How To Define Responsibility For B2B Lead Generation

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In my experience one issue that creates friction in a business more than any other is the argument over who is responsibility for B2B lead generation. However, often the argument is a response to a more deep seated problem.

It is a fact (often ignored) that internal company politics can have a significant impact on business performance. It is natural staff and middle managers want to progress in the business. For management in particular this requires they deliver against targets and are credited with their part in any major business achievements. It also means they need to avoid association with any negative events.

Managers (and staff) can therefore waste time on positioning rather than concentrating on what is best for the business. The situation is made worse in closely related departments like sales and marketing and strong leadership is required to ensure petty squabbling does not impact on performance.

In larger businesses, where there are separate departments with different heads the potential for conflict is obvious. If the sales numbers are hit the sales department may claim credit, ignoring the impact of marketing. If the numbers are missed then the sales manager may wish to blame the marketing process for delivering insufficient (or poor quality) leads.

Marketing may blame sales for ignoring the larger picture in the pursuit of short term opportunities. They may despair at sales people who claim the reason for poor sales performance is the competitions superior product, or pricing or promotional spend. They may be constantly frustrated that sales follow their own agenda rather than their carefully crafted strategic plan.

In smaller businesses with one manager responsible for both sales and marketing their background (be it sales or marketing) often leads to one area dominating to the detriment of the other. Whichever element suffers then tends to be driven by the other rather than working together to maximise results.

The answer is often to clearly define the objectives for the sales and marketing functions and to ensure that those objectives do not overlap. Both functions may then be credited (or not) with achieving their objectives and on the resulting outcomes on the sales numbers. A natural dividing line is the initial sales lead.

Using the existing sales forecast and the business yearly sales targets it should be possible to calculate what business is already identified and how much more is required. Average closure rates v leads should be well known, it should therefore be possible to calculate the number and type of sales leads required.

Marketing then becomes responsible for generating sufficient quantity, type and quality of sales leads and sales for taking those leads to a successful conclusion. All that is then required is strong management to ensure leads are not routinely discarded but are acted upon. Some sales people will inevitably persist in falling back on their long established relationships with a small group of key customers rather than chasing down new leads.

B2B marketing people need to be managed out of the soft and woolly world of branding and relationship management and into the world of quality lead generation. This may go against their education (blame the CIM for that) and damage some egos but is a necessity for the overall good.

Specifically differentiating the responsibility for B2B lead generation from that of lead conversion may seem an over simplistic approach and in some businesses it may be. However, in a business where petty politics get in the way of sales number delivery it is important to start somewhere. Once firm dividing lines have been established and understood they may be relaxed (to a point) and modified over time.