+44 203 280 3665
Should Salespeople Generate Their Own Leads?

Should Salespeople Generate Their Own Leads?

“If they were proper salespeople they would generate their own leads.”

So says Paul Rolling.

Paul commented on the LinkedIn version of last week’s blog post, “Why Salespeople Complain About Marketing Leads”.

The post tells the story of how the Marketing team at Modernis attended a trade show. Marketing generated lots of leads. Then passed them straight to Sales.

Guess the number of opportunities created?

None whatsoever.

What happened next?

Modernis engaged us for a customer research project 12 months later. Consequently, the GSP team phoned 10 of the leads as part of the research assignment.

Here’s what we found:

Five of the leads had since made a purchase or were in the process of doing so. In other words, 50% were great quality leads.

Yet Sales originally thought all the leads were rubbish.

I outlined the lessons that Modernis learned from this experience.

Then I published the blog on LinkedIn. And Paul made his comment:

“If they were proper salespeople they would generate their own leads.”

Really, Paul?

I asked him to elaborate.

“What I mean is that if you need others to create your sales leads you are doing only half the job.”

“If you start and finish the process yourself, you can properly qualify the prospect without wasting time with leads from someone who is simply playing a numbers game.”

You can see his point.

Proper qualification of Leads is critical to effective selling. No one wants salespeople to waste time on non-productive leads. And the salesperson knows best what represents a qualified lead.

Why salespeople should generate their own leads

Here are five ways I think salespeople should create their own leads.

  1. Referrals. Salespeople are in the ideal position to ask a customer or prospect if they can recommend anyone else.
  2. Existing customers. We all agree it is easier to sell to existing customers than new ones. Generating new leads from within the existing customer base is part of any salesperson’s role.
  3. Very specific cold contacts. Something has changed with a potential customer. Takeover, acquisition, competitor action, it doesn’t matter. In certain situations, a carefully crafted, highly targeted email or phone call from a salesperson with relevant company and industry knowledge and experience is the right approach.
  4. Networking / speaking. Many salespeople attend networking or speak at events. All legitimate ways for salespeople to generate their own leads.
  5. LinkedIn (or other social media). Keeping in touch, regularly interacting with groups, sending targeted communications, are all ways for salespeople to generate their own leads.

So Paul has a point.

In other words, there are situations when it is right for salespeople to generate their own leads.

Nevertheless, I have a but. And it’s a big but.

In most businesses, the leads salespeople generate themselves should supplement rather than replace the leads Marketing generate on behalf of salespeople.

Why salespeople shouldn’t generate their own leads

Let’s remind ourselves of the context here.

We’re talking about sales teams that operate in a B2B environment in which the sales cycle is several months or more. I’m also assuming that there is a reasonable degree of sales and marketing alignment.

1. Sales people are expensive

Salespeople are often the most expensive resources in a company. That’s even before you consider the fully loaded cost of Sales.

In many industries, salespeople need a significant degree of experience and expertise in the product area. They need to be sufficiently mature (irrespective of age) to interact effectively with experienced counter-parts on the purchasing side. That takes time and investment in people development.

This investment means salespeople have to be productive as possible.

The conflict with lead generation is that so much of this work is time consuming and unproductive. Simply finding the right people to contact can take an age. Getting hold of them even longer.

This work can left reliably to lower cost employees. Having salespeople generate their own leads is an inefficient use of this expensive asset.

2. Salespeople aren’t very good at cold calling

This may come as a surprise to many people not directly involved in sales. After all, salespeople are supposed to have the ‘gift of the gab’, aren’t they?

No, not necessarily.

In fact, in my experience, the most successful salespeople are the ones that listen the most and talk the least.

Calling and qualifying leads is a skill in its own right. However, because they are not very good at it, for many skilled salespeople, cold calling prospects is like going on a diet or giving up smoking. Tomorrow is always a better day to start. Focus today on getting an existing deal moved along, rather than spend time being rejected on the phone.

12 Must-Have Charts For Your Salesforce Dashboard

Download the FREE eBook from our website today

12 Must-Have Charts For Your Salesforce Dashboard

Download the FREE eBook from our website today

3. Confused roles and metrics

Expect salespeople to generate their own leads and you risk confusion over priorities and focus.

Let’s say you have a salesperson that is consistently one of the top revenue performers. But she’s poor at generating leads. Is she doing well or badly? What management action do you take? If you are not careful, you risk damaging overall revenue by making her focus more time and energy on generating her own leads.

