Sales Management for Lead Generation: Three keys

Sales Management for Lead Generation and Sales Conversion. 3 Key Concepts for Sales Managers to Create Top Performing Teams. Part 1.

When you spend more than 20 years helping sales teams and individual sales people to generate high value leads you learn a few things… about sales management for lead generation.

Many think of sales management and the sales managers role in terms of teaching specific sales techniques and strategies that when employed result in more sales and more profit. That is part of it, but there are things much more fundamental that have a greater impact on results. Some sales management functions are fulcrum points for increasing sales closed and profits realized.

Here are 3 sales management keys for lead generation.

If you are a sales leader or sales manager these three functions are your responsibility and should not be assigned to the sales person. If you are a sales person managing yourself make sure you are managing these three buckets well before you get into your activities and specific sales techniques.

Here are three sales management keys for lead generation that converts to profitable sales.

1. Sales managers must proper allocate sales prospecting effort and investment.

Common sales management problem: Your sales team is spending way too much lead generation time with those less likely to buy, buy in smaller amounts, are less likely to purchase repeatedly and suck up disproportionate amount of support services. Costs rise and profit margins erode when this situation exists.

To say this is a sales management problem is an understatement. It is an epidemic. An epidemic ravaging the profits of sales organizations.

It is the sales managers sacred #1 responsibility to know the difference between the “A” grade suspect group from which higher value higher profit accounts emerge, the “C” group which spawns average grade accounts and sludge “D” and “E” groups which are needle in the haystack quality and generate a half decent account more by accident and the exception to the rule than by design.

Sales management within an organization is much better situated to make these judgments.

Sales people are not. Sales managers have or should have enough information to draw clear conclusions about which companies or individuals are more likely to buy and those who are less likely to buy. Sales managers have a duty to have a clear vision about which suspects are more likely to buy a lot and those that are more likely to buy a little.

Sales managers in a lead generation environment must not only define the A, B, C, D and E quality groups but make sure that the A’s are being called, before the B’s, the B’s before the C’s and that the D’s and E’s are receiving no resources, time or attention whatsoever.

Sales people should not be deciding whom to call on without firm oversight. Sales management should be deciding whom the sales people prospect. Without exception.

If sales prospecting and lead generation time is going to be invested at all in suspects outside of the A or B profile, it is the responsibility of the sales manager to decide how much. Those working an effective sales management process for sales lead generation will keep tight control over the quality blend of the suspect pool being prospected.

It is a key sales management function to apply a brake to degrading the quality of the prospect pool.

Let’s start with the perfect world. Sales management has a clear definition of “A” quality suspects and assigns them to the sales team. 100% of sales prospecting time is being devoted to “A” level top quality suspects. Sales prospecting nirvana.

But inevitably things happen on the way to Oz. Your reps come across “great” lists of targets they think are worth calling and they do. Now instead of 100% of prospecting time being devoted to “A” level targets 90% of prospecting time is going to “A” targets and 10% is going to lesser quality targets.

And it continues. Reps start bumping into people at networking events that “might” have some business and starting following up, they drive by a company that looks worthwhile and decide to call on them, they get a tradeshow list and start calling, and they read something in the paper about a company and decide to call. The quality of the pool being prospected degrades, degrades and degrades. Sales management should have the tools and oversight procedures in place to make sure this doesn’t happen.

Sales managers that love activity decrease profits. Management gets what it measures.

The problem with all this lead generation initiative is this. Most of those “great” suspects fall far outside of the A suspect pool. The vast majority are not even close to being B quality sales prospects. Worst still, “A” and “ B” quality suspects are not being reached because sales management has allowed time to be diverted to lesser quality targets.

Now what is happening? Just 70%, 60%, 50% or less of prospecting time is going to the A’s. “A” quality suspects are not being called because the quality of the suspect pool is being eroded. It is the responsibility of sales management to see that this doesn’t happen.

Sales managers that encourage activity, any activity, have a very short range view of the most effective sales process. Unfocused activity by the sales team generates less worthwhile accounts. You end up closing lower value lower margin accounts that churn more frequently. Profit margins take a dive.

Sad but true sales management lead generation fact: A high percentage of sales organizations are directing 70%, 80%, 90% or more of sales prospecting and lead generation efforts to C, D and E quality targets. Frequently, sales managers are managing teams where only 10% or 20% of prospecting and appointment setting effort is going to “A” or “B” quality suspects. The best sales training and sales techniques in the world won’t do much good in these sales environments.

It is a key sales management function to keep control over who the reps call. If reps are going to stray off course there must be limits and effective sales management tools and and sales coaching enforces those limits and manages the mix of prospect quality.

It is sales management malpractice for lead generation resources to be invested with C’s, D’s and E’s while A’s and B’s are being neglected.

Unfortunately, it is a common reality within sales organizations. A problem that sales management can fix.

You can master all the new fresh sales strategies you want and learn all sorts of great sales techniques but if your sales team is trudging through sludge it will make little difference.

To those who don’t bother to define or allocate lead generation resources properly between the A’s and all the rest because “you never know” where good business comes from or who will buy…. my response is this. That is BS.

It is the responsibility of sales management to know. It is true that there are exceptions to every rule and golden needles are found in haystacks and sometimes sales are found in the most unlikely of places. But it is also true that sales management that makes sure lead generation efforts are concentrated in the highest probability best value places vastly outperform the competition.

Many years ago I was asked to manage a sales team for an under-performing division of a company. Ownership wanted to sell the company but the poor sales of this division would be a serious drag on the price. Bottom line: sales increased 38% within 7 months.

What had the most influence on this quick sales increase? Almost predictably, a few hours of research determined that there were hundreds of clones of the current best accounts that were being ignored or barely touched. The dregs that were more comfortable to call on were getting most of the sales prospecting and sales pipeline attention. Pulling the “A” list (clones of the best accounts,) assigning them to specific sales people and making sure those “A’s” got the vast majority of attention was key to the turn-around.