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Generating leads without creating conflict

Alice Heiman

“Why won’t my salespeople prospect? All they do is complain that we never give them enough leads.” This is a very common complaint from sales managers in almost every industry.

The fact is that although some salespeople are not expected to prospect, the vast majority must do so in some form to reach their sales quotas.

Much of the problem comes from a lack of understanding of exactly what is meant by the word, “prospecting.” Most believe it means, “to generate leads.” If that is true where does prospecting belong in an organization sales or marketing? This age-old management territory debate is easy to understand when one looks at some basic definitions.

According to Webster’s: marketing: the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service sales: operations and activities involved in promoting and selling goods or services The word “prospecting” is not directly defined by Webster’s but leads you to the word “explore” thus the following definition.

prospecting: to make or conduct a systematic search prospect: a potential customer, client or purchaser Based on those definitions it is easy to understand the controversy: is sales part of marketing or is marketing part of sales? Further, if a prospect is a potential customer, client or purchaser and prospecting means to make or conduct a systematic search then prospecting absolutely cannot equal cold calling.

Many things contribute to the “never enough leads” problem.

In this article we will explore the contributors and solve the first of these issues.

You can look forward to solutions for the others in my upcoming articles.

One of the main contributors to this problem can be marketing.

No, this is not an attempt to bash marketing departments.

Still, this simple question should be answered, “What are you doing to generate leads for the sales team?” Management should expect good marketing to produce good leads for salespeople.

If not, something needs to change.

The rest of the problems reside in sales and sales management.

Here are some of things that contribute.

Prospecting skills are different than other selling skills.When managers hire salespeople they often look for someone who has a history of meeting or exceeding quota, a good closer.

After hiring a heavy hitter, many managers scratch their heads wondering why this heavy hitter is sitting around waiting for leads.

Most salespeople do not like to prospect.

Many equate prospecting with cold calling and associate it with rejection.

This is very unfortunate.

According to my definition cold calling isn’t even a type of prospecting.

Many salespeople do not know how to prospect.

Neither do their managers, especially if prospecting is not synonymous with cold calling.

It is hard to manage something you are not good at yourself.

There are a variety of ways to prospect; remember, cold calling is not one of them.

Salespeople don’t balance their time well.

Because most salespeople like prospecting the least of all their duties, they leave it until last and don’t give it the attention it deserves.

Prospecting is not a good thing to do when you are tired, or frustrated, and it is too important to be left for last.

Once salespeople understand how to really prospect they will enjoy it and it will rise to the top of the list.

Salespeople are not directly rewarded for prospecting.

There is no instant gratification like there is with solving a customer’s problem or closing business.

People do what you pay them to do and most salespeople are compensated to close business.

Several years ago I was working with a start-up company in San Francisco that sold web-based training to human resource departments of very large companies.

The sales department was told to generate its own leads, so the vice president of sales told the salespeople to prospect.

The salespeople asked for some marketing material and without consulting the salespeople, marketing came up with a complex marketing piece that cost about $20 per piece to print and about $3 to mail.

The marketing people were delighted with the finished product and felt they had done excellent work.

The salespeople were very disappointed.

The piece was so long and complicated that the salespeople didn’t use it.

Boxes of brochures were found sitting around and collecting dust.

The marketing team badmouthed the sales team for not using the beautiful marketing materials.

The sales team thought marketing produced a worthless sales tool.

The result to the company, besides a huge waste of money, was another wedge driven between sales and marketing.

It was a mess and I had my work cut out for me, but I made it work and so can you.

Here are some ideas:

1.

The people in charge of sales and marketing need to communicate their expectations and develop a plan together to coordinate both department’s efforts.

If this is not possible, the CEO does not have the right people in place.

2.

To build rapport between the people in the two departments, team-building exercises are a great way to start.

These can be done in-house or outsourced.

3.

Senior sales and marketing management must communicate the expectations to the two department teams, mandating that they will now work as a team and support each other.

4.

Brainstorming sessions must be held to develop sales messages to use on the website and in marketing materials.

Consistency in the company’s messages to its customers and potential customers is essential.

5.

Measurements must be put into place.

If Marketing is charged with generating leads for Sales, then Sales should let Marketing know how that is working.

6.

Marketing should not be the sole source for lead generation.

Salespeople need to participate in other prospecting activities.

Trade shows, networking in professional organizations, getting referrals from satisfied customers and selling more or other products to existing customers need structured plans for salespeople to implement.

Future articles in this series will discuss these tasks.

Marketing and sales departments cannot be at war.

They must work together and work as a seamless team.

The senior executives must expect constant communication and collaboration.

I would love to hear your stories about the relationship between sales and marketing at your company.

Please send stories to stories@aliceheiman.com.

Alice R.Heiman owns and manages ARH Consulting, LLC, The Sales Experts, a sales consulting firm based in Reno.