by: Jon Miller

Countless companies end up with poor sales-marketing alignment because they suffer from Bad Lead-itis. This crippling disease can destroy marketing's credibility, waste demand generation dollars, and damage your company's brand reputation.

It is important to learn to recognize these four signs of Bad Lead-itis. If you notice that you suffer from any of these, be sure to check with a lead management professional.

1. Your Prospects Lie to You

Prospects know that if they fill out a registration form to get to content, then they'll get an phone call or email from the company. If that prospect is still early in her buying cycle, she doesn't want the contact but she does want the content. She's likely to give you bogus information, perhaps "accidentally" mistyping her phone number or perhaps lying outright. (The single most common name entered into Web-generated databases is Mickey Mouse.)

Sridhar Ramanathan from Pacifica Group has an excellent article describing this problem. He explains that the core of the issue is that buyers and sellers have conflicting objectives: buyers want to avoid unwanted sales calls while sellers want to know everything about the prospect, buyers want lots of options while sellers want to close the deal as fast as possible. His advice: set your content free, then slowly build a relationship with prospects over time.

2. You Don't Recognize The People You Already Know

Imagine going on a second date with someone, and needing to repeat all the initial "get to know you" small talk from the first date because your companion forgot everything you said. I bet there wouldn't be a third date!

The same applies to online marketing. Once a prospect takes the time (and risk) to give you personal information, she expects you to remember it. Next time she comes to your website, you should remember what she already told you. This creates a great opportunity to get to know her better by asking additional questions (only a few at a time). As a way to learn about prospects, this progressive technique is much more realistic that forcing prospects to fill out a long, intrusive form right off the bat.

3. Your Sales People Ignore You

The typical sales organization ignores up to 80% of marketing leads. One sales rep explains why:

"When you say the word 'Lead,' my blood pressure goes up and I start getting really excited. Then I immediately get depressed. Oh, they're not talking about leads at all. They're only talking about inquiries." (From MarketingSherpa's B2B Demand Generation Summit.)

The vast majority of the visitors on your website want to research your product and your industry, usually very early in the buying process. They probably don't have budget or a project yet, and are still trying to evaluate whether they even have a need. They want to keep control of the process and fear they will lose that control if a quota-hungry sales rep gets involved.

The way to build a relationship with these prospects is to let them educate themselves. This B2B marketing process, called lead nurturing, consists of making informative whitepapers, seminars, case studies, and demos available to the prospect. The goal is to earn the permission to stay in touch and progressively deepen the relationship so that when the prospect does become "sales ready", she will want to engage with your firm. I can pretty much guarantee that your sales reps won't ignore such a high-qualified opportunity.

4. Your Leads Never Buy

Not all leads are created equal. As many of 70% of the visitors on your site will eventually buy a product from you – or your competitors. It's the other 30% that we need to worry about. They may be students or competitors; those are easy to identify. The tougher cases are the unqualified tire kickers that want to suck you dry or the blowhards that want to tell you how smart they are, all without any intention of ever buying.

These are perhaps the worst kind of leads to pass to Sales, since they use up precious time and resources that are better spent on real opportunities. What's needed is the ability to know when to "qualify out". This is a term sales reps use when they decide not to pursue a deal they think is un-winnable or otherwise unworthy of their time. In a B2B marketing context, this means measuring the depth of your relationship with each lead so you know when you've reached the point of diminishing returns. If this happens, don't throw the lead away – since you never know what may happen in the future – but you should consider using only low-cost channels to further nurture that lead.


If you suffer from Bad Lead-itis, do not worry. Help is available. There is a cure. You just need to follow this four-step program:

  1. Don't ask for too much information from leads early in the buying process.
  2. Deepen the relationship over time.
  3. Pass only sales-ready leads to your sales force.
  4. Know when to stop investing additional resources in bad leads.

Whether you use lead management software to automate these processes or you implement them manually, by preventing Bad Lead-itis you will be on your way to improved alignment between marketing and sales, shorter sales cycles, and better prospect relationships.

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