 percent cited issues with leads – but there was a split between sales and marketing.lead quantity lead quality

Quantity and quality were the issue. Both sides favored quantity over quality, but marketing leaned far more heavily toward quantity (24.04 percent to 13.46 percent) than sales (21.43 percent to 20.41 percent).  This points out the dangers of the demand for more leads – it may not be what sales really means. Sales may clamor for more leads, but increasingly what they really want are more quality leads.

That conflicting message makes it plain how misalignment between the two sides can take place. And the effects of stuffing the pipeline with more leads without concern for quality only exacerbates things: to get higher quantity, sales drops the threshold for quality, and sales is overwhelmed by wave of leads – often, more than they can work, and which close less frequently, reinforcing sales’ negative opinion about marketing and further knocking sales and marketing out of alignment.

When they attain their objectives, marketers goaled on pure lead numbers and on low per-lead costs don’t actually increase sales, and the leads they generate are more expensive to work. This paradox is well illustrated by a 2014 study by Ascend2,  that showed that lead sources that marketers viewed as having the highest costs – trade shows, advertising in traditional media, third-party publishing and third-party webinars – also were found to be the best sources of high-quality leads. Cost per lead was greater – but so was the close rate. With fewer leads sourced and less sales time invested, value per lead was far greater with quality leads.

In a study of over 3000 meetings split between vendors whose lead generation goals had different emphases around quantity and quality, demand gen expert Mike Damphousse demonstrated the economic value of balancing lead quality and lead quantity. He discovered that the cancel/reject rate of leads was lower for vendors who emphasized quality over quantity (12 percent vs 20 percent); leads converted to the pipeline at a higher rate (36 percent to 31 percent).

And, naturally, qualified leads converted more often. By delivering qualified leads, marketers can allow sales to devote their efforts to the right leads. Often, sales closes more deals but spends less time doing it.

What can you do to improve lead quality – even when sales is yelling about quantity? A few things:

1. Get a Lead Scoring System in Place

Lead scoring allows you to automatically prioritize leads based on demographics and behavior. By having a point system in place, and automatically scoring leads as they enter your system and interact with your marketing efforts, you can move the most engaged leads to the top of the stack. You can also learn more of the nuances and how to navigate your way to lead scoring success in this special report by DemandGenReport.

2. Have a Lead Qualification Team

Having a dedicated squad of people to call leads and further qualify them is another layer of help for your sales force. They help save your sales team from wasting time, provide additional clarity for leads who are on the fence about talking to your company, and provide faster follow-up to leads. The case for a lead qualification is fully made here.

 3. Provide Sales with a Map of the Customer’s Journey

If you’ve ever called customer support and had to explain everything about yourself to the agent, you know how frustrating that can be. Imagine what it’s like for a prospective customer to have to tell the sales person all about his relationship with that salesperson’s company. If you hope to sell to people, in B2B settings,  you have to demonstrate that you respect their time and value your relationship with them – and part of that is being aware of the journey they’ve been on until now. Do you have a way for sales reps to understand that journey – not just in the CRM customer record, but in a record of the content they’ve downloaded and the responses they’ve made to marketing efforts? Hopefully, you are not keeping this data siloed in the marketing department – otherwise, sales is operating in the dark about important aspects of the customer.

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