Don’t Create a Monster: Set Lead List Expectations Straight from the Start

Devon-McDonald by

Leads in any B2B expansion stage technology organization are gold.  Some sales reps get it:  any lead (hot, warm, cold) that is “given” to them from marketing, research, etc is a gift from the gods. Others: they expect it. This faulty expectation ultimately will lead to some serious frustrations all around.
I’ve seen this happen time and time again. One of the worst things management can do when interviewing and on-boarding a new rep is to tell them, “you will always have an amazing, and overflowing list of leads to be calling into.”  My suggestion: don’t ever say/hint to this, even if you are quite confident in your list generation capabilities. At the end of the day, you are only creating a monster by setting your new hire’s lead list expectations way too high. Over-promising will undoubtedly come back to haunt you at some point.

Do I agree that sales management combined with marketing should strive to provide the lead qualification/sales team with quality leads? Yes, of course. But as your organization is working towards that goal, your sales team needs to understand and appreciate that:

Leads lists are never going to be perfect.

  • People make career moves, businesses change locations,  numbers get disconnected.  Sales will need to take matters into their own hands to find information about some leads. With so many free online sources, it has become that much easier to find contact information, titles, you name it, in a matter of seconds.  Also, and this is perhaps the most important point: if you have the name of a company, and a main line, pick up the phone and make the call. Ask the questions. Find the person you need to talk to — verbally.  Some gatekeepers will be nicer than others, but the trick is finding a finesse to get what you want out of these people. It can be done.
  • I get it. Some lists that expansion stage companies are putting together may be junk. But rather than complaining about list imperfection, sales people should note recurring issues that they are finding with the list, and save those trends for an end of week retrospective to help whoever is responsible for generating new leads the next time around.  Management needs to establish a process whereby feedback can be passed along by the sales team — constructive feedback loop, if you will. And simply saying, “the leads are bad” won’t cut it. Instead the questions need to be asked of the team:
    • “Why are the leads so bad?
    • What is missing?
    • Is it realistic to ask for that data, or should you be gathering that data yourself on the qualifying calls? [BIG ONE!]
    • Where could his information be found for the research team to be direct to for additional data gathering?
    • In the meantime, where else can you find good leads that fit the target and will allow you to hit your goals?”

Leads are not always going to be bountiful, and in that case you  need to think outside of the box.

  • Do the members of your sales team have LinkedIn open in a tab of their browser ALL day long, EVERYDAY? If not, they should.  LinkedIn is the world’s most up-to-date, abundant lead list; last time I checked there were north of 120 million professional profiles registered.  Sales reps need to be coached on not just calling into the leads that are on some “list” given to them, but also in using LinkedIn to find additional leads within target organizations. As long as the executive management has come to a decision as to who the company’s target market and target buyer are, sales reps should be trusted (and expected) to scrape for some of their own leads/data, as well as to build off of lists that are given to them.

Every lead needs to be touched and squeezed as much as possible.

  • Most of the lead qualification teams that I coach don’t get a call-back/response until the third or fourth attempt. And they are calling at least 5-6 people within every organization that they are targeting. Are you confident that your reps are doing just that? Cherry picking is a deadly sin of growing sales organizations: a rep gets a new list of leads and what do they do? Scroll through, open a few up of the ones from the recognizable companies, call into the ones that have the best contact info… you know the game.  Next time your reps comes to you and says, “I’m out of leads!”, do a little detective work: are they out of leads, or are they out of cherries?  Have they squeezed as much as they possibly could out of this list that someone in your organization worked so hard to gather?

No one said sales was easy. Don’t disillusion your reps about the lead lists/data that you will be able to provide them. Set the expectations straight, encourage your team to think outside of the box to find new leads/opportunities to hit their goals, and create processes by which a feedback loops exist to improve future lead list generation as the company evolves.