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Burning through leads

It's common to have challenges with sales activity levels. For example, the number of outreach touches a sales representative conducts in a week is usually lower than what it has to be to achieve their revenue targets.

There is a clear and reciprocal connection between sales activity level, pipeline building, and achieving performance targets.  

One particular company learned this the hard way. Their lead sales representative was very charming. He was bi-lingual, a friend to all, pleasant to have around, and seemingly made contacts at global enterprise-level companies. He was at all the industry events and completely used his monthly prospect entertainment budget.

And yet, there was never any discernible progress with his sales qualified leads. (Note: these were NOT marketing qualified leads as he, himself, had determined their viability using his own criteria.)

In another Start-Up, three partners had come up with a leading-edge innovation that could save their customers hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. By default, one of the co-founders was deemed their lead salesperson-mostly because the others were daunted by the idea. He was smart, knew the product inside and out, and was all about analytics. In fact, his overview presentations went into great detail about their innovative solution that addressed a critical industry need. They got invitations to present to their ideal customer profiles (ICPs), but very few deals ever materialized.

In both cases, these Start-Ups were dependent on the personal charisma of their sales representatives. Even more, these individuals had their own unique approaches to sales, including what they wanted to include in their sales pitch decks, which produced lackluster (even dismal) results.


When you see a high level of activity on outreach without significant progression, stop-immediately. You must evaluate what is really happening before continuing to burn through potentially viable leads.

Where there is a lot of activity that leads to scheduling meetings or demos and your future customers are ghosting your sales representative, that’s a sign that all is not well. And it could be from any number of challenges, from having the wrong contact to misunderstanding the prospect’s communication and buying triggers to timing to an erratic sales process. That’s just a few of the potential challenges that must be considered and resolved.

In all cases, you must have a sales methodology that aligns with your company values. Your sales representatives must speak the same messages that your marketing and brand image are putting into the market. Your sales pitch deck should have a basic framework-meaning, not stuffed with details- that can be tailored to the individual meeting. Your sales representatives should be following a specific process, and then documenting their activities to avoid future potential confusion.

Beyond that, your sales representatives must know how to:

  • handle objections,
  • understand the future customer’s business environment and problems to be solved,
  • personalize your solution through consultative sales, and,
  • ask for the prospective customer’s business.

While that last one can seem basic, just asking for the business can be a total game-changer! Your sales representatives need to be able to open relevant, meaningful conversations and then book the next step with your future customers.

Altogether, if it seems like your sales team should be doing better with the leads they are generating and/or being assigned, stop to evaluate what’s happening. Do not burn through more leads hoping they will get themselves together. Make sure they are using the correct tools, are following your sales methodology and processes, and are documenting their activities in your customer relationship management (CRM) system.

In the largest picture, the lead that gets burned may never come back. Even more, they will likely share their negative eXperience with their circle. So it’s not just that one opportunity that you could be losing through a poor sales eXperience.

Oh - one more thing… it is not recommended you allow your sales representatives to make one-off special deals just because they think that is what will “hook” a new customer. Those one-off special deals could cause problems with your other functional teams and set a precedent that you don’t want when others think of your Start-Up.

*Bloopers might be real or fictional

Image credit: Photo by Edgar Castrejon on Unsplash