Everyone who takes a new position or gets hired on as a consultant looks for the “low hanging fruit” in order to make some quick wins.  In my experience as the head of marketing, the quick win is often finding leaks in the sales process and fixing them.  It always seems a bit crazy to me to increase lead flow through the expenditure of money if 10%-20% of the leads we have are just plain getting lost.

leaky bucket

What then, are the signs that your company has sales leakage? Here are 4 important things to look at in order to find and stop the leakage of your hard-earned leads.

  1. The handoff between sales and marketing is not clear.  This is often the first place to look.  The rules of lead qualification need to be clear and well-understood by both sides to be effective.  If you find that some of the sales team feel empowered to not follow up on leads without first working issues with the marketing team, you have a problem.  If the marketing team is unresponsive to valid issues raised by sales, you have a worse problem.
  2. Poor lead flow visibility.  There are some really great CRM and pipeline management tools available that allow both sales and marketing to see exactly where every lead is, cradle to grave.  However, in my experience, these systems are often poorly implemented, the staff poorly trained and the result not nearly being up to the full extent of the capabilities.  In one situation on my watch, we acquired and merged with three firms within a year.  During negotiations and due diligence, it was thought a positive that everyone used Salesforce.com as their CRM.  However, none of the other three firms had anywhere near the quality and sophistication of our implementation and in fact, generally were not really using the system as intended.  Disaster was ultimately averted, but with much pain and cost.
  3. Some salespeople use their own tracking system.  A major red flag here.  If you scratch beneath the surface and find that any salesperson or sales region “has their own spreadsheet” to track the pipeline, you can bet there are issues.  The tools and conventions of tracking the pipeline need to be provided by sales management and salespeople need to get on board or frankly, get out.
  4. Perform a quick audit and get the real story.  If you think there are issues, there probably are. Pick up the phone and call upon some dormant leads and ask them what contact they have had. Gauge where they should be placed in the sales funnel based on that conversation.  Many times the results will be illuminating. Sometimes shocking.

This is a topic that always makes for interesting findings in all but the most sophisticated situations.  Almost every company can improve upon the way things are handled.  Be sure to take a look at it and find any areas that need attention.

Lastly, I want to note that I didn’t think up the phrase “sales leakage” nor can I claim credit for shining a light on it.  That goes to my friend Jim Obermayer, who founded the Sales Lead Management Association.  You can visit the association’s website here: http://www.salesleadmgmtassn.com/index.htm#.Uf7CeJI3v-o

Do you have “sales leakage” in your sales process? Does your company have cradle-to-grave lead metrics?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

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