Why Sales Shouldn’t Generate Their Own Leads

The Cost of Campaign-Based Marketing

Too many sales organizations are disappointed in marketing’s performance. While they would welcome marketing’s contribution to pipeline, most sales leaders and professionals don’t think that marketing can actually help drive revenue or deliver qualified sales leads. Even well-intentioned efforts to align sales and marketing often fall short, with marketing’s focus typically returning to ineffective campaigns and vanity metrics – reinforcing the stereotypes of B2B marketing as nothing more than a cost center. But sales shouldn’t generate its own leads.

When marketing and sales are not aligned on the same Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), marketing’s activities typically fail to deliver sales the quality leads that are needed to meet revenue goals. It’s no surprise then, that sales feels that they’re forced to take matters into their own hands, distracting them from selling, wasting valuable time and resources, and worst of all, sending mixed (and potentially counterproductive) messages to prospects. We see this play out often when sales enablement tools are in place. Sales runs their own campaigns, with their own messaging, and the customer experience pays the price. You can read more about that in this blog.

The reality is that with a revenue-focused demand marketing strategy  in place, sales won’t need to add head count, make cold calls, or hire third parties to book appointments and generate demand.

The key is not for marketing to deliver more leads, but to deliver better leads.

When Marketing Falls Short 

We consistently hear sales teams complain that marketing doesn’t deliver enough leads. And sometimes, volume is a real issue. But more likely than not, the problem isn’t that marketing is generating enough leads, it’s that sales is focused on quantity instead of quality. Sales reps often evaluate marketing performance based on the number of leads they need to drive a certain number of opportunities that convert to sales. For instance, they might figure out that, on average, they get 5 opportunities from 100 leads, creating a 5% yield of leads to opportunities.

But that 5% yield is problematic because most reps don’t follow up on every lead marketing delivers. Carefully calculated lead scores are often ignored as sales cherry-picks some leads while ignoring others, so sales must take some of the responsibility in manufacturing a crisis of leads.

When higher or missed revenue goals demand that marketing deliver even more leads, marketing (frustrated because their current approach isn’t working) often responds by throwing more budget or resources at existing tactics. But budgets are limited, and tired tactics lose effectiveness over time.

When campaign-based marketing tactics fall short, many companies and sales organizations hire more salespeople to fill the lead and revenue gap. But it’s a misguided response. A good salesperson is a six-figure-a-year resource, and that’s a big expense for someone to comb through their digital Rolodex, scour LinkedIn, and make cold calls.

The key is not for marketing to deliver more leads, but to deliver qualified leads.

Shared success metrics combined with collaboration in the planning stages of the demand strategy mitigate misalignment and ensure that marketing delivers what sales needs.

Shared Metrics Drive Collaboration

If marketing is measured on total leads, regardless of quality or revenue contribution, it is easy for them to hit their numbers no matter how sales performs. However, if marketing is focused on revenue-based metrics that emphasize the quality of a lead over the quantity, then both teams are forced to adopt a strategic demand marketing approach supported by the right activities. Learn more about how to make the shift from tactical to strategic demand marketing here.

As they aim for marketing and sales alignment that supports marketing’s contribution to revenue, organizations need to put in place the right KPI framework. Shared success metrics created in the planning stages of the demand strategy mitigate misalignment and ensure that marketing delivers what sales needs. The column on the left in the following table lists the standard metrics that dominate in a campaign-based marketing environment. The right-hand column lists the KPIs that encourage alignment between marketing and sales, and that serve as a foundation for sales to move away from generating its own leads. Adopting the metrics on the right will keep both teams focused towards the same goal: driving growth.

Tactical Marketing Activity Metrics Strategic Demand Marketing Metrics
Email opens Engaged-to-qualified lead
Email click-throughs Qualified lead-to-opportunity
Downloads Channel/content velocity
Web traffic Marketing-sourced pipeline
Likes/shares Marketing-sourced revenue

Marketing-Led, Quality-Focused Strategic Demand

Traditional sales-driven demand generation tactics like cold calling and unsolicited emails aren’t effective in an era when buyers conduct their own research and are more than halfway through the purchase process before wanting to talk to sales. As a result, marketing needs to take the lead by connecting with, engaging, and qualifying prospects as they are conducting research. To do this, you need a Strategic Demand Marketing Plan.

The first phase of a Strategic Demand Marketing Plan focuses on buyer insights. With the right information in hand, marketing can connect buyers with the right piece of content, at the right time, on the engagement channels they prefer. But sales also plays a role in this phase.

To get started, sales should help marketing conduct first-person research about prospects and customers. Together, the teams can start to build out Buyer Insights and answer: who are the buyers and influencers, what are the steps in the buying process, what are their key pain points, and more. Marketing should then validate these assertions with customer and prospect interviews and then again with third-party research. Based on these insights, marketing can build a complete buyer journey to more accurately target the audience and create content that better aligns with each stage of that journey.

Strategic demand marketing isn’t meant to replace sales’ “closing” efforts. Rather, it’s intended to support and drive sales, especially at the top and middle of the funnel. It’s also meant to facilitate sales interactions by better informing and encouraging early-stage buyers to move further down the purchase path. By reducing or eliminating the need for sales to generate their own leads and new pipeline, sales can focus on closing rather than generating leads.

Leveraging technology and a clear process, marketing can and should handle marketing activities and lead qualification at scale in an automated fashion. Buyer-centric research and strategy identifies the channels that buyers frequent during their purchase process, and marketing automation makes it possible to track content engagement across those channels. Detailed performance metrics tied to revenue can help marketing get smarter about which content offers and engagement channels are most valuable in order to optimize engagement over time.

By coupling these tools with a well-defined, buyer-centric demand marketing strategy, companies can scale their efforts to drive top-of-funnel, prequalified leads and nurture them into the middle of the funnel. In other words, they can ensure marketing delivers more high-quality leads to sales. As a result, sales can focus on closing deals at the bottom of funnel where human interaction matters.

For further reading we recommend:

Making the Critical Shift from Tactical Demand Generation to Strategic Demand Marketing

Who Owns the Number: Sales or Marketing?

Why You Need to Think Like a Chief Growth Officer

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