The problem is that this traditional approach to lead generation no longer works as well as it once did. Business buyers don't need salespeople as much today as they did in the past. They can go online and find most of the information they need to learn about and evaluate products and services. So, buyers are now performing research independently, and they are avoiding conversations with sales reps until much later in the buying process. As a result, it's become a lot harder for salespeople to create the initial engagement with potential buyers, which is what lead generation is all about.
Making salespeople responsible for lead generation is a bad idea for several related reasons.
- Salespeople must devote a significant amount of their time and energy to lead generation work in order to produce a sufficient number of leads. According to the 2011 Sales Performance Optimization survey conducted by CSO Insights, salespeople are now spending 24% of their time generating leads and researching accounts.
- The more time a sales rep spends on lead generation, the less time he/she has for actual selling. The CSO Insights survey shows that salespeople are spending only 41% of their time on actual selling activities.
- The less time a salesperson spends on actual selling, the less revenues he/she will produce. CSO Insights says that only 59% of sales reps made their quotas in 2010.
The first two responses usually don't work because the real problem is not unproductive salespeople (although some probably are), but an ineffective and inefficient lead generation process. The third response (hiring more salespeople) may produce higher revenues, but it will also significantly increase your selling expenses.
The real solution is to use effective marketing programs to generate leads and use your sales reps to do the things that only they can do - have meaningful, personal, one-on-one conversations with prospects who are truly sales ready.
Companies are now recognizing that marketing should take the lead in lead generation, but it's also clear that this is still a work in progress. In the CSO Insights survey, respondents indicated that 47% of sales leads are still generated by salespeople, while only 29% are produced by marketing.
Over the past few months, I've worked with several companies that get more than 80% of their new sales leads from salespeople and only 20% from marketing and other sources (referrals, press coverage, etc.). These percentages need to be reversed. Your objective should be to generate 80% of your sales leads from your marketing programs.
If you currently depend on your salespeople for most of your leads, this transition can't be made overnight. The important thing is to set ambitious but attainable goals for marketing generated leads, and then put the marketing programs in place that will enable you to reach those goals.