How effectively does marketing support sales in generating the right quality and quantity of leads to fill the pipeline with legitimate sales opportunities? It may seem like an obvious question with an obvious answer, but it’s a question that the folks at CSO Insights have sought an answer to for the past eight years. Each year they conduct an annual Lead Management Optimization (LMO) study focused on understanding how, and how effectively, marketing is supporting sales in their efforts to hit their revenue targets.

Sales v. Marketing: Who's Leading?

While marketing teams may like to boast about how much their efforts result in leads for sales teams, the truth is that marketing is just one of the ways that sales teams generate leads. When sales teams were surveyed for CSO Insights’ 2012 Sales Performance Optimization study, they said marketing generated only 27.1% of all leads that sales pursued. Yet, when marketing professionals were asked, the figure was reported higher at 36.9%. Why the bias?

As it turns out, not all leads that marketing provides sales are actually followed up. Comparing both sets of data, the researchers found that only 55% of the firms surveyed have a lead follow up rate of 75% or more, meaning that these are leads turned over to sales that they actively followed up.

Knowing this, leads us to ask -- what makes a lead worth following up? It seems that marketers deem every lead worthy, while sales teams may be more selective. And while that may be true, data suggests that it's not as clear-cut, but rather indicative of consistent turn over rates among sales departments. According to the 2012 Sales Performance Optimization study, total turnover in good and bad times runs between 25%-30%, which is the equivalent of the entire sales force being replaced every four years or less. If companies don't have a way to capture knowledge lost due to promotions or attrition, many marketing and sales departments may have serious communication workflow challenges to overcome.

Email Leads, But For How Long?

As far as lead management is concerned however, email marketing still leads, but as we know email may or may not be dead, forcing marketers to find other active channels. There was an increase in number of leads generated from trade shows, which may speak to the emphasis that companies place on those who attend to find a specific vendor or solution. While website registrations, telemarketing and webinars generate a considerable amount of strong leads, it’s clear what doesn’t – social media, blogs and mobile marketing.


Despite its low performance in generating leads, companies are still figuring out where social media belongs in the marketing process and what role it plays.


For those of us in the social media marketing space, it’s not surprising that social media doesn’t have a direct impact on sales leads, but there’s no denying that having a robust social media presence impacts how prospective customers perceive a company. It’s a tricky equation for many organizations -- why invest in something that doesn’t have a direct outcome? But without it, companies risk losing even more than just sales leads.

Not Just Tools: Sales Intelligence Strategies Needed

The study also highlighted how marketing departments are using sales intelligence services to identify new customer segments. In short, they still need to reap much bigger rewards, despite the fact that 53.9% indicated that they were using external intelligence tools. And while sales intelligence can offer value to marketing teams seeking to improve customer and prospect data quality and quantity, it’s not magic. As a result, marketing teams need to better understand how to use these tools and integrate them into their lead generation platforms.


Smarter, Better, More Effective

Marketing departments need to get smarter about how they identify leads, track, convert and manage them. It isn’t that companies need to do more -- as budgets may be already stretched. It’s that they need to more with what they currently have, which means that they need to get better at effectively leveraging the investments marketing teams have at their disposal.

The study encourages marketing departments to focus on five key areas: targeting, intelligence, technology, scoring/nurturing leads, and metrics. Companies need to invest in the right intelligence tools so they can better identify their target customers. Once identified, they need a system through which they can track, manage and measure their approach and outcomes. Doing such can help companies learn more about what’s working and what isn’t over time so they can tweak key parts of the workflow, rather than having to recreate the wheel every time.