August 27

Why 75% of Marketers Are Experiencing Lead Generation Pain and How to Stop It Before It’s Too Late

Lead Generation


The precursor of change is always pain.

For most of us over the past four years, our marketplace has inflicted varying levels of it as we have slogged through the most challenging economic climate since the Great Depression.

This is apparently not enough to make marketers and sales professionals embrace change and develop a formal lead generation strategy, considering that 75% of marketers still don’t have a formal lead generation process or guidelines according to MarketingSherpa’s 2012 Lead Generation Benchmark Report.

This tells me they either

  1. have an impressively high pain tolerance, or
  2. have been blessed with an unusually beneficent marketplace.

I hope most of them are in the “B” category.


Because when we ignore the pain that should motivate us to change, it becomes increasingly worse until change happens. But, by that time, the result is often change we don’t want or expect.

If you’ve been feeling the pain of producing lead quality and quantity but don’t know what to do about it, keep reading. I’m going to give you what you need to start easing that pain now by developing a formal lead generation strategy with a universal lead definition (ULD). I’ll be teaching about ULDs at this week’s B2B Summit 2012 in Orlando.

What is a ULD?

A universal lead definition (ULD) clarifies what a lead is to everyone in your organization. It also:

  • Fits the profile of your ideal customer
  • Has been qualified as sales-ready
  • Spells out the responsibilities and accountabilities of Sales and Marketing
  • Makes Marketing and Sales more efficient

It should be applied to every lead regardless of its source – and sets the standard to determine which leads should be the highest priority.

How do I create one?

Bring Sales and Marketing together under the leadership of someone both teams trust and look up to the most.

Ask the sales team this critical question: “For us to be 100% certain that you will both act on a lead when we send it and provide feedback 100% of the time, what do you need to know? At what point do you consider a lead qualified?”Supplement this question with these:

  • How can we raise the bar and give you better leads?
  • What need makes a lead a good fit?
  • What information is necessary to determine if a lead is worth the follow-through?
  • What are the titles/job functions of economic buyers and influencers?
  • What does this company value? What is its culture?
  • What are the common business issues?
  • What information do you need to qualify the lead as being sales-ready?
  • What are the characteristics of the ideal sales opportunity?
  • What are the questions you need answered before getting a lead?
  • What information is must-have versus nice-to-have?
  • What questions should we ask leads before passing them along?

Listen to what Sales has to say, and don’t interrupt. Every salesperson must participate.


Summarize the notes from this meeting, and then have another to clarify the definition and to attain everyone’s buy-in. Consensus is critical.


Publish the ULD everywhere so people who are involved in any aspect of new customer acquisition are constantly reminded of their goal.


Close the loop with huddles – biweekly face-to-face or voice-to-voice meetings. Don’t count on software to do it for you. Ask questions such as:

  • Was X a lead?
  • Did they enter the sales process?
  • Why or why not?
  • What else would you like to have known about this lead?
  • What else can we improve?
  • What should we start doing?
    • What should we stop doing?


The upshot: There is no lead generation strategy without a ULD. If you don’t have one, follow the steps I’ve outlined and establish one now before the lead generation pain becomes so intense that you can no longer control outcomes.


Related Resources:

Lead Generation: How 64% of marketers starve Sales of opportunity

Marketing Research in Action: 65% of B2B marketers are not nurturing

Lead Nurturing: 9 questions answered on lead qualification, nurturing, and Marketing-Sales alignment

Lead Nurturing: 12 questions answered on content, tactics and strategy

Universal Lead Definition: Why 61% of B2B marketers are wasting resources and how they can stop

About the author 

Brian Carroll

Brian Carroll is the CEO and founder of markempa, helping companies to convert more customers with empathy-based marketing.

He is the author of the bestseller, Lead Generation for the Complex Sale and founded B2B Lead Roundtable LinkedIn Group with 20,301+ members.

  1. Brian Carroll :

    @Carol Tang Totally agree. It’s like a pulse. If you want to drive results faster, you need to increase the pulse rate of how often your team gets together and huddles to learn and improve. It’s the fastest way to understand and gain the wisdom you need on what’s working and what’s not to create better results.

  2. Great post, Brian! Even when Marketing (or Sales) believes they have their bases covered in this arena, a quick check into lead rejection rates provides a good window into how close to center they actually are. While it does require work, my experience with organizations (whether small start-ups or multi-billion in revenues) is that they struggle with the right approach and a comprehensive guide to get there. Kudos on giving them both.

    I agree with Carol that the huddles are a wonderful way to ensure continual improvement. I’d also suggest getting the Sales Enablement group involved in reinforcing this in all tool development/roll-out efforts involving lead work. It should also be incorporated into OnBoarding so every new hire in the Sales and Marketing group is set up for success in this area from their first day on the job.

    Melanie Erickson
    LeftBrain DGA

    1. @Melanie Erickson Great suggestion to involve sales enablement or sales operations for reinforcement. The onboarding process with new sales people is really key idea. You show new reps, “this is how we do things here” and they understand that teamwork is a key part of your culture.

  3. Great blog. Open, honest and frequent communication between sales and marketing and having very clear expectations and criteria are key for the lead generation and followup process to be successful.

  4. I agree that a ULD is extremely beneficial for the entire company. It’s hard to talk about Leads when everyone might not be on the same page.

    Also, thank you for mentioning the importance of huddles! Once a definition is in place, it is always a good idea for marketers to work closely with the sales team to get a sense of lead quality and ways to improve. It is also a great opportunity to take a look at the conversion rates of specific types of leads and glean information from there. Data is king when it comes to seeing what works and what doesn’t!

    – Carol Tang at Marketo

    1. @Carol Tang Totally agree. It’s like a pulse. If you wan to drive results faster, you need to increase the pulse rate of how often your team gets together and huddles to learn and improve. It’s the fastest way to understand and gain the wisdom you need on what’s working and what’s not to create better results.

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