Moreover, what if she’s not very good at generating her own leads? There is a serious risk of demotivation and resignation. Far better to have her out in the field, spending time with customers and prospects.

4. Consistent, robust approach to generating leads

Effective lead generation requires a systematic and organized approach. This means a day-in-day-out reliable process of gathering information, sending relevant communications, calling potential prospects, making appointments.

Importantly, lead generation is not an activity you can afford to leave until the pipeline is low. It is not something to do in a crisis. This is a business activity that requires a continuous, systematic approach. Use the extensive internet resources such as Siteoscope to generate more web leads.

Generating leads is too important to be left to times when a salesperson has a quiet moment. Remember, there’s never a quiet moment. It requires dedicated commitment from a properly trained, organized and managed person or team.

5. Technology is re-engineering lead generation

Once, cold calling and adverts was primarily the way to generate leads.

Not anymore.

Prospects are devouring content. B2B buyers research extensively online before deciding on which suppliers to contact. They decide when, how and on what terms to interact with each selling organization.

Companies effective at generating leads are increasingly using technology in order to align with this buyer-led approach. Applications such as Pardot and Marketo allow vendors to nurture, prioritize and monitor leads. They perform these activities on a scale and sophistication that no human can achieve.

So let marketing automation technology do its thing. Only then, when the technology highlights a sales-ready lead, should the salesperson get involved.

In summary

Every sales team rightly expects salespeople to generate their own leads. These leads come from sources such as networking, carefully targeted email, referrals and extensions into the customer’s own organization.

However, in many businesses, it is counter-productive to ask salespeople to focus heavily on generating their own leads.

Far better to let technology and automated business processes do the work of lead nurturing and prioritization. It means getting lower cost employees with specialist skills to do the hard work of identifying and qualifying leads.

Further Reading

5 Compelling Recommendations For Sales And Marketing Alignment 

5 Proven Lead Conversion Best Practices

7 Lead Conversion Metrics You Should Be Tracking (But Probably Aren’t)

12 Must Have Charts For Your Salesforce Dashboard

Download the FREE App from the AppExchange today

12 Must Have Charts For Your Salesforce Dashboard

Download the FREE App from the AppExchange today

Related Blog Posts

How To Stop ‘Closed Lost’ Screwing Up Salesforce Dashboards

5 Mistakes To Avoid With Salesforce Leads

12 Must-Have Salesforce Dashboard Charts | With Video And Examples

The Mini Dictionary of Marketing Automation Terms

Are Sales Right To Complain About Marketing Leads?

Are Sales Right To Complain About Marketing Leads?

Marketing leads given to Sales are rubbish, says Dave Apthorp.
Sales don't bother to phone Marketing Leads, says Maria Smith
We wanted to know more about the quality of marketing leads.
Are marketing leads so poor it's not worth salespeople calling them?
We conducted a short experiment to investigate the quality of marketing leads.
12 months ago the team attended a trade show to increase the number of marketing leads.
The aim was to create sales opportunities from these marketing leads.
Sales called all the marketing leads but no new opportunities were created.
That produced a lot of conflict between sales and marketing.
12 months later, GSP did some research by calling all the marketing leads.
The findings from this research might surprise you.
Two marketing leads had subsequently made a purchase.
Two other marketing leads were in the middle of a purchasing process.
One marketing lead was planning to make a purchase next year.
4 marketing leads were not planning to make a purchase anytime soon.
1 marketing leads will never make a purchase.
In summary, half the marketing leads were good quality.
We contacted the marketing leads to find out why they hadn't spoken to salespeople at the time.
Based on our research, the marketing leads told us they weren't ready to speak to salespeople.
The leads were good quality but they were not yet sales-ready.
After the trade show, the activities of these marketing leads were invisible to salespeople.
No-one knew when the marketing leads would be ready to speak to salespeople.
There are six lessons from this research into the quality of marketing leads.
Lesson 1 - marketing leads in the invisible sales pipeline needs to be managed proactively.
Lesson 2 - marketing leads need to be managed over the long-term and this requires patience.
Lesson 3 - lead nurturing is essential to produce sales-ready leads from cold lists.
Lesson 4 - create high quality, useful content to feed lead nurture campaigns.
Lesson 5 - engage with marketing leads only when these prospects are sales-ready.
Lesson 6 - creating high quality marketing leads requires a process driven approach supported by technology.
Apply these 6 lessons to create sales-ready opportunities from your marketing leads.

Let us know what you think about this blog post by filling out the form below – we greatly appreciate it!


