Brian Carroll

Lead Generation Strategy: 5 signs you’re selling like it’s 1992

July 12th, 2012

Back in 1992, if you wanted to find information about a company or its products, you had two choices:

  1. Spend hours at the library poring over periodicals, annual and industry reports, and magazine and newspaper clippings. (Do you remember microfiche?)
  2. Meet with a salesperson.

Life was simpler then: You could reach quota by sending some direct mail, making a few phone calls, and scheduling a few meetings. After all, the customer had very few alternatives to inform themselves. You could succeed without a solid strategy; all that really mattered was the size of your Rolodex. Lead generation as we know it today didn’t exist. Frankly, it really didn’t have to.

Those days are long gone, yet too many organizations are still selling like it’s 1992.

How do I know?

All it takes is a quick review of MarketingSherpa’s 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report (free excerpt at that link). Of the 1,745 B2B organizations that participated, 61%  still have that big-Rolodex mindset – they send any lead that responds to a marketing campaign directly to sales. Furthermore, check out the chart at the right: The vast majority has not applied strategy to any aspect of lead generation.

These statistics are just a reflection of the day-to-day behaviors and attitudes that keep sales and marketing organizations stuck in a time warp. Here are five of them:


1.  Sales is the chief cook and bottlewasher

At some companies, reps are expected to find opportunities, qualify and close them, and even provide customer service support long after the deal is done!

When Sales was the sole source of information, it was far easier to be a lone ranger. Today, when customers can do a competitive analysis on their own with a few clicks of a mouse, making Sales do it all is a surefire way to set them up for burnout at best and failure at worst.

Furthermore, it’s almost impossible to measure and optimize lead generation when each salesperson executes his own process.

Strategic companies focus on ensuring sales representatives maximize their effective selling time doing what they do best – sell – while the following also occurs:

  • Marketing generates and scores leads
  • A teleprospecting team provides the human touch to determine if leads:
    • Are sales-ready
    • Are transactional sales and should be handled by an inside sales rep
    • Are a complex sale and should be handled by outside sales (and only then do the sales reps get involved)
  • Customer service provides post-sale support

This makes the best use of increasingly limited time and resources, and makes it easier to analyze results and optimize the lead generation process.


 2.  Sales spends at least an hour a day cold calling

There has never been more ways to gather leads. However, that also means Sales could spend far too much time pursuing leads that are not ready to buy yet.  Highly compensated sales professionals should spend 100% of their time closing sales-ready leads – those who are ready to buy right now. In contacting even supposedly “qualified” leads for hundreds of leading B2B organizations over the years, I have found that only 5 to 40% are ready to buy right now.

If you don’t know what defines a sales-ready lead, look at this article: “Universal Lead Definition: Why 61% of B2B marketers are wasting resources and how they can stop.” Then, make defining it your highest priority. There’s no lead generation strategy without it.


3.  No one takes responsibility for customer data

The customer relationship management (CRM) database is filled with duplicates, outdated information and inaccuracies.

Again, the days of the individual Rolodex are long over; don’t allow your CRM to turn into just an overpriced version of it! Information must be unified, accurate, easy-to-access and shareable. This will enable you to execute the lead nurturing campaigns that generate leads, and analyze past sales performance to better take advantage of future sales opportunities.

Consider step 3 in this article: “B2B Sales Cycle: 4 steps to avoid the wasteful ‘no decision.’


4.  Marketing and Sales snipe at each other

Sales complains that Marketing doesn’t know how to generate leads; Marketing complains that Sales is nothing but a bunch of prima donnas. They don’t understand how they can benefit each other. Collaboration and alignment are nonexistent. When this happens, Sales often appoints themselves chief cook and bottlewasher.

In today’s economic environment, every resource must work together toward a common goal: providing service both inside and outside the company that increases revenue. Marketing and Sales must view and serve each other as customers.

Twenty years ago, it was easier to work in silos. Marketing could focus on creating and controlling corporate image. Today, thanks to social media, customers decide what the brand is. If what your company is doing doesn’t align with what it’s saying, you’ll decimate credibility and market share.  Marketing and Sales must collaborate to ensure they’re both in touch with marketplace reality, and are projecting a consistent, credible image.

Check out this article for real-world direction on how to break down silos:  “How ECI Telecom Discovered the Surefire Sign that Sales and Marketing Are Aligned.”


5.  Sales ignores Marketing materials and makes their own

A sales professional can easily spend hours on marketing activities, like developing or reworking PowerPoint presentations, and writing or rewriting email templates and sales letters.

Multiply this across an entire sales organization and the time and money add up at light speed. Sales may be unaware of the material already available, or they simply may not like what Marketing produces.

Either way, this is a surefire sign that Sales and Marketing aren’t collaborating to optimize lead generation efforts. Again, if what Marketing and Sales is doing and saying is inconsistent, the marketplace is going to immediately notice that and respond negatively.


In essence, today’s customer has far more power than he did twenty years ago. When we discount this critical fact by ignoring lead generation strategy, we doom ourselves to be left in the past.  It may not happen immediately, but organizations that embrace strategy will gain the competitive advantage. This is evidenced again and again in MarketingSherpa’s benchmark reports. For instance, the 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report points out these findings:

  • Companies that qualify leads, instead of sending them all to Sales, have a 30% higher return on lead generation investment.
  • Companies that use lead scoring have a 60% higher return on lead generation investment.
  • Companies that use marketing automation software, which points to a strategic lead generation approach, achieve a 96% higher return on lead generation investment.

Do you think your sales and marketing departments are stuck in a time warp? Do you have other warning signs you’d like to add to the list? Let me know in the comments below; I would love to hear from you.


Related Resources:

MarketingSherpa’s B2B Summit 2012 in Orlando, Aug. 27-30, 2012

2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report – Download the free excerpt

Lead Scoring: CMOs realize a 138% lead gen ROI … and so can you

B2B Lead Generation: 300% ROI from email and teleprospecting combo to house list

Fostering Sales-Marketing Alignment: A 5-Step Lead Management Process

Categories: Lead Generation Tags: , ,

  1. February 1st, 2013 at 00:11 | #1

    Nice post Brian,

    What most of the marketers ignore today is point #3. Whether its a sales or a marketing campaign, marketing database is central. The success of your campaign depends on the quality of your database.There has to be someone who constantly keeps a check on quality of the database. Because what’s necessary for a successful marketing campaign is relevant, accurate and fresh data. No other element can replace an enriched, accurate, comprehensive and quality database.

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