What to Cut When Lead Generation Is Working

Lead generation is a business process

Sales are up. Leads are coming in.

We don’t need to keep paying for lead generation, do we? Let’s save that money. The sales rep is setting appointments. He can do it.

Or – Hey, lead generation is performing. Yes, the sales rep left but we don’t need to replace her. The owner will work the leads.

Yup. I hear both sentiments all too often, and it drives me crazy.

Business executives think once they have a strong salesperson in place, they don’t need any other business-development strategy. They believe their sales rep is their lead-generation strategy. Vice versa, if the rep has left, they think they can rely solely on their email drip campaigns or Google AdWords for new prospects to phone in.

Oh my, that philosophy is egregiously flawed and highly risky.

Suddenly you’re beholden to one staff person to drive all new business development for the organization. If that salesperson leaves, so does your lead-generation activity. There are no inbound calls. Prospects dry up. New opportunities slow. And your pipeline trickles to nothing.

It’s time to change how you think about lead generation. It’s not an activity. It’s a critical business process and your successful salesperson is a tactic you employ in the process – not the whole process.

This doesn’t downplay the importance of your sales rep. That person is still critical to your success. But a sales rep shouldn’t be your only business-development plan any more than email campaigns can be your only lead-generation tactic.

4 Lead Sources

When your business-development process is successful, your leads should originate from 4 sources:

  1. Lead-generation activities such as email campaigns, social media and Google AdWords
  2. Events such as lunch-and-learns, local speaking events or trade shows
  3. Referrals, including campaigns and your referral program
  4. Sales rep prospecting consisting of cold calling, emailing and drop-by visits

If the entirety of your leads comes from one approach, your process isn’t optimized and you’re missing opportunities. Over time, you’ll see a significant dip in your sales funnel as each lead source has its own natural cycles.

Lead Generation is a Business Process

Stop thinking of lead generation as a series of activities that you turn on and off like a faucet. Start viewing it as the pre-process feeder for your sales process. Document it. Refine it. Adjust or cut those areas that aren’t producing the way you expect. This may mean changing target markets, lists, geographies, specific tactics and even solutions.

Lead generation smooths over the peaks and valleys your rep’s one-to-one prospecting and sales cycle automatically cause. It’s not something you change based on how well the business is or isn’t doing any more than you’d stop your help desk processes. It’s a continuous process.

The 3 Lead-Generation Process Goals

Now you’re saying, “But if business development is going well, I really want to cut it out of my budget. If I have a great sales rep, I don’t want to pay for both lead generation and sales.”

Stop thinking that way!

Your lead-generation process:

  1. Smooths out the rollercoaster ebbs and flows of new business development. It creates a consistent flow of marketing qualified leads for your sales reps to contact. These are the leads that are nurtured over one, two and three years, saving your rep from making numerous calls and being frustrated when a prospect isn’t ready. It allows your rep to focus on those opportunities that are ready right now.
  2. Builds Recognition ROI for your company in your target markets. It drives list growth as more people learn about you and want to work with you. It blankets your broader target market, magnifies your brand and expands recognition with the audiences you focus on attracting.
  3. Adds sales-qualified leads to the pipeline. Your sales reps still prospect. You want them to pursue top tier companies, stay visible in your community and keep their skills honed. Lead generation keeps your organization in the forefront of your target contacts’ minds until they are ready to engage. When the time is right, they become sales-qualified opportunities ready for reps to move into the sales process.

So what do you cut when your lead generation and sales rep are both successful? Nothing. Celebrate the win. Your process is working. Now is not the time to choose one over the other. Rather, refine your strategy, add to your investment and watch your lead-generation business process propel you forward even faster. Isn’t that why you started lead generation in the first place?

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