July 31st, 2013

What Is Your Sales Effectiveness with Leads? You Decide.


What Is Your Sales Effectiveness with Leads? You Decide.


  • If you work in sales, they stink, right? Marketing couldn’t find an iron “sales-ready” lead with a magnet.
  • If you work in marketing, sales reps couldn’t convert a good lead if their lives depended on it.

The reality varies by company, but in my experience the truth is usually somewhere in the middle. I want to be clear about that before I go on, because I don’t believe that the challenge with lead gen is just a Sales problem.  Get together like big boys and girls, and figure it out.

Now, having said that, sales reps can make a conscious choice to capitalize on what they have while they work through any issues with their marketing cohorts. That’s what this post is about.

I recently wrote about “attitude” in my recent blog, Sales Training Programs: Putting the A back in KSA. In my experience, a sales rep’s attitude about the leads greatly influences his or her sales effectiveness. To illustrate that point, I have a story for you.

You Get What You Pay Work For

In one company, from my past that shall remain nameless (not a Richardson client), sales reps could:

  • be given leads (as new reps, or as incentive later)
  • earn leads (based on their sales results), or
  • purchase leads (at any time, through a future commission-offset program).

All leads were potential clients who had expressed an interest in some way, although there were a variety of lead types… some were (allegedly) exclusive; some not… some were recent; others were “cold case” files.

During our sales effectiveness research on top-producer practices, we surveyed, interviewed, and observed a wide berth of sales reps… top-producing, above-average, average, and below-average. From that study, and our CRM analytics, we learned many reps made one or two calls to a lead, and possibly sent one email, but simply stopped after that. (Oddly, there was no statistical difference on follow-up behavior whether the leads were free or purchased.) When we discussed the poor follow-up with reps and front-line managers (who sold), the reasons that we heard, were:

  • Got busy / distracted
  • Too much time went by
  • Other leads responded
  • Tired of “no response”
  • Too many sales meetings, not enough time to call and get everything else done
  • Had too many sales appointments to constantly follow-up on “no response” leads
  • And…

Coffee is For Closers

…most interestingly, we also heard that the leads were “bogus” in some way (and sometimes this was true).  “Bogus” meant stuff like “wrong phone number” or “name = Donald Duck” or “email bounced.” This was a small number in reality, but when you talked to reps, if you did/didn’t actually follow-up behind the scenes to check, you would get the impression that every third lead was bogus. Not so. It was maybe one in 20 (if purchased, they could get credit).

By contrast, the top two producers in the company loved leads. They eschewed all other lead generation advice to build their business solely on leads. They purchased a massive amount of them, and called each new lead 6 to 8 times per day, dialing as soon as possible after one arrived.

They did this for the first two days, and also left one voicemail per day and sent one email per evening. After that, the lead went into rotation to be called fewer times per day, and then weekly, then into a quarterly rotation. (Sometimes, these leads converted months down the road.)

These guys called from the car, from their kitchen, in the office, and walking out of appointments. (I have no proof but suspect they called from the bathroom.) If they weren’t in a sales meeting or appointment, they were dialing.

As I mentioned, these were the top two reps in the company. And when I say “top two,” it was by a HUGE margin – almost double the production of the next nearest reps (who were also far above the mean and median averages).

Top Producer Sales Effectiveness

In terms of sales effectiveness, they had great conversions at other pipeline stages, but they attributed much of their success to their disciplined focus on calling leads and setting appointments.

They did this in the same environment as everyone else:

  • They purchased the same type of leads from the same sources.
  • The CRM and mobile CRM app they used to do this was available to every rep in the company.
  • There was nothing magical about their smartphones.
  • They had the same hours in a day and worked about 50-55 hours per week on average (the same as many other top and above-average producers).
  • They encountered the same percentage of “bogus” leads.
  • Interestingly, in terms of how they approached leads and what they said… they were positive, friendly, smooth and polished, but it wasn’t any different than what we heard from above-average reps across the country. The prospecting approach was relatively the same and the way they resolved objections was the same.

What was different?

  • Their attitude toward leads… they loved them.
  • Their approach toward calling… they made it a game and saw it as a challenge to be conquered.
  • Rather than complain, they told funny stories and laughed about their “bogus” leads, and then moved on. (Lower-producing reps got very negative and dwelled, losing time and momentum.)
  • If there was no answer on the first attempt they called back in a short amount of time, which substantially improved their connect-to-lead ratio (although not their calls-to-connects ratio, since it doubled their calls).
  • More connections meant more appointments which meant more sales. They worked on improving conversion at each stage, but just the raw numbers of calls and connects, made a difference.
  • They maximized the systems and tools that the company provided.
  • They created a plan and executed it with extreme discipline.

Food for Thought

Questions for you or your team:

  • What’s your sales effectiveness with leads?
  • What’s your attitude toward your leads?
  • What choices are you making?
  • Is there really a problem with the leads?
  • If so, could you be doing better while you’re addressing any problems?
  • Are you maximizing the opportunities you have?
  • Do you have a plan? Are you executing with discipline?
  • Are you tracking results to identify conversion issues and improve each ratio?

I hope this post has given you food for thought or ideas to explore. If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts. If not, I’d love to hear your perspective, if it’s different.

About The Author: Mike Kunkle

Mike Kunkle is Richardson's Director of Product Development. Bringing over 25 years of experience in the sales profession, Mr. Kunkle is a training and organizational effectiveness leader with special expertise in sales force transformation. After his initial years on the front line in sales and sales management, he has spent the past 16 years as a corporate director or consultant, leading departments and projects with one purpose — to improve sales results. He led major sales optimization efforts in both B2B and B2C environments, producing significant results for both employers and clients.

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6 Responses to “What Is Your Sales Effectiveness with Leads? You Decide.”

  1. July 31, 2013 at 1:44 pm, Tim said:

    Great article.


  2. July 31, 2013 at 5:11 pm, Mike Weinberg said:

    Mike, this is a great post. Love how you framed and also think your findings are valuable and applicable. A few years ago, I was asked to study two top-producers who were outperforming the pack by a rate of 3 to 1. It was also a situation with purchased leads. My findings aligned perfectly with yours — it’s as if we were studying the same top-producers. Those top guys loved their leads and approached each prospect as if they prospect were stuck and in need of help, believing that they had the ability to help them. And like you observed, these top guys out-called, out-worked, and out-believed the rest of the sales force.

    Thanks for the work you put into this and articulating this so well. I look forward to referring people to this very article.


    • Mike Kunkle

      August 01, 2013 at 5:10 pm, Mike Kunkle said:

      Hey Mike,
      I know how busy you are so thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, I really appreciate it. No surprise on our similar experiences. The sad thing is, the stuff that top producers do in this area, often isn’t something that is difficult to replicate. Yet, many still don’t follow their lead (ha! bad pun intended). What is it that you said in your book? “No one defaults to prospecting.” And even though I believe in many of the tools and philosophies around modern lead gen, content marketing and social selling (if used well), it almost seems as if we’ve provided more excuses for B players, to not pick up the phone and work their leads with discipline. Crazy times.

      And hey, thanks for sending people this way. I hope it helps make your point with the folks you’re working with. Stay the course.


  3. Henri Barber

    August 02, 2013 at 11:37 am, Henri said:

    Thanks Mike! Excellent perspective through a very informed lens! Cheers – Henri


    • Mike Kunkle

      August 02, 2013 at 11:44 am, Mike Kunkle said:

      Thanks Henri! Glad you enjoyed it and appreciate you taking the time to comment. Mike


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