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Why CEOs Must Be Actively Involved in Lead Generation

Jeff Thull, author of Mastering the Complex Sale, recently published an article, “Sales and The CEO,” that puts CEOs at the head of the sales department.  I like the article because it emphasizes the key role that CEOs play in developing a successful go-to-market strategy. 

I think biggest obstacle to go-to-market success is the absence of execution.  The lack of synergy between sales and marketing on lead generation is so common as to risk cliche.  It goes like this… marketing feels that sales doesn’t follow-up on marketing generated leads.  Sales counters that the “leads” aren’t any good. And so on. 

I’ve interviewed hundreds of companies, and less than 10% have a clear, written, and universally accepted definition of what a sales lead means.  Even in small companies, I can ask three sales people “what is a sales lead to you?” and get three different answers. 

Like the complex sale, lead generation, with its many facets and interactions, can be properly sparked only by the CEO who believes in it and creates culture to support it.  CEOs can make a huge impact by focusing on collaboration – between sales and marketing – and seeking consensus on the following three things:

  1. Ideal Customer Profile (company wide – for each product, service, or solution)
  2. Universal Lead Definition of a “sales ready” lead that’s applied to all inquires/leads
  3. Connecting the marketing/sales process with your customers buying process 

As I explain in this post, “Prediction: Lead generation dashboards will likely be a hot topic,” a key goal of many CEOs for their marketing department is to answer this critical question: “What’s our marketing team’s contribution to sales revenue?” 

Just by developing an Ideal Customer Profile InTouch saw one client’s average sale, which had been $60,000, increase by more than 30 percent to $80,000, while overall revenue increased by 20 percent.   Why?  The sales team focused on fewer opportunities – requiring the same effort as before – but the results were of much higher quality.

Another client built consensus on their Universal Lead Definition and ensured the sales department’s total buy-in.  With the same tactics and budget as the previous year, return on investment was 120 percent greater than before.  The full agreement of sales and marketing on a universal lead definition was credited as being the crucial success factor. 

If the CEO isn’t an active supporter of marketing in the company, the proper environment for good, sound lead generation is far removed from reality.  The CEO, after all, shapes the vision of the company and sets the tone for its corporate culture. 

In the absence of CEO support, I believe marketers are in the unique position of being catalysts for change.  Ultimately, it becomes the job of the marketer to lead the charge in pursuit of success of the company’s lead generation program. 

The first step is to develop a collaborative culture by focusing on the on the three things I noted above.  Then commit to closing-the-loop on each marketing investment which includes all sales leads. 

I’ve conducted dozens of Lead Generation Collaboration Workshops to facilitate this process for sales and marketing teams engaged in a complex sale.  I explain the basic steps on how you can develop your own universal lead definition here and Chapter 3 of my new book, Lead Generation for the Complex Sale.

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