“Most Marketing leads we get are rubbish,” complains Dave Apthorp, sales executive at Modernis.

“How can Sales possibly know this?” says Maria Smith, marketing manager at Modernis. “They never phone any of the leads we DO give them!”

But where’s the truth? Are Marketing leads so poor it’s not worth Sales following them up? We wanted to find out.

Twelve months ago the Modernis marketing team attended a trade show. Sales immediately called up the leads. And how many opportunities were created? None. Absolutely none. Which led to a lot of sales complaints about the quality of leads. And one heck of a lot of friction.

So, 12 months later we called 10 of the marketing leads. We wanted to find out what had happened in the intervening 12 months. Here’s what we discovered:

  • 2 had purchased products from a competitor of Modernis.
  • 2 were actively engaged in a purchasing process to select a supplier. Sadly Modernis wasn’t one of the candidate suppliers.
  • 1 hadn’t started a formal purchasing process. But they fully expected to make a purchase in the next 12 months.
  • 4 of the leads had taken no action following the trade show. They didn’t anticipate starting a purchasing process any time soon.
  • 1 wasn’t in Modernis’ market place and is unlikely to ever make a purchase.

In other words 5 of the 10 were great leads. Two had already bought from a competitor. And yet these leads were all rejected as rubbish by Sales.

So why didn’t these prospects engage with Sales at the time? Here’s what they told us:

“We weren’t ready”.

” We didn’t have stakeholder support”.

“I didn’t have a budget at the time”.

“We weren’t sure what the right solution was. The last thing I needed was a sales pitch.”

“We hadn’t decided which vendors we wanted to talk to”.

The prospects were legitimate buyers. But they simply weren’t  sales ready. They were at an earlier stage in the buying process. They didn’t want to speak to a sales person. Yet.

Which is why Sales thought the marketing leads were rubbish. “That’s why we don’t bother to ring them”, says Dave.

But what’s worse, after the trade show the activities of these warm prospects were invisible to Modernis. Which meant no-one knew when they were sales ready. And led to lost sales for Modernis.

It was a classic case of a lack of sales and marketing alignment.

So what what can we learn from this research. Six things.

1. Manage the invisible pipeline pro-actively

Customers start their buying process long before Sales get involved. These early stage activities form an invisible pipeline. Yet this invisible revenue pipeline can – and must – be managed to drive sales income.

2. It pays to be patient

Modernis has a sales cycle of 2 – 3 months. But that’s Modernis definition of the sales cycle. That’s how long it typically takes an opportunity to pass from Created to Closed in the CRM system. But looked at from the perspective of the customer, the buying process is much longer.

3. Lead nurturing is essential

Traditionally prospects had to rely on sales people for their information. Not any more. There’s a wealth of information available on the internet on every product on earth.

And ad hoc marketing campaigns – delivered only when time permits – have only a short term impact on sales revenue. Effective lead nurturing means a structured process of communications throughout the buying process.

4. Useful is the new cool

The creation of content that is highly useful to prospects is critical to lead nurturing. The leads we spoke to were hungry for information. Highly useful content satisfies this hunger. It helps leads narrow choices. In your favor.

5. Engage sales when prospects are sales ready

Prospects don’t mind talking to sales people. But only when they’re ready to do so. And only with the relatively small number of vendors with whom they’ve decided to engage. And the challenge for Marketing? Track human behavior to gauge when leads are sales ready.

6. Marketing is becoming increasingly process and technology driven

It’s hard to know when a prospect is sales ready without knowing if they open your emails. Read your blog posts. Visit your web site.

Lead nurturing cannot be done in an ad hoc fashion. And it can’t be done manually, at least not effectively. It requires planning and well defined processes. Together with the marketing automation tools necessary to make the whole thing scalable and efficient.

Recommended Reading

5 Sales And Marketing Alignment Recommendations That Nail It

And finally… you can also access this blog on Slideshare – Stop Sales complaining about the quality of Marketing Leads

12 Must Have Charts For Your Salesforce Dashboard

Download the FREE App from the AppExchange today

12 Must Have Charts For Your Salesforce Dashboard

Download the FREE App from the AppExchange today

Related Blog Posts

Why You Need To Compare Average Closed Won Opportunity Size

How to use opportunity conversion reports for superior results

How To Stop ‘Closed Lost’ Screwing Up Salesforce Dashboards

5 Easy Tips That Will Make Opportunity Probability Your Trusted Friend

5 Nifty Ways To Use Salesforce Campaigns

5 Nifty Ways To Use Salesforce Campaigns

Unless you’re exceptionally lucky, every business has to put effort into creating new leads and sales opportunities.

