What’s aggravating is that this problem is not getting solved for most companies.  There are degrees of improvement, but seldom full resolution.


Poor quality lead for sales force


Without a comprehensive lead generation strategy, sales rejection of leads sticks around like a bad rash. Companies are treating the symptoms of poor quality leads without getting to the root cause. 


This blog is targeted to marketing leaders frustrated with leads being rejected by the sales force.  There are two steps to evaluate why the field ignores/rejects marketing leads.  Download the Sales & Marketing 10-Point Checklist to Lead Generation Alignment to evaluate with your peer in sales.   


1. Start by Looking Internally

Look internally first.  Make sure the leads don’t actually stink. Your demand generation team may be high-fiving themselves for activity, not results.  Be skeptical of reports with nice quantities of incoming inquiries that are presented devoid of quality indicators. 


Assess Active vs. Passive Inquiry Purchase

It’s easy to pad demand generation numbers with bulk buys.  These are purchases of bulk event attendees or inquiries from a sponsorship.  These types of buys can be fruitful as seedlings to build on and nurture.  But these are ‘passive’ interest contacts who were not actively seeking something with your company.  Therefore they are a paper tiger when they represent a large portion of total inquiries.   Your marketing team can be prancing around the office doing a victory lap while business development suffers. 


‘Active’ interest is the fuel that feeds an effective lead generation program.  The key is that a prospect is actively engaged with your company.   These are not possible suspects that were interested in someone else’s content.  These are real prospects interested in your content.  This includes SEO, digital advertising clicks, email responses, social clicks, etc. As a rule of thumb, your marketing team should produce at least 50% of your incoming inquiries from Active interest prospects. 


Grade Your Sales Qualified Leads

Grading sales qualified leads.  Are they fit for the dumpster?  This can be as simple as confirming an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) fit, yes or no.  More robust grading models include segmenting A, B, C & D assignments to provide distinction of quality.  


For example, an ‘A Grade’ can be the perfect decision maker title from the ideal target organization.   Whereas a ‘B Grade’ may be a mid-level manager title role in the same company.  A ‘B Grade’ doesn’t mean that it’s not a good lead.  C/D Grades may represent non-focus industries or smaller opportunities.  Grade models are customized to the unique needs of your business.   


Grade the sales qualified leads to understand what you are providing to sales.  If you have a high percentage of less desirable leads, then there is likely credence to the whimpering from sales reps.  If you find a nice mix of A/B/C leads, then your efforts are on target. 


Assess Demand Generation Best Practices

Review best practices of demand generation to self-assess your team. Evaluate your team through the article Bring your ‘A Game’ to Demand Generation – 12 Best Practices to assess your effectiveness of driving inquiries.  Quality demand generation will yield quality inquiries. Once you have completed your internal assessment, you are ready to proceed with sales role in the equation.


2. Sales & Marketing Alignment to Lead Generation

As the Chief Marketing Officer, sit down with your peer in sales to align for success. Step 1 was all about making sure your house was in order.  This step is about aligning efforts with sales to drive quality leads. 


In preparation for your meeting, review key blind spots in advance.  There are major blind spots for both the sales field and the marketing team.  These cause us to look critically at our peers without seeing our own contribution to the problem. 


Short-term View of Leads

New leads come in and are acted upon based on what is present at that moment.  There is limited development of new contacts. Marketing fails when there is not sufficient activity to develop interest.  An example: Marketing lead development reps make this kind of call to new inquiries; “Hello Mr. Smith, I noticed you have a pulse (you downloaded a white paper), are you ready for a demo?”  Instead marketing should nurture and develop early stage leads. 


Marketing helps the buyer buy when the sales rep isn’t present.  Depending on the definition of a qualified lead, expectations should be set.  Sales fails when leads are judged based upon the prospects likelihood to buy at that moment.  Both sales and marketing must develop leads through nurturing and opportunity management.


Assume Pass or Fail on Lead Quality

When marketing sends a qualified lead to the sales field, sales reps may look at the lead as either good or bad.  In reality, proven SBI implemented lead generation programs have on average 20-30% of close sales come from leads that cycled through 2+ times.  When a lead isn’t ready to engage or go deeper with sales then it needs to be re-nurtured.  It shouldn’t be written off. 


Net New Only View

Marketing misses opportunities when the focus is tightened to net new only.  Cross-sell and Up-sell to existing customers is essential to making the number.  Customer accounts require marketing efforts to reach their full wallet share potential. 


Sales reps assume lead generation is for net new prospects only.  They assume a true lead is someone they have never met or an account they haven’t been able to get into. Sales often reject leads that they ‘know’ because they have a misconception it’s not a lead.  Lead Generation is all about engaging buyers before they are ready to bring in a sales rep. 


In reality, sales reps are being kept out of the buying process for as much as 50% of the buying process.  Marketing bridges the gap by selling when the rep isn’t present.   Most qualified leads come from contacts the sales rep already knows.  The business value is that marketing builds preference early in the buying process.  The activities of the prospect are provided to sales as insights into the buying process. 



Schedule time with your peer in sales to review the Sales & Marketing 10-point Checklist to Lead Gen Alignment.   This free download serves as a meeting agenda and evaluation checklist.  The primary value will be driving focus to the root cause of lead quality problems.