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It’s still all about the Leads.
Alec Baldwin’s classic verbal sales meeting assault on Jack Lemmon in the 1992 film “Glengarry Glen Ross” might have less bearing in today’s world of sales automation than it did in the sales boiler rooms of the nineties.
"Without question, technology has improved lead generation and all other aspects of sales cycles"
Back then, leads were printed on noisy dot-matrix printers, with perforated tear-lines. They were doled out a few at a time by sales managers who often got kick-backs from their sales people (for the best leads). Once a sales person turned the lead “into their own” they transferred their notes onto two 4 x 6 index cards; one titled by the contact’s name, the other by the company’s name. They cross-referenced these cards in two identical metal index card boxes. They then, if forced to, would return the lead card to their manager—sans any of their secret notes—who could then rotate the lead to another sales person who might be able to close it.
Lead Generation today isn’t that different, is it?
Today, the metal boxes are the CRM platform; the cards are records uploaded into their CRM; a sales manager views a dashboard from the marketing automation platform to check on the “opportunities” their sales people identify to move through the sales funnel.
Leads used to be developed through printed telephone books (and, reverse directories) and then assigned to “demon-dialers” who called to confirm that the information was correct, and then that became a lead. These dialers were trained only to confirm information and if a lead wanted to get serious right then and there, that “hot” lead was referred to whomever the dialer could find within their reach. Of course, the “closers” could always be found somewhere near the coffee maker.
For many of you readers, you’re likely smiling and nodding with this little trip through sales nostalgia; for some of you, you’re wondering what a printed telephone book is and what on earth a reverse directory is.
There is no question about how technology has improved lead generation—what any of us would do today without predictive scoring, developing demand through stylized ABM campaigns and thought-leading content, tracking and personalizing through CRM platforms that keep those consumer journeys alive for us 24/7 through our desktop and mobile, and the ability to shift gears and add or delete subject matter experts with a click.
So, what happens when today’s tech stack doesn’t do the selling all by itself? What happens to the lead?
If this is about a shopping cart interaction, that’s great. But, what happens when the product or service is a big-ticket item, the sales cycle is long and complicated, and the decision maker is actually a committee of sometimes up to twenty stakeholders?
Let’s say you load a high scoring lead, turn on the demand generation engine driving sure-to-be-desired content and the lead connects and downloads. Over some time, the lead offers up more qualifiers to you—they haven’t spoken directly with anyone yet, but they may have downloaded something else, or listened in to a webinar, requested a subscription, etc. But, someone decides they need more conversions—faster.
This is where Alec Baldwin reappears.
It sometimes happens that someone decides to set aside a well-designed and structured campaign and manually push the lead further into the funnel than it should, and a well-meaning but untrained “rep” gets involved to try to force-convert the lead into action.
Here’s a sample of six subject lines from emails I received—in no order, I just went through my deletes and grabbed them (we all get dozens or hundreds of these, don’t we?). My sense is that someone shifted me in their CRM to a level of interest that wasn’t confirmed, or assigned me to a “rep” with the mission to “get closer to the customer” and compel me to engage in a manner that interested them, not me (I did not make these up.)
• Intrigued by your work
• Allan, is your cat holding you hostage?
• Here’s a free tip to you
• Good timing, Allan?
• Did I fall through the cracks?
• The best time to reach me is…
Suddenly, all the company’s lead gen investment and faith is transformed into—the closer. Now, I could be wrong, but I can’t think of any reason any professional would use subject lines like these and expect great long-term results.
Without question, technology has improved lead generation and all other aspects of sales cycles but if we discount the complexities of long sales cycle engagements by relinquishing them to programmatic thinking or to “appointment setters” we’re helping our competitors more than ourselves.
There is a point where tech is set aside, and human engagement begins. Let’s make sure it isn’t done near the coffee maker.