There is a school of thought that says only highly qualified leads are worth passing to sales; that salespeople’s time is too valuable to be spent on opportunities that aren’t completely baked. Marketing Profs gave venue to this school of thought in an article entitled “Why Sales Needs Fewer Leads.” This theory espouses only leads that have 10 buying criteria already known and verified before it is worth engaging an expensive sales resource. Among those criteria are pain points, budget, and time frame. Although the article doesn’t say what the salesperson is to do with an opportunity that completely qualified, I can only assume that they mean for them to close the deal. In this scenario, salespeople are fed a steady stream of “ready to buy” opportunities where the “highly compensated” salesperson closes the deal.
Well, this is one of those ideas that sounds good on paper and it makes for good process discussion, but in practicality makes no sense in the real world. The real world of sales, and by sales I mean any product or service of a high value with a recurring or repeat element attached to it, the single most important dynamic in determining success is RELATIONSHIP. Where in the sales (or buying) cycle does the relationship develop? It develops early when first impressions are formed, and develops intimacy during the qualification phase. It is in the qualification phase when questions are asked and wants, needs, and aspirations are shared. During the process personal rapport develops. Deep qualification is a highly inter-personal activity. It’s where much of the selling actually takes place. What the “Order-taker” school would have you believe is that after this exchange you can then toss the prospect over the fence to the order taker / deal closer and all will be well. Clearly it doesn’t happen that way in real life. Neither the qualifier nor the closer can do their best work in this setup. It is less effective. Add to this the problem of compensating both a deep lead qualifier and a deal closer for the same deal and the financial aspects of this proposed process don’t make sense either. Why pay two people for what should be one seamless interaction? Not only is it less effective it also more expensive.
I agree with a kernel of what these proponents are espousing, namely, take away as much clerical activity as possible from salespeople so they can spend their time selling. What they misunderstand is that qualifying is part and parcel of selling. What processes can we intelligently and efficiently provide sales? Let’s look at processes that are time consuming but not relationship oriented and off load them to a leads development system and marketing automation tool. Tasks that fall under his umbrella include market segmentation, contact verification, and interest confirmation. All of these functions allow well compensated salespeople to prioritize their selling activity so that they are communicating with the right kind of prospects with verified contact details and a level of interest established. Much of this work can be automated allowing for all substantial inter-personal time to take place between the buyer and the salesperson. This approach clears the way for the salesperson to operate with credibility and trust, and makes him more accountable for the sale.
I firmly believe that salespeople should be well compensated because the job they do is demanding. There are some aspects of their job that they must do to earn that compensation. As marketing folks let’s support them with everything else.