But if you’re not using salesforce campaigns to measure and manage your marketing activities then the chances are you’re missing out on many benefits.

Using salesforce campaigns means you can:

  • Compare the effectiveness of different marketing initiatives.
  • Manage marketing activities more efficiently.
  • Track the source of leads and opportunities.
  • Make it easy for sales people to contribute to marketing activity.
  • Drive sales activity based on the marketing history of each lead or contact.

This blog explains 5 examples of different ways you can use salesforce campaigns to achieve these benefits.

We explain how to use the campaign member status picklist values for each type of marketing initiative. This underutilised feature is the secret ingredient to using campaigns in salesforce successfully. It hides behind a button called Advanced Setup. Which is the reason many people are put-off from using it. But this simple and easy-to-use function adds huge value to your marketing activities.

Here’s what the campaign member function does.

It lets you accurately define the relationship between a Lead or Contact and a marketing Campaign at any point in the lifecycle of that campaign.

For example, let’s say you’re running an event. How could you describe the relationship between Leads and Contacts the Campaign that represents the event? How about Not Invited, Invited, Attending, Attended, No Show, Declined.

In other words, the Campaign Member describes the relationship between a person (Lead or Contact) and a single Campaign at any point in time.

It’s such a key concept that we’ve written an entire blog post about using Campaign Members. The rest of this blog post describes the different ways salesforce campaigns can be used and we’ve suggested Member values for each example.

So here are 5 ways you can use salesforce campaigns in your marketing activities.

1. Website Contact Us / Downloadable Content using Campaigns

Every business that uses salesforce should take advantage of the web-to-lead functionality on their Contact Us page.

Rather than asking potential customers to send an email, web-to-lead enables you to publish a form. The respondent details are automatically populated into salesforce as a lead.

This means the web site visitor can be automatically sent an email thanking them for their enquiry. It also means the lead can be immediately routed to the person best able to deal the new enquiry.

The same approach can be used for any downloadable ‘gated’ content on your web site. So, for example, if you offer a white paper, case study, presentation or other valuable material for download, create a web-to-lead form. Deliver the content in an auto-response email that is triggered when someone completes the form. It’s a great way of capturing the details of someone that’s interested in what you offer.

Use a salesforce campaign to manage the various web-to-lead forms (one campaign for each form). That way you’ll capture metrics on the number of people that have completed each web form or requested downloaded content. Associate any resulting opportunities to the campaign to gather valuable information on the contribution each form or content item makes to sales performance.

Suggested Member Status Values: Responded.

2. Christmas Cards / Christmas Gifts using Campaigns

OK it doesn’t need to be Christmas. But if you’re delivering any form of seasonal message or gift to a group of customers and prospects then using salesforce campaigns is a good way to do it.

Too often his sort of activity is managed on spreadsheets and email. If it’s a gift, sales people might be asked to nominate by email the people that should receive the gift.  As with hospitality events, often a manager must approve or reject the nominations made by each sales person. Very quickly it becomes a time consuming muddle of emails and spreadsheets.

So instead, use a salesforce Campaign to manage the process.

Sales people add their Leads and Contacts to the Campaign, selecting a campaign member status of Proposed. Managers can easily review the list of people associated with the campaign, and update the campaign member status of each Lead or Contact to Approved or Rejected. When the greeting or gift is dispatched, change the campaign member status to Sent.

This also solves one other fundamental problem when it comes to Christmas gifts. Trying to find the spreadsheet that contains the list of people who received a gift last year!

Suggested Member Status Values: Not Sent (or Proposed), Approved, Rejected, Sent.

3. Business development initiatives using Campaigns

Let’s say you’ve a new product to launch. Or planning to visit a segment of existing customers to build or expand relationships.

Use a salesforce campaign to manage this targeted business development initiative. Link the Contacts that you plan to visit to the Campaign, and use the Campaign Member function to manage the series of meetings you intend to undertake.

Be sure to define a successful outcome from the initiative. Most likely it will be to generate sales. So link the Opportunities back to the campaign. That way you’ll have a clear view of the efficacy of the overall business development drive. You’ll also be able to clearly see which customers and prospects were involved the initiative.

Suggested Member Status Values: Awaiting Meeting Invite, Invited, Meeting Held, Declined.

4. Trade Shows using salesforce Campaigns

Unlike events that you host, in a trade show, you’ve no idea who is going to walk up to your stand next.

