Perspective: On Being a LEAD

It was on Sept. 1, 2011 that I became a lead.

I didn’t start out that way. Initially, I was one of 45,000 ”attendees” at Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce conference. By the time I left the San Francisco conference, the ecosystem of vendors who exhibited there had “converted” me to a “lead.”

During the last six weeks I’ve had the opportunity to see the SaaS industry companies in action “working” a lead – me. This was a chance for me to observe a cross section of this industry’s lead generation and qualification practices. It was both interesting and revealing seeing how each company in their own way, attempted to move me through their customer engagement process.

If my experience was representative of how most prospects feel when they are” leads” going through selling companies processes…well, there is plenty of room for improvement. Did my experience reflect the state of the B2B lead generation and qualification practices we are implementing with our customers? I think it does.

At Dreamforce, I visited about a dozen exhibitor booths. Yet, as I walked through Moscone Center I was approached (accosted?) by numerous “hawkers” from booths I didn’t go to who still wanted to scan my exhibitor badge. I was probably on at least two dozen vendor lead databases by the time I left the show. Thankfully, I attended for only one day.

Surprisingly, not all vendors followed up with me after the show. In fact, a couple of the booths that I spent time at where I was genuinely interested in their offerings, didn’t contact me after the conference at all. I would surmise that quantity of leads generated was probably the metric for success at the show. The corollary, is also likely true – the metric of success was not qualified leads generated.

I did get contacted after the show by mostly those vendors who I had limited interest in and a bunch that I didn’t even remember. I received phone calls, emails, and invitations to attend webinars. Each vendor applied resources to follow up with me. How they did so varied. Unfortunately, most conveyed that contacting me was a formality and not a sincere desire to connect with a potential customer. Correspondingly, I did not feel compelled to respond to them, although that’s my professional inclination. It was “once and done” for most of the follow up activity. A few did try several different channels (call, email, etc.) to connect with me.

Overall, it struck me that none of the contacts were meant to be from sales people. The industry seems to have standardized around “soft” contact with early stage leads, and did not want to represent a hard sell contact by using sales resources.  Although a good practice, I wonder whether this had another effect that was not so good – conveying a sense that they didn’t genuinely care about me.

There were vendors however, who conveyed through their engagement process with me a sincere desire to provide me – the Informed Buyer, with information that they presumed I needed. They recognized that my visit with them at the show was because I had an interest in their service or product. They wanted to provide additional information to me now. I commend those vendors.

Through a regular set of communications (not too often), with different offers of information they demonstrated  their interest in providing me with something of value. They left a positive impression on me about their company. When I am ready to act upon the information they have provided, I will know exactly who to contact.

Isn’t that the objective we are trying to achieve in our lead generation activities? It should be.

The industry overall, did not do a good job in interacting with me once I became a “lead.” My view of how the industry manages its leads now is with chaotic contact and sterile attempts at engagement and connection.

I learned a lot of from the handful of vendors who did it right.

About Marty Levy

Marty is a veteran Silicon Valley sales executive. With more than 20 years of experience in sales and sales leadership roles in the semiconductor, PC, software, and enterprise cloud application arenas, Marty is recognized for his thought leadership in sales strategy development and sales performance management in the technology industry. His expertise is with hybrid sales teams and channel development. As a Vice President of Sales he has led teams through an IPO, implemented a successful divisional turn-around, and established global major account relationships. He has managed global sales teams in two public companies and created and managed go-to-market strategies leading to adoption of a variety of leading edge technologies. Marty has deep knowledge of the OEM and enterprise B2B sales process for vertical markets and applications. Marty's passion for the sales profession is demonstrated in his work as Chairman of the Sales Leadership Council within ExecWorld, where he also serves as a Board member.
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