This Lead is Crap!
How many times have you heard (or said) these words over the course of your sales career?
With the exception of the past couple years, the ERP/CRM sector has been blessed with a long growth run that produced a predictable stream of engaging prospects looking to either implement or change their business systems. Then all of a sudden the quality leads stopped coming. So what happened? A lot happened; and it will get worse, not better, moving forward.
Buying psychology and buyer behavior have significantly changed over the past 2-3 years, with prospects increasingly preferring a self-serve/trial engine experience over a direct sales conversation. This change has radically impacted how and when prospects engage with partners, effectively pushing their personal contact out to the end of their buying process; when they need a price. So we now have active buyers with funded projects that are reluctant to raise their hands and engage in a mutual discovery process (which is where we have historically established differentiation and bias).
But there’s more. In addition to many prospects engaging with us later and later in their buying cycles, partners and software publishers are intercepting prospects earlier and earlier in their research process through the intelligent use of SEO, SEM and gated forms. Low-level researchers who exchange their contact information for intriguing whitepapers are subsequently interrogated by increasingly desperate sales professionals driving a BANT (budget, authority, need and timing) agenda. And when the answers to a predictable set of self-serving qualification questions are found lacking, the prospect is summarily dismissed or discarded (followed shortly thereafter by a barely suppressed “this lead is crap”).
So instead of receiving a predictable stream of quality leads from our vendors/publishers we must now contend with a reduced number of legitimate prospects that are increasingly allergic to sales professionals, and a larger volume of early stage researchers that can’t satisfy the most basic qualification criteria. What’s worse is that this trend will accelerate as trial engines become easier to navigate and social media continues to drive greater transparency into product capabilities and shortcomings.
Many ERP/CRM sales professionals have neglected their prospecting, networking and referral activities over the years and are now facing anemic pipelines as the quantity and quality of leads has declined. Now is not a time to sit and wait for a software publisher to point the lead hose back in your direction as those days are gone forever. Develop your own personal marketing campaigns through LinkedIn, prospect industry events, non-competitive referral relationships (and others), then dedicate 60-90 minutes each and every day to building and nurturing your own prospects. And if the leads still turn out to be crap……well, at least then you have every right to complain, because they were yours.