Typically the names of people visiting the stand are captured using a scanning device. At the end of the show, the organisers provide a spreadsheet containing the list of people that you’ve scanned.

Use a salesforce campaign to manage the trade show. Associated the list of people you’ve scanned to the campaign by importing the data using the Manage Member button on the Campaign page layout (select the option, Add Members – Import File). Set the Campaign Member status value to Attended.

The imported records will appear as Leads in salesforce.

Click the Find Duplicates button on each Lead to see whether the person already exists in salesforce as Lead or Contact. Use the Merge Leads or Convert button to de-duplicate against the existing Leads or Contacts. That way the Campaign History of the merged records will be combined and you’ll have a full view of marketing activity for each person.

Suggested Member Status Values: Attended.

5. Training courses using salesforce Campaigns

In many technical industries, it’s common practice for vendors to provide training courses that count towards the Continual Professional Development (CPD) of specialists in that field. Other companies run training courses as part of the chargeable range of products and services they offer.

But often, attendance at each course is recorded in a checkbox on the page layout of the Lead or Contact. This doesn’t reveal the date the person went on the course, which sessions they attended, or whether they passed any exam associated with the course.

Instead use salesforce campaigns to manage training courses.

Create the overall training course as a Campaign. Then create child campaigns for the physical delivery of each training course.

Record the attendance of Leads and Contacts at the training courses using the campaign member function. You can even create custom fields on the campaign member record to reflect certification information or other data relevant to the individual person’s relationship with the training.

This way, when you look at the parent campaign (the name of the training course) you’ll see summary information for all course attendees. Drill down to a child campaign and you’ll see the specific people that attended a particular training delivery.

Suggested Member Status Values: Not Invited, Invited, Attending, Attended, No Show, Declined.

So there’s a wide variety of ways to use salesforce Campaigns – dive in and get started! And as you’ve gathered from this post, it’s essential to get the right member picklist values correct in each case – so here’s where you can find more on how to use campaign member status picklist values.

12 Must Have Charts For Your Salesforce Dashboard

Download the FREE App from the AppExchange today

12 Must Have Charts For Your Salesforce Dashboard

Download the FREE App from the AppExchange today

Related Blog Posts


Why You Need To Compare Average Closed Won Opportunity Size


How to use opportunity conversion reports for superior results


How To Stop ‘Closed Lost’ Screwing Up Salesforce Dashboards


5 Easy Tips That Will Make Opportunity Probability Your Trusted Friend

The Mini Dictionary of Marketing Automation Terms

The Mini Dictionary of Marketing Automation Terms

Getting the sales team to cold call an unqualified list of leads is like giving up smoking or going on a diet.

There’s always something that gets in the way. Tomorrow is always a better time to start than today.

And in any case, it often turns out to be an unfruitful waste of valuable time.

But how do you increase the flow of sales-ready leads and opportunities to the sales team?

The answer, increasingly, is marketing automation. Thousands of B2B organisations – and quite a few B2C ones – are investing heavily in marketing automation systems from vendors such as Hubspot, Pardot and Marketo. These systems provide scalable and automated marketing processes that boost the number of warm leads and drive opportunity conversion rates.

So what exactly is marketing automation? And what are the essential marketing automation terms that matter in any discussion on lead generation? Terms such as content marketing, lead nurturing, lead scoring, sales qualified lead and marketing qualified lead.


The Crucial Difference Between A Lead And An Opportunity in Salesforce

The Crucial Difference Between A Lead And An Opportunity in Salesforce

If you want to start an argument, ask a room full of Sales and Marketing people to explain the difference between a Lead and an Opportunity. You’re guaranteed a bun fight.

But why does the difference between a Lead and an Opportunity matter?

It matters because every business wants to generate more Leads in order to drive revenue. Consequently organisations are focussing increased attention on the effectiveness of their lead management process.  And to implement an effective lead management process, Sales and Marketing must agree on the difference between a Lead and an Opportunity.

But that can be harder than it sounds.

However if Sales and Marketing can’t agree on the difference, then how can they agree on when a Lead should become an Opportunity? And if they can’t agree this, then it’s simply not possible to implement a robust, end-to-end Lead and Opportunity management process across the organisation.

It’s a challenge we’ve helped many businesses resolve. So here’s our definitive guide to the difference between a Lead and an Opportunity.

Sales person’s definition of a Lead

Why is there so much confusion in the first place? After all, most Sales and Marketing people will acknowledge that a Lead is the first step in the sales cycle.

