We’ve all sat in front of BBC One’s ‘The Apprentice’ thinking, and frankly, saying out loud, “What are they doing now?” At times, it’s like watching a bunch of untrained monkeys running around searching for different bananas, even though they’ve been told to buy the same one.

A similar thing is happening with lead generation in companies all over the world.  Managers at the top of an organisation often disagree about exactly what a lead is.  This causes confusion within sales and marketing because they are struggling to understand what a lead is, what it involves or how to go about finding one.

In an age where most things are within our reach, we are becoming more and more obsessed with defining everything around us and if we can’t define it then we don’t want anything to do with it… And the alarming thing is that if it’s happening at management level then it’s happening throughout the entire business.

With 80% of buyers now claiming that they purchase from vendors they have actively found themselves, people are no longer buying products or services in the traditional way; the internet has become the first point of call for any buyer.

It seems that confusion, miscommunication and a recent focus on other business processes have overshadowed the importance of lead generation.

The argument between sales and marketing

Like the latest celebrity couple playing out their downfall in the public eye, the tension between sales and marketing is no secret: Marketing departments believe that the low budget they are given is unjustified and sales teams feel the pressure pushing down on them when it comes to converting leads to sales.

The majority of people side with marketers since sales teams refuse to follow up on leads for ridiculous reasons such as the length it would take for the deal to close, not bothering to make a telephone call or the fact that they are too busy doing something else (usually something that generates commission).

But is it really all their fault?

To answer this, we need to go back to the lack of clarification on what leads actually are. Of course, if something is never defined then companies are at risk of believing they have more leads than they actually do; unsuccessful leads that have not been followed up by sales teams do not count as leads after all. Arguably, if leads were defined by management then the sales teams would follow accordingly, right?

It comes down to the fact that the two departments need to be working together but nobody seems to be working towards that goal. It is therefore up to the managers to clarify the process and support the effective collaboration between sales and marketing.

Different leads require different approaches

Sales reps are taking a ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to identifying prospects; they presume that the same type of deal is appropriate for every target company when in fact, as with everything in life, culture varies between businesses.

It’s the age-old quality vs. quantity debate: Using one approach is seen as the easy route to making sales which is all well and good if you know what approach to take in the first place. The literature seems to suggest that successful leads arise from several contact attempts by sales teams but this is not currently happening. Therefore, without a quantity strategy, there is no quantity.

Imagine instead that a sales company goes the extra mile, tailoring their approach to suit the target sector – would this not be preferable?

To take an example:

Let’s say you want to buy a new laptop. You would begin by doing some research – talking to friends, looking online, visiting stores, etc. You would probably do this several times with different people and over a substantial period of time. You would consider what is best for you. You would list the advantages and disadvantages of your options. You may even make a shortlist and repeat this process. All in all, you would get to know your prospect.

You wouldn’t purchase a product or service in any other way so why should selling be different?

Aiming for quality over quantity will always produce relevant, suitable and effective results but it’s tough and so sales teams often dismiss leads if they are hard work or if they are going to take too long to close.

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