Premature leads may cause sales abandonment

By Rod Griffith
February 2, 2014

The fact is: today’s savvy technology decision makers are much deeper into their purchase cycle before they’re ready and willing to talk to your sales people. That’s at least partly due to the vast spectrum of information, advice, testimonials, white papers, online demonstrations and video tutorials available on the web to research and review – delaying the customers’ need to reach out to vendor sales people.

According to the National Sales Executive Association, 80% of complex B2B sales are made on the fifth or later sales attempt to reach a contact (see chart below).

So what’s the problem? Well, that same research also shows that 82% of all sales reps give up after three or fewer sales attempts!

As you can see, there’s a problem if you’re sending prospective customer leads out to your field sales people who haven’t yet had but one or two contacts with your company. Those leads are premature – and your sales people will potentially exhaust their efforts to reach the customer contact and abandon any further attempts before the customer is truly ready for engagement.

The unfortunate irony is the lead may be highly qualified, but ends up abandoned by your sales people (or resellers) just shy of when the lead was ready to begin interactions with you.

Synchronizing Your Lead Generation Efforts

There’s two possible solutions to overcome this sales abandonment paradigm:

1) Convince your sales force to significantly extend the level of sales attempts they’re willing and able to make – to continue well beyond the third unsuccessful attempt.

2) Develop marketing campaigns that are designed to create at least three engagement interactions with prospective customers before the lead is passed onto the sales force. This way, the sales person’s three sales attempts will be attempts four, five and six (not one, two and three) – thus improving their chances of success.

Solution #1 – Changing the sales people’s behavior is very challenging and will require top-down involvement of the sales organization – and may also require very specific incentives.

Clearly, the better solution for most marketers is Solution #2 – creating marketing campaigns that are designed specifically to acknowledge and overcome this sales abandonment issue.

Lead Incubation Programs

Lead Incubation (or Lead Nurturing) programs are designed to establish and maintain an ongoing relationship with your sales prospects – engaging with them through a series of outbound and inbound marketing communications efforts (assisted by marketing automation tools, if applicable) – with the specific intent of identifying when these prospects are truly qualified and ready for sales engagement. The lead incubation program encourages the first few engagements with the prospect in a manner that does not yet require a sales person’s time. The lead is not distributed to a sales person until those first three engagement efforts have occurred (and key qualification criteria has been met) – thus avoiding premature abandonment by the sales person.