The reason is that to a sales person, a Lead can just as easily come from an existing customer or known prospect, as a brand new one. It’s simply the start of the sales process. The process may not be sufficiently advanced to warrant creating a formal Opportunity in salesforce.com. But it has at least started.

So from a sales person’s perspective, a Lead reflects a broad range of early stage, potential opportunities that require action. It’s these opportunities, both early and late stage, that show on the salesforce dashboards that focus on sales performance and funnel visibility.

Marketing person’s definition of a Lead

A Marketing person’s perception of a Lead can vary in two important ways in the absence of an agreed organisational definition.

First, a Lead is often a person or business that will potentially make a purchase at some undetermined point in the future. Marketing may hand the Lead to Sales, but not necessarily with the expectation that a sale will immediately result. The Lead is a potential customer that may engage in a future sales process.

Second, Marketing often defines a Lead as being a brand new company or person. The business or contact didn’t previously exist in the database. Indeed the role of Marketing in many businesses is to increase the overall prospect base for long term benefit, rather than directly impact immediate revenue over the next month or two.

Sales are under pressure to close deals in the short term. Marketing want to nurture the Lead. It’s this contrast in expectations that frequently results in Sales to complaining about the quality of Leads created by Marketing.

Definition of a Lead in salesforce

These differing definitions of a Lead mean Sales and Marketing fail to agree on the difference between a Lead and an Opportunity. This directly obstructs the implementation of an effective Lead management process in salesforce.com.

So what constitutes a Lead in the salesforce.com CRM system?

In fact, salesforce uses the term Lead in several different ways. Let’s take them step by step.

1. Lead as a brand new enquiry

Start by thinking of a Lead in salesforce.com as a brand new enquiry, from a business and person you’ve never previously heard of.

For example, let’s say you’ve a Web-to-Lead form set up on your web site. Web-to-Lead is an easy, standard way to integrate salesforce with your web site. It means anyone that fills in your Contact Us form will be automatically inserted into salesforce.com as a Lead.

What’s the first thing you’re going to do? Click on the Find Duplicates button on the Lead page layout. This will identify any matching Leads or Contacts that already exist in your salesforce database. Let’s assume you don’t find any.

Now you make an outbound telephone call to the Lead. Essentially, one of three basic outcomes is going to result from the conversation:

  • The Lead is a dead end.
    It turns out the person isn’t interested in any further dialogue. Or perhaps it was a student simply looking for research information. Either way, set the Lead Status to Closed. You don’t necessarily delete the Lead from the database, but no further action is anticipated.
  • The Lead is a definite maybe.
    The Lead is moderately interested in your products and services. He doesn’t want to speak to a sales person – at least not yet. But you agree to send a brochure, product specification or price list.So this time set the Lead Status to Contacted. You might also create a follow up Task to call the Lead again in the future.
  • The Lead is a sales Opportunity.
    The Lead agrees to a meeting or phone call with a Sales person. Or he requests a quote. In other words, he gives you some indication that he’s a legitimate potential customer. He’s a Qualified Lead.

This time leave the Lead Status alone. Instead, click on the Convert Lead button. Salesforce will convert the Lead into three separate records; an Account; Contact; and Opportunity.

Here’s the process in a flow chart diagram.

Process diagram for qualifying a new Lead in salesforce

The Account represents the business or organisation. The Contact is the person employed by that organisation. And the Opportunity represents the potential sales deal.

It’s this early stage Opportunity that many Sales people will regard as a Lead.

Indeed Sales people may be reluctant to use the term Opportunity. It raises expectations about the outcome. It creates visibility of the deal in the sales pipeline dashboard. And from the sales person’s perspective, the Lead may – or may not – have been properly qualified before it was converted to an Account, Contact and Opportunity.

All legitimate issues. Before we address them, let’s deal with several other ways salesforce.com uses the term Lead.

2. Leads that match existing Lead records

Let’s go to back to our person that filled in the Contact Us form on your web site.

In our example we assumed that there were no existing Leads or Contacts that matched our new Lead. We established this by clicking on the Find Duplicates button on the Lead page layout.

What if one or more matching Leads had been found?

Search for duplicate leads in salesforce

No problem. Use the Merge Leads button to merge the various Leads into a single record. Then make your qualification call.

Here’s the process diagram.

Lead qualification process diagram with duplicate lead records

3. Leads that match existing Contact records

How can an existing Contact be created as a Lead in salesforce? Well, there’s a number of ways.

For example, Leads can be created by importing the spreadsheet that contains a list of people that came to a booth at an exhibition. Some of those people may well be existing Contacts.

