The Leads Are Weak...And What To Do About It

Whenever I've worked with salespeople, there are always a handful of movies they referenced and consider the gospel of the salesperson's existence.  One of the all time classics is Glengarry Glen Ross, starring Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Kevin Spacey, Ed Harris and most noticeably Alec Baldwin.  Alec plays the part of Blake, the double A+ personality sales leader sent from downtown to motivate the troops.  "Always Be Closing" and a bunch of other colorful phrases not suitable for print are regularly repeated by the salespeople I've known, but the one I always remember is Jack Lemmon's retort to one of Blake's barbs - "the leads are weak."  The salespeople I supported would go to that quote when marketing programs weren't (in their minds) helping them meet quota and get their bonus.

Lead generation is consistently one of the greatest point of fracture between sales and marketing.  In most cases, sales feels that marketing's sole purpose is to help them drive sales in the now, and marketing sees it as part of their role but not their mission in total.  A closer alignment of sales and marketing around lead generation efforts leads to great results, but it usually take marketing crossing the aisle to create that conversation and work towards a common set of principals, activities and outcomes that the sales team will support and the marketing team can embrace.

One side of the challenge is that salespeople all believe they know their territories and customers and no one outside of them could possibly find a great high potential customer they didn't know about, which isn't always the case and doesn't take into account all of the variables of effective lead generation.  The other side of the challenge is that marketing doesn't have access to the same information the sales force does and is often distant from the sales process and doesn't understand how their product or service is truly sold in the marketplace.  Closing these gaps - information, process, tactics - is integral to creating the kind of lead generation process that is embraced by both sides of the organization.  Again, it will take marketing to do most of the heavy lifting, but it will create the equity you need from the sales organization to feel like marketing is their partner.  When you get to that point, great things can happen. 

If you hear "the leads are weak" from your sales teams, make sure you pick up on the reference and work to line up your lead generation plans with their goals and be consistent with updates and learning.  That rising tide will lift the big boat of your company to bigger and better places.