May 9

Why CEOs Must Be Actively Involved in Lead Generation

Marketing Strategy


Jeff Thull, author of Mastering the Complex Sale, recently published an article, "Sales and The CEO," that puts CEOs at the head of the sales department.  I like the article because it emphasizes the key role that CEOs play in developing a successful go-to-market strategy. 

I think biggest obstacle to go-to-market success is the absence of execution.  The lack of synergy between sales and marketing on lead generation is so common as to risk cliche.  It goes like this… marketing feels that sales doesn’t follow-up on marketing generated leads.  Sales counters that the “leads” aren’t any good. And so on. 

I’ve interviewed hundreds of companies, and less than 10% have a clear, written, and universally accepted definition of what a sales lead means.  Even in small companies, I can ask three sales people “what is a sales lead to you?” and get three different answers. 

Like the complex sale, lead generation, with its many facets and interactions, can be properly sparked only by the CEO who believes in it and creates culture to support it.  CEOs can make a huge impact by focusing on collaboration – between sales and marketing – and seeking consensus on the following three things:

  1. Ideal Customer Profile (company wide – for each product, service, or solution)
  2. Universal Lead Definition of a "sales ready" lead that’s applied to all inquires/leads
  3. Connecting the marketing/sales process with your customers buying process 

As I explain in this post, "Prediction: Lead generation dashboards will likely be a hot topic," a key goal of many CEOs for their marketing department is to answer this critical question: "What’s our marketing team’s contribution to sales revenue?" 

Just by developing an Ideal Customer Profile InTouch saw one client’s average sale, which had been $60,000, increase by more than 30 percent to $80,000, while overall revenue increased by 20 percent.   Why?  The sales team focused on fewer opportunities – requiring the same effort as before – but the results were of much higher quality.

Another client built consensus on their Universal Lead Definition and ensured the sales department’s total buy-in.  With the same tactics and budget as the previous year, return on investment was 120 percent greater than before.  The full agreement of sales and marketing on a universal lead definition was credited as being the crucial success factor. 

If the CEO isn’t an active supporter of marketing in the company, the proper environment for good, sound lead generation is far removed from reality.  The CEO, after all, shapes the vision of the company and sets the tone for its corporate culture. 

In the absence of CEO support, I believe marketers are in the unique position of being catalysts for change.  Ultimately, it becomes the job of the marketer to lead the charge in pursuit of success of the company’s lead generation program. 

The first step is to develop a collaborative culture by focusing on the on the three things I noted above.  Then commit to closing-the-loop on each marketing investment which includes all sales leads. 

I’ve conducted dozens of Lead Generation Collaboration Workshops to facilitate this process for sales and marketing teams engaged in a complex sale.  I explain the basic steps on how you can develop your own universal lead definition here and Chapter 3 of my new book, Lead Generation for the Complex Sale.

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,

    Thank you for underscoring the importance of CEO involvment in the lead gen process. The key word being
    “process.” Your “universal lead definition” is a brilliant way to also build accountability. It ensure a smooth, effective process between marketing, inside sales and outside sales—three teams that too often handoff activities rather than be accountable for results the whole system produces. The CEO weighing in here will make the difference between achieving quota and missing it.


  2. Great Article! I have been in a business that handles this the exact way you were describing. One group got the leads and the group that the leads were intended for never followed up. The claim that the leads were no good or “worthless” eventually gets old and the effort to generate leads is considerably decreased. Having a company wide goal for each lead is a tremendous idea! Well done!

  3. Really enjoyed reading your article!

    A good lead to us is a CEO of a certain size company in a defined geographic area in one of 3 industries. Does anybody else define a good lead by different parameters?

  4. I loved your article. I hope you don’t mind, but I’ll be using a trackback in one of my soon to be written topics (Managing a Lead Generation Company) since it is just as pertinent in a situation where you are using a separate company to generate the leads for your sales team.

    I fully agree that a CEO needs to be involved in the whole process. Without the involvement, you result in a disconnect which simply causes more problems than its worth!

    — Philippe

  5. Excellent post!

    We’ve found that in addition to a “clear, written, and universally accepted definition of what a sales lead means,” a clearly defined sales process can really benefit revenue generation initiatives and the relationship between sales and marketing.

    I really appreciate the idea of a “collaborative culture” and the execution of a focused process and strategy to accomplish goals – not only on a departmental level, but also throughout the company.

    Thanks for pointing out such an important element to successful lead generation.

  6. Brian,

    Interesting post. I agree that the CEO should be supportive of marketing, but if he or she needs to get involved to the point of driving the definition of “lead” then you either have a really small company or a company that has hired poor marketers.

    I do agree that this is a BIG issue with software companies. I wrote a recent post on the difference between “opportunities” and “leads.”

    Ideally, the company should have marketers who understand the difference. However, I run across high-tech companies all the time who don’t have the funds to hire a true marketing professional. For those companies, I recommend hiring a consultant who can at least come in and fix some of these issues that get in the way of driving sales. The CEO, of any size company, has a lot of other things that they need to be doing.

    All the best!

    Melissa Paulik

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