Or say you’ve a Web-to-Lead form on your web site that allows visitors to register for an event. When an existing Contact registers he’s created as a Lead. The same thing happens if you’re using Web-to-Lead to enable visitors to download a document from your web site.

In any of these cases, when you click on the Find Duplicates button you may find there’s a matching Contact.

Click the Find Duplicates button to find Leads that match existing Contacts

Here’s three ways to deal with the Contact-as-a-Lead situation.

  • Convert the Lead without making a Qualification call.
    During the Lead conversion process, salesforce will help you merge the Lead into the existing Contact record. If the Account Owner is already actively engaged with the Contact – on an existing Opportunity for example – then perhaps it isn’t appropriate to make the qualification call.
  • Convert the Lead and then make a Qualification call.
    This is the common approach when it’s the Account Owner that is dealing with the Lead. He or she merges the Lead into the Contact record and then makes a call to the Contact.
  • Make a qualification call before Converting the Lead.
    This approach is used most frequently when Marketing or Inside Sales is dealing with the Lead. They make call to the Lead, cognisant of the fact that the person already has a relationship with the company. Following the conversation the Lead is converted, but Marketing or Inside Sales make a human decision on whether to simultaneously create an Opportunity.

Here’s the process diagram for the last of these scenarios.

New Lead Qualification Process Diagram with Matching Account and Contact

To Convert a Lead without creating an Opportunity, check the box “Do not create Opportunity upon conversion” during the convert process. It’s underneath the Opportunity name on the Convert Lead page layout.

When to Convert a new Lead into an Opportunity

Let’s go back to our first example. The one in which we found no matching Leads or Contacts. At what point should we convert the Lead to an Opportunity?

In fact, salesforce doesn’t mandate when you should do this. It’s up to you. The conversion point in the lead management process will vary from business to business. The key is to define the Lead Qualification criteria with the Sales team and convert the Lead when it meets these agreed criteria.

Defining who should convert a new Lead into an Opportunity

If new Leads are assigned immediately to Sales as soon as they arrive, then it will be the Sales person that converts the Lead to the Opportunity. This is the case in many businesses. There simply isn’t the resource available to have someone other than the Sales person deal with new Leads.

This is a high risk approach though. Remember, Sales are under pressure to meet short term revenue targets. If new Leads require patient nurturing in order to become sales opportunities, there’s a significant risk Sales will quickly start ignoring the Leads passed over by Marketing. Better to use a marketing application such as Pardot, Marketo or Hubspot to automate the nurturing process and transfer the Lead to Sales when the agreed qualification criteria are met.

What if Marketing or an Inside Sales team qualify the Lead before it can be converted? As a general rule, the team that performs the qualification activity should convert the Lead to the Opportunity. But to make this work, a robust Lead qualification process needs to be in place, with agreement between the qualification team and Sales on the criteria that will allow an Opportunity to be created. Again, a marketing application can add power and sophistication to the lead nurturing and lead qualification process.

If there’s ambiguity on the definition of a qualified Lead then it’s better to have Sales perform the conversion process.

The difference between a Lead and an Opportunity in salesforce

So, a meaty answer to what seems like a straight forward question – what’s the difference between a Lead and an Opportunity? At least now you’re ready to referee the argument that breaks out when you ask the question!

Whichever way you look at it, Leads are the first step in the sales process. An effective lead management process requires the difference between a Lead and an Opportunity to be clearly articulated and agreed between Sales and Marketing. What’s the first step in achieving this? Agreement on the qualification criteria that determine when a Lead can be converted into an Opportunity.

Free lead management process diagram download

Want to get your hands on the diagrams used in this blog post? No problem, fill in the form to download the diagrams in Powerpoint. Use them starting point for creating your own lead management process.

Related Blog Posts

If this blog post is relevant to you then you may also want to review:

Get in Touch

We’ve worked with many businesses to define and implement detailed Lead management processes. We also help companies implement salesforce.com and marketing automation applications including Pardot, Marketo and Hubspot. Simply get in touch for an informal discussion on how we can help your business innovate your sales and marketing process to boost revenue.

Related Blog Posts

Why You Need To Compare Average Closed Won Opportunity Size

How to use opportunity conversion reports for superior results

How To Stop ‘Closed Lost’ Screwing Up Salesforce Dashboards

5 Easy Tips That Will Make Opportunity Probability Your Trusted Friend

Innovate marketing to boost sales ready leads: Event 11th December

Innovate marketing to boost sales ready leads: Event 11th December

Register Event CTA MiddleBoosting revenue means increasing the number of high quality leads given to the sales team.

