A recent article by Lori Wizdo, VP and Principal Analyst for B2B Marketing, Forrester Research is a sobering reminder of what can happen when you “rush a business to the altar” – prospecting before a lead is properly nurtured. In Wizdo’s article Are You Butchering Your Early-Stage Leads?, Lori talks about a first-hand experience where an overly-eager sales rep inadvertently foiled the engagement before even making it to first base. And what’s worse, it’s clear that the sales rep was not even aware of his offense.
Like many other B2B Professionals out there today, I have filled out contact forms from time to time in order to download or experience content. Because of this, my inbox is filling up with an ever increasing number of “follow up” emails asking for me to meet or talk. All I did was access a piece of content. As Lori points out, downloading or viewing one piece of content does not make a prospect a ready (or qualified) lead. It’s like when you walk into a retail store. The best experiences for me have been when I am able to browse until I am ready to have a conversation with a sales rep. At that point, I have researched my options, made my short list, and identified the specific inputs I want from the sales person.
What I don’t like (and I can’t be alone here) is when I walk into a store and have the sales associates immediately descend on me asking if I need any help. Of course they are trained to be helpful from the minute a customer steps through the threshold, but unless I am a frequent and known customer, it feels a little premature and forced. Customers downloading content and filling out forms are browsing and unless they are known customers who have given you permission to engage, it’s off-putting to most to have a sales rep get too eager too soon.
In this case it may be a symptom of a less mature lead nurture process that lacks a clear definition of what is deemed a “qualified” lead. Through my years in demand generation I’ve seen this happen several times. In the beginning, sales wants all the leads. They tell marketing to “just send them all over.” This is a mistake. While short-term marketing can claim high numbers of leads passing to sales, the floor falls out fast when quality becomes an issue. Inevitably leads that have not been nurtured are just like a person walking into a store for the first time. Talking to a rep too soon annoys the customer and wastes the sales rep’s time. The best case scenario for marketing is that sales just shrugs their shoulders and round files the leads after realizing they are low quality. The worst case scenario for marketing (and what happens more frequently) is that sales blames marketing for bad data and credibility is lost.
Although marketing gets a bad rap for lead quality, sales is also culpable when they ignore the golden rules of buyer journey engagement. In this post about A Modern Sales Process in a Customer Driven Economy, Dailah Lester talks about the sales side of the equation. “Any effective sales process must anticipate the buyer’s journey and what steps the customers go through when considering any purchase. When sales teams understand this, they can more effectively insert themselves in the customer’s buying cycle at the right time in the right way. Even the most sophisticated sales process will eventually fail if it does not effectively map to the customer’s buying process.”
The moral of this story: The wise marketer doesn’t rush a business to the altar but instead holds a hard line on passing leads until the prospect is ready and willing to engage sales. And the wise sales rep adapts their engagement process to map specifically to how their customers want to interact.