Four? Really, only four? There are probably 4 million blog posts about this subject. And yet here’s another one. Why? Because it’s a constant question on the mind of almost every CEO, every sales manager, everyone in business development whose responsibility in some way extends into, or across, the sales pipeline.
First, let’s set a ground rule here. This list isn’t all-encompassing by any means. It’s merely describing leading categories of problem areas that exist in many businesses, where newly-interested prospects floating downstream toward sales closes get caught in eddies at various points along the way. (Poetic, huh? If you’re interested, here’s what an eddy is according to NOAA.)
Simply put, here are four classic problems—any of which might exist in your business right now—where the number of leads aren’t matching up to the number of sales closes:
They weren’t leads in the first place
Make sure you have this one right. What are you calling a lead? Are you sure you fully understand that your lead is showing real interest? Or are you simply calling them leads once they show up to your web site? Many sales teams use scoring strategies here to great effect, using multiple early indicator signals to more accurately—and objectively—assess the prospect’s interest levels. If you’re not already doing so, consider employing some basic criteria that must be met before you consider a prospect to be a true lead. You might not have as much of a disconnect as you think!
You don’t have a lead nurturing process in place
Probably the most common. You’re letting your leads regress once they’ve shown interest. You don’t have a strong way to engage interested prospects and drip messaging to them and otherwise connect your value proposition to their needs. The result is that they fall into the cracks. Their interest in your product or service wanes, and they drift away. Capturing leads is only the start of the process. You must have a solid strategy to engage those prospects with enough prospect-specific message-matching communication from you to keep them interested, build and nurture their interest, and tempt them toward a close. Don’t let your one 30-minute webinar do all the selling, where you then wait for them to buy. Stay connected and engaged (without being a pest), and help answer their questions, continue their learning and understand what life will be like once they experience your offering.
You do have a bad lead nurturing process in place
Almost as bad as not having one is having a bad one. If you send unrelated, disconnected messages to your interested prospects you’re doing yourself a disservice. If you’re overwhelming them with buy-buy-buy messaging, you’re not only driving them crazy, you’re also driving them away. Like watering a garden, nurturing takes time and is done carefully (turn down the garden hose nozzle). Carefully drip relevant messaging to your prospects that speaks to their specific concerns and needs, educates and informs them about your offering and its benefits, and offers a clear path for moving forward when they’re ready to do so.
There’s a clumsy hand-off process between lead generation and sales
The operative word here is assume. And we all know what happens when we assume (if not, Google it). Very often, the lead generation/nurturing/marketing team assumes that sales will pick up the interest and run off to a close without missing a beat. Sales, for their part, assumes that leads will be fully-qualified and handed over just as the prospect is pulling out their credit card. Classic, but what we’re really talking about is the handshake between these two teams. This must be a seamless transition or the prospect can get lost in the process. A simple way to know if you have a good process is to ask each team to identify the detailed criteria/signals/score at which a prospect is to stop being the responsibility of marketing, and begin being the responsibility of sales. If you get two different answers—immediately pull everyone into a room and solve this. You’re likely dropping business on the floor!
A good lead generating pipeline works only when it’s built like a real pipeline: without breaks or leaks or missing segments. Take a close look at your own process to see if any of these four common problems are undermining your sales building strategy, and get a better understanding of why your leads might not be translating to sales.