What to do when your VP of Sales says the problem is 'the leads'

Ed Marsh | Mar 13, 2014

Accept that she's right

The leads probably are horrible.  

Most B2B companies concentrate on selling products.  Folks only stumble onto their websites when they search for the name of the company, a brand name, or a specific product spec.  And if that's how they're finding you, that's the same way they're finding all your competitors.  By the time your rep begins a conversation it's already an advanced competitive situation which has devolved into a discussion of details.

Additionally, most B2B websites (realistically the source of most leads today) aren't more than a mediocre on-line brochure.  (Ever think about the difference between how companies treat real visitors vs. web visitors?)  They excel at boring the heck out of a visitor with boilerplate information about the company....and little about the value customers realize.  Visitors are either expected to navigate to a page footer (looking for a telephone number) or a "Contact Us" page looking for a clumsy form which often doesn't provide any confirmation that it worked.  Could you make it any harder for a genuine lead to quickly understand how you might help, and then raise their hand for you?

So, honestly, she's probably right.  The leads are probably both meager in quantity and abysmal in quality.

Demonstrate that she's wrong

At the same time she's way off base.  The way her team sells is outdated - they'll screw up even good leads.  "No way!" you say?  Here's what I mean.

The whole premise of lead follow up in most companies is that a prospect has said they're possibly interested in buying your product.  So the call or email response goes out - and sounds something like "You were looking at/asking about/interested in our 93GWhizA-10.  I'm calling to see what questions I can answer for you."

Think about how you buy yourself.  It's different now, right?  It's so easy to find information (at least from companies that deliberately work at it - not relying on hocus pocus SEO tricks) that you tend to search as soon as you have an idea.  You don't "need it" yet; you probably don't even know exactly what you want, much less what you need.  You poke around, gather some information and then get back to your priorities - noodling what you learned.

Back to focused on other priorities, you're interrupted by a sales rep who calls to talk about specifications of the 93GWhizA-10.  Is that even remotely relevant to the task on your plate?  Probably not - in fact you likely don't even remember what you specifically saw on one of a dozen websites that might have peaked your interest.  You'll be courteous to the rep who interrupted you, maybe ask them to send you something to graciously get them off the phone, and then disappear off their radar.  The rep will tell his sales manager that you were another of those crappy leads.  Then she'll come to the weekly staff meeting grumbling about the quality of leads.

Bottom line?  Your VP Sales is probably one of your biggest business development hurdles...but not the biggest.  There are two bigger problems to cover in upcoming blog posts.

Move beyond the tweaks

By now you're thinking, "OK, not sure I buy it, but if it's correct, how do we fix it?"  Fair question.

First, recognize that this isn't' about technique - this is about a fundamental shift in how "marketing" and "sales" are defined.  The demarcation used to have marketing responsible for creating brochures, scheduling trade shows and collecting volumes of leads from bingo decks.  Direct sales was responsible for building relationships, creating projects, educating prospects and closing deals.  Selling was done by reps.

That's now shifted dramatically in the market - but most companies haven't adapted their model.

Research shows that today it's common for B2B buyers to be 70% of the way through their buying process before they entertain speaking with a sales rep.  So companies are applying an outdated model to modern buying practices.  That's broken, and it's not going to be fixed by practicing how to ask questions in a crafty way.

Most B2B manufacturing companies describe the same challenges
  • not generating enough leads
  • the leads they do generate are low quality
  • they face more competition
  • margins are compressed
  • sales cycles are protracted
So most step up traditional lead generation efforts...spending more without clear ROI...and achieving more frustration.

Solve it

How do you fix it?  How do you generate more sales qualified leads and then sell them empathetically?

That requires tackling your three largest business development barriers simultaneously.  Your VP of sales is one.  We'll outline the other two in coming days.

But simply put, it's time to adapt (not a comfortable word for most B2B manufacturing companies) the way you market and sell.  It's time to match your B2B Sales &  Marketing to today's buyers' habits and expectations.

Want some more background while you're waiting for the next installment?  Check out our book on the evolution of B2B Marketing and Sales.

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