You spend all this money generating a sales lead—some leads can cost upwards of $50 – $240 apiece—and then you just turn it over to your sales force to never hear from them again. This is what I call the “sales lead black hole.”

Does this sound like what’s happening at your company?

Research shows that salespeople only follow up with 20% of leads. In other words, 80% of potential opportunities are lost without a trace. Even more, only 8% of salespeople get 80% of the sales. I don’t know about you but that sure does sound like a lot of lost opportunities.

Businesses that don’t follow up, that do nothing to build trust and relationships, cannot succeed, especially in today’s tough economic market. Nowadays, people need to be sure they’re making the right decision before they commit to a purchase. Therefore, they turn to the internet to gather all their information.

Leads continually fall into the proverbial black hole because of lack of follow-up by Marketing and little accountability from Sales. I cringe to think of how much lead generation money is wasted simply because Marketing and Sales don’t work together and communicate effectively.

It’s time to get rid of the traditional Sales vs. Marketing silo mentality and embrace the new ideology of lead management that enables Marketing and Sales to work together as a team. It’s important for both teams to communicate with each other to move prospects forward in the buyer’s journey.

Start with Lead Qualification

When you hand leads to Sales, are those leads ready for a follow-up call or visit from your sales team? Are they worth their time at this point?

Instead of just handing the leads over to Sales, wouldn’t it make more sense to qualify the lead and determine where they are in the buyer’s journey? You might think a quick phone call could help you determine this. However, your lead may be in research mode and not ready for anyone to reach out to them yet. So before you make that call, make sure you evaluate their activity and whether it warrants the qualifying call. Making a call too soon might work against you in the long run, so careful consideration is required.

This is why you need to define your marketing qualified leads (MQLs).

Marketing Qualified Leads: The prospect has demonstrated some
level of interest or engagement that tells marketing this is a genuine lead.

Marketing and Sales should meet to discuss the following:

  • Use buyer personas as a starting point. What buyer persona is a good target for generating leads?
  • Ask Sales, “What is a qualified lead for you?” or “What leads are the easiest for you to call and qualify?” Marketing can work their lead generating strategy around this information.
  • Determine behavior criteria for the lead’s actions. What are they doing on your website? Downloading specific whitepapers? Spending a certain amount of time on your pricing page? Attending webinars?

Your sales team will appreciate the time and resources you spend on qualifying leads and will become even more engaged with your marketing program. Once you have an MQL that meets certain criteria, then they become sales qualified leads (SQL).

Move to Lead Nurturing

In today’s market, most of your leads will not be sales-ready on the first follow-up call. That doesn’t mean they won’t become good prospects down the road. But you don’t want to give those prospects to Sales just yet. It’s too early. Remember, engage those leads through marketing and then turn them over when you see that they’re showing interest.

Marketing should have a follow-up contact plan in place—using email or direct mail—and keep Sales informed of any qualifying responses that might come in as a result of that effort.

Email is the medium of choice for a follow-up. It’s fast, easy and inexpensive. In your follow-up email, you may want to share a series of short articles focusing on different product features or benefits, case studies, customer testimonials, etc. As long as it is content that’s relevant to what the lead may be interested in.

At some point, you might also want to send a quick survey or questionnaire to find out where the prospect is in the buying/selling process.

Frequency is key. An email once a week (after the prospect has initiated an inquiry) isn’t too intrusive. (When you compare that with the daily emails you get from some marketers, your once-a-week email will barely be noticed.) After 3 or 4 emails, see if you’re able to tell if they might be making a buying decision. If they’re not, then you could hold off on the intense email schedule until a later time period.

Whatever method of contact you use, the goal is to get the prospect to say, “Yes, I’m ready to talk to a salesperson” or “Yes, I need to talk to someone about a product or service.”

By getting your lead management under control, your Sales and Marketing teams can join forces to get out of the gravitational pull of the sales lead black hole by qualifying leads and lead nurturing.


In B2B tech marketing, tactics should be thought of as part of a larger whole, rather than separate pieces. By strategically integrating new and traditional marketing tactics, your marketing program become more effective and cost efficient. To learn more about how you can increase your lead generation and overall marketing, download our free eBook: Modern Integrated Digital Marketing—A Better Path for B2B Technology Marketers.

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991_Debbie MackenzieDebbie MacKenzie is a 1991 graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) where she majored in graphic arts production management. Deb cut her professional teeth managing production and customer relations at major printing companies before coming to Schubert b2b 14 years ago. Debbie's a versatile big hitter overseeing all things financial and operational.