Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink. There are more businesses operating in America today than at any time in the past. Competition is sharper and the stakes are higher than ever, ensuring that marketing and sales challenges loom large for a great many of them. So why do both sales managers and their salespeople rate this the second-highest ranking item on their lists? Prospects shouldn’t be hard to find—there should be prospects everywhere they turn.
But they’re not. Lest you be under the impression that you’re one of just a handful of folks who are suffering from this problem, let me assure you that’s not the case.
Finding Qualified Prospects is Tough—Especially if you are Still Looking for Them in the Old-Fashioned Way
Perhaps the key word that helps us understand the frustration salespeople have is qualified. Not only are most businesses out there not ready to place a schedule, most are not even ready to have a discussion. It’s nigh impossible for salespeople to discern which one prospect among 10 or 20 possibilities is actually ripe for a conversation about their marketing needs, problems, and opportunities. Knocking on 10 or 20 doors to find that one is not only unappealing to salespeople, it’s also so extraordinarily inefficient—such a devastating waste of a seller’s time and talent that management should be equally opposed to it.
Only Closers Get the Glengarry Leads
But media properties, since time immemorial, have expected salespeople to find their own leads and qualify their own prospects. This pattern, this method of addressing the market, is so ingrained among the owners, executives, and sales managers of media companies that change is coming along very slowly indeed. In most other sectors of the economy, a marketing department cultivates leads and nurtures them to the point that they are sales-ready and then the sales department approaches, develops, and closes them. Highly talented salespeople want the Glengarry leads, and smart managers want to provide them.
Search Has Changed the Game
Marketing and lead generation have undergone a sea-change over the last decade. In nearly every category of purchase, interested prospects begin, not by calling a salesperson, but with an online search. And rather than looking for a product to buy, they’re looking for reliable sources of information and advice, for dependable thought leaders. That’s who they will contact. Thought leadership, lead conversion, and lead nurturing is a process that now happens entirely online. A handful of media sales organizations are already generating those juicy, sales-ready leads with inbound marketing—the rest should be learning more about how they can, too.
Editor's note: This post was originally published on January 29, 2014 and has been updated.