Who’s afraid of the big bad lead?

Who doesn’t love Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs)? Both marketing and sales go gaga for SQLs, but whose job is it to make sure the SQLs actually turn into a sale?

Who doesn’t love Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs)? Both marketing and sales go gaga for SQLs, but whose job is it to make sure the SQLs actually turn into a sale?

Everyone loves an SQL. We crave those hot sales qualified leads dripping out the bottom of our sales funnel. And we think that, once they’re dripping, the job is done. Or, at least, marketing’s job is done. But then what? Whose job is it to turn those SQLs into a signed deal?

Let’s assume everything in your sales and marketing teams is aligned.

The marketing team’s job is done, right?


While marketing’s job can end here, it shouldn’t.

Some businesses are scared of leads

They sit on them. Or marketing hands them over to sales, washes their hands of the leads and absolves themselves of any responsibility.

It shouldn’t be like this.

I wish my prospects knew that the only way to turn leads into sales is not to sit on them, but to work collaboratively, both up and down the funnel. It sounds obvious, but a good lead is a nurtured lead – both before and after the sales/marketing hand off. Salespeople: you should care about lead nurturing. Marketers: you should care about what happens with the leads you hand over.

Leads should be treated as precious, valuable things. But here’s what normally happens:

Marketers are often scared of salespeople (let’s face it, salespeople are typically a lot more assertive). And marketers are resistant to direct salespeople’s efforts. Sometimes there’s a blame culture. Marketers might think it’s a great lead, but if salespeople didn’t bother it’s their fault that the lead didn’t close.

But here’s the thing:

  • If salespeople don’t know what to do with leads, there was no point in creating them in the first place.
  • If the leads aren’t right, no-one’s going to follow up on them.
  • And if sales aren’t honest enough with marketing (in a helpful, productive, useful way) about what could make leads better, more qualified, or more relevant – rather than just whinging about them – bad things happen.

Sales and marketing could end up in a war that hurts everything around them – including prospective customers: a war that results in this equation:

* P+C=NP
 [Prospects + Confusion = No Purchase]

There’s a solution, though

Marketing and sales both have a responsibility to treat leads with respect. Sales should tell marketing if it’s a good lead or not, and what could make it better. And they should follow up on the leads, not sit on them! Marketing should follow up with sales, to see if other potential campaigns come out of the lead follow-up. And they shouldn’t be afraid to direct salespeople, give them hints, and explain why these leads are hot.

At Spitfire Inbound, what I do is proactively look into our Hubspot portal, select prospects, and remind my sales team, and myself, that these are people and that we should try to help them. To do this we identify what behaviour we’re looking for in a lead and track it, so sales and marketing can follow-up on leads - even if they’re lukewarm when they drip out of the funnel. And I make sure our salespeople and marketers talk. A lot.

The most important thing we’re looking to do is identify how we can help the people who are coming to our site. They have come for a reason - they have a problem. We need to find out what that problem is and then help them find the solution they are looking for.

In this way, insights from the sales process can feed back into the marketing funnel. As a result, each time a lead closes and a deal is won more quickly or effectively than the last time, sales and marketing can feel proud: knowing that they’re constantly getting better at identifying the right leads, rather than just any leads.

In the end, hopefully no-one will ever be afraid of the big, bad lead again.

For more great insights into inbound sales, download our Guide to Lead Nurturing and Sales.  

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* This idea is borrowed (with permission) from author and marketer, Gina Balarin. If you want to find out more – read the chapter on “Relationship Counselling for Sales and Marketing” in her book The Secret Army: Leadership, Marketing and the Power of People, available to buy from Amazon.

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