Wondering Out Loud

More leads! More leads! More leads!

I experienced one of those ugly moments when a bad memory comes flooding back to the fore for no discernible reason. This one dates back almost a decade, to my early years in the marketing department of SoftBrands, a one-time enterprise software company that was acquired by Infor, a much larger enterprise software company, a bit more than one year ago.

The pain started when the sales manager stopped by my office to discuss the need to increase qualified sales leads. It seems her team was not busy enough with the 50 we were sending each month (10 m0re than the 40 required to meet quota), so she wanted us to increase the total to 80.

Happy to accommodate her request, I tried to start a discussion about the additional dollars that would be necessary. It is a discussion that went nowhere. Not to be stymied, I brought up the subject of changing the definition of a qualified sales lead. With a few tweaks to the criteria, like purchase time line, my team would be able to achieve the doubled quota. That suggestion was less popular than increasing the budget.

So, there I stood, staring at a sales manager who wanted me to perform the modern-day equivalent of the fishes and loaves. Being a mere mortal, I told here it would be easier if she would ask me to spin straw into gold. I quickly found that was the wrong thing to say.

Sales people are always asking for more leads, but they fail to see that, when lead generation is done correctly, less can actually be more. Let me explain.

Some time later in my tenure at SoftBrands we made the strategic decision to focus our efforts on penetrating a handful of very specific manufacturing micro-verticals that we were really good at: medical device, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and food & beverage. At first the sales team was concerned about the inevitable reduction that would result when we choked off the flow of leads. But as we implemented the strategy, they came to realize a few important facts:

  1. The number of leads did drop dramatically
  2. The quality of leads increased in the same way
  3. They were spending less time chasing deals that were unlikely to result in wins
  4. Wins – individual and team – increased considerably

For us, the ultimate road to success was not expanding the criteria and pumping more leads into the pipe. On the contrary, by focusing our resources and tightening the definition of a qualified sales lead, we were able to achieve our sales goals and do away forever with the mantra:

More leads! More leads! More leads!

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November 30, 2010 - Posted by | Marketing | , , , ,

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