Simple to say. But how do you achieve it?

Join us on 11th December and we’ll show you how. We’ll demonstrate how to innovate marketing and lead generation activities to drive sales ready leads.

We’ll cover:

  • How marketing automation tools such as Marketo, Pardot and Hubspot are radically transforming marketing and lead generation.
  • How to create and use high quality content to attract new prospects and increase leads.
  • How to integrate with salesforce.com to create a powerful, end-to-end sales and marketing process.

We’ll demonstrate exactly what terminology such as lead nurturing, content marketing and lead scoring actually mean. And we’ll do it all using live examples and practical demos.

Date: 11th December 2014
Venue: 9 Devonshire Square, London EC2M 4YF
Start: 9.00 for 9.30 AM
Finish: 12.30 followed by light lunch.

It promises to be an action-packed event. We’d be delighted to have you join us. Simply fill in the form below.

Related Blog Posts

Why You Need To Compare Average Closed Won Opportunity Size

How to use opportunity conversion reports for superior results

How To Stop ‘Closed Lost’ Screwing Up Salesforce Dashboards

5 Easy Tips That Will Make Opportunity Probability Your Trusted Friend

Who’s in your invisible sales pipeline?

Who’s in your invisible sales pipeline?

In the age of the internet most purchasing processes begin long before the selling organisation becomes aware of it. Invisible buyers perform invisible Google research. They narrow their invisible choices. They invisibly decide which companies to contact. And start forming an invisible sales pipeline.

Increasingly businesses are not only starting to get visibility of this invisible sales pipeline. They’re influencing it. And the result is a constant stream of sales ready leads.

Invisible Sales Pipeline

So what exactly is the invisible sales pipeline? It’s the investigation and research processes that potential buyers go through before they’re ready to talk to a potential supplier. In our model we identify four stages in the invisible sales pipeline.

Invisible Pipeline

In summary:

  • Problem Awareness. The buyer becomes aware of a problem she’s experiencing or an opportunity that might be exploited. The buyer typically spends time researching the web, casting around for information that will help build her understanding of the problem or opportunity.  Example: “I know our employees travel a great deal and incur a lot of expenses but no-one ever has any robust information on the costs.”
  • Potential Solution. The buyer understands more about her problem. She starts to identify ways in which she can solve her problem.  Example: “It looks like we need an effective travel management system.”
  • Candidate Solutions. The buyer has settled on the overall solution. She starts to research the potential companies that can provide this solution.  Example: “There’s 10 companies that seem to have the type of system I need.”
  • Preferred Suppliers. It’s not realistic to talk to every supplier. So the buyer narrows down the list of companies she’s going to engage with.  Example: “I’ve identified the three specific travel management system vendors that I want to talk to.”

Of course it might not be as linear and well defined as this. But you get the idea. And however you define the buying process in your industry, most organisations have no idea the potential buyer is going through it.

Sometimes though they get an inkling. The potential buyer goes to a conference and is scanned. Or she enters an email into a form in order to download a document.

But often what then happens is that the ‘lead’ is passed to the sales person. So the sales person calls the lead, who in turn replies, “No thanks, I’m not interested in a meeting.” Or words to that effect. “Those leads from Marketing are always rubbish”, thinks the sales person. And doesn’t bother to phone the next one.

Is this the best lead process that can be achieved? No. Over the next 6 weeks we’ll be publishing several more blog posts that explain:

  • How you can get visibility of buyers in the invisible sales pipeline. Short answer: use marketing automation applications such as Hubspot, Marketo and Pardot. And integrate them with salesforce.com.
  • How do you influence prospective buyers in the invisible sales pipeline? Short answer: create compelling and useful content that educates and influences the buyer as she moves through the various stages of the buying process.
  • How and when do you pass a prospective buyer from the invisible sales pipeline to the sales team. Short answer: when your lead scoring and prioritisation mechanism tells you it’s the optimum time.

The invisible sales pipeline doesn’t need to remain invisible. Stay tuned by following us on Google+

12 Must Have Charts For Your Salesforce Dashboard

Download the FREE App from the AppExchange today

12 Must Have Charts For Your Salesforce Dashboard

Download the FREE App from the AppExchange today

Related Blog Posts

Why You Need To Compare Average Closed Won Opportunity Size

How to use opportunity conversion reports for superior results

How To Stop ‘Closed Lost’ Screwing Up Salesforce Dashboards

5 Easy Tips That Will Make Opportunity Probability Your Trusted Friend