2 Reasons What Your Sales People Tell You About Your Leads and Your Marketing is WRONG

by | Feb 3, 2010

Most businesses spend a lot of money on marketing and advertising. It’s a big slice of the pie each month. It’s also probably one of the areas you have the least accountability for. As we discussed in an early chapter, many small businesses just don’t know how to measure the results of their marketing efforts.

But you need to know right? You need to be able to direct your advertising and marketing dollars to things that work. Things that generate profitable results. But typically all you can do is look at sales results in aggregate and try to make judgments about many discrete marketing channels.

The big guys do it by spending even more money on research, surveys, etc. That’s great if you’ve got the time and money. In most small businesses, you find out how the marketing is working by asking your sales people. After all, they’re the ones in the organization that speaks to most of the respondents to your marketing. This seems perfectly logical but it’s not.

Part of this is obvious. Bonus and commission plans can incentivize sales people to paint a skewed picture of the situation.

This is not to disparage sales people. They’re just trying to increase their commissions by selling more. However, if your sales compensation structure and your business priorities are not aligned well, this can amplify their perception of the value of certain types of leads.

#1 Reasons What Your Sales People Tell You About Your Leads and Your Marketing is WRONG – Sales people see volume as good.

You have to search long and hard to find a sales person that won’t tell you they can use more leads. More leads means more opportunity to them. More leads means more need for the services of a sales person. You may believe more leads is better also. If so, please see Reason #2 below!

You may sell into multiple markets or sell an assortment of different products or services which require marketing in different channels. So, you run an ad in a trade magazine for product A, attend trade shows to market product B and do “pay per click” search ads for product C. It’s very common for sales people to perceive leads from a trade show to be far more valuable than others. They’ll even “feel” like there are more of these leads than others when trade show leads are the lowest by volume.

I say “feel” because most sales people have no means of actually knowing how many leads they’re getting. Frankly, unless they’re paying you for the leads, they have little incentive to keep track.

Trade show leads “seem” important and valuable to sales people because of the amount of time spent on trade shows and because they actually have met these people already. Sales people are relationship oriented. When they’re looking at a stack of 50 business cards from the trade show that they spend 2 days on last week, all of whom they met personally, they’re going to see those as “warmer” leads than the 500 names of CFOs in an excel file that you just purchased for them to cold call. Also, if they are more experienced with a certain type of lead or product or company, they’ll perceive those as more valuable. So, when you ask your sales people about the leads, they’re going to over emphasize the ones that are warmer and most familiar to them.

This may seem like a minor point but, it can be huge in terms of dollars! If you spend $10,000 on a trade show plus 2 days of your sales person’s time and get 50 leads, you’ve got to close at least 20% of them or your average sale better be well over $2,000 or both or its just unprofitable after you take sales compensation and operational costs out. On the other hand, if you may be able to spend $5,000 to get 100 leads via your website and your sales person hasn’t invested a minute yet.

Which brings us to…

#2 Reasons What Your Sales People Tell You About Your Leads and Your Marketing is WRONG – Can’t measure sales results from leads any better than you can

It’s really all about the quality of the lead. If you’re not using contact management software or a CRM solution to track the leads by source and tie that to results, then you can bet your sales people aren’t either. Sure, you probably have one or two sales people on your team that tell you they use Outlook or contact management systems like ACT! or Goldmine to track the leads you give them but, the fact is that’s not really their job as you’ve defined it and so, it’s likely to get inconsistent attention at best.

Even if you are using an online CRM to capture contact information for all leads that come in, where it came from and which sales person it was given to and your sales people are adding in the actual results once they make contact with the lead, it’s probably not happening all the time. If a sales person is given 100 leads in a month and they forget to log in the results for 5 or 10 of them, it can skew the analysis of this information tremendously.

What you want to know is how many leads came in, tied to each marketing channel and whether they were qualified and if they made a purchase. Seems simple doesn’t it? It’s simple for your CRM system to give you a nice analysis of this information but, it’s another thing to get to the point where you have it all in one place so the analysis can begin. If you’re not using any kind of CRM today, just try and track the leads that come in next month. If you are using a CRM solution already, you know what I mean.

You may be able to capture and track all leads that come in via your website. You may even have the front office trained to track all the call ins that happen when your ad runs in the local business journal. But what about referrals or trade show leads? Those go straight into your sales people’s hands… Even once you’ve figured out how to capture all the leads, it’s getting a good read on the quality of those leads that’s key. And it’s the most difficult part of the equation.

After all, it has to be objective for it to be really useful. Just like your sales people will have a tendency to see volume as good for its own sake, they’ll also have vague “feelings” about the quality of leads from certain sources that have more to do with the difficulty of getting in touch with those leads and generating the first real conversation about need than anything else.

To make it work you have to boil down lead “quality” to a series of objective measurements. Are they in the right industry for you? How much are the currently spending on products or services like yours? Maybe for you it’s as simple as how many employees they have or what their annual revenue is or how much they spend on telecom each month. For many small businesses trying to carve out a niche for themselves, it has to be much more specific.

If you’re using a contact management system or CRM solution, put fields in the system for your staff to enter the answer to these questions. If not, use a spreadsheet or even a printed “lead sheet” with blanks to input these answers. This way you’ll be able to measure leads based on each of these criteria and you’ll know which of your sales people just aren’t asking the right questions.

Remember, this is the 4th chapter in our newest eBook, “Build Your Own Automatic Selling Machine”. Register to receive each new chapter as its released and the entire eBook when complete, free here.