All steps of the sales process are important; from identifying prospects to closing deals. However, most businesses spend lots of time refining and managing the latter stages (closing, etc.), but put limited thought into earlier stages (lead generation). Since lead generation fuels all other sales stages, a thoughtful approach to the function can have a huge impact on a company’s ability to sell.
Who is responsible for lead generation in your agency or firm?
There are two typical approaches that companies use: the first is to keep lead generation responsibility bundled with the other efforts of a salesperson, and the second is to split up the task and employ specialist staff to focus on lead generation. (Both approaches should be aided by technology).
Here’s a look at the pros and cons to both approaches.
Sales Team Generates Leads
The default approach is to have salespeople generate their own leads, in addition to the rest of their responsibilities throughout the sales cycle. This approach has a number of benefits, including the following:
- Accountability: Having a single person responsible for the whole sales process reduces the likelihood of finger pointing when targets aren’t met. If no one else is involved, it’s harder to point to someone else as the cause of failure (although as most of us can attest, it can still happen).
- Knowledge: If the same person closing deals is generating the leads, they will have a very clear sense as to what a good lead looks like. If they have to rely upon someone else to provide the lead to them, there’s a chance that the nuance of a good lead is lost if there isn’t close coordination.
Splitting Out Lead Generation
More and more companies are splitting out their lead generation function; a dedicated staff focuses on generating leads, while more senior sales staff spend their time taking those leads through to closing.
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There are a number of benefits to this approach:
- Cost: The most important driver of splitting out lead generation is cost. Simply put, good salespeople are expensive, and if work that they now do could be done as well by someone who costs 50%-75% less than they do, why not get that less expensive person to do it?
- Specialization: Since it’s difficult to find workers who are equally skilled at a wide range of job duties, it’s likely that a salesperson who is also responsible for lead generation will be weaker in one of the roles. If the roles are split, the lead generators can focus on their duties, while the salespeople focus on selling, and each will gain experience in those areas more quickly.
- Focus: As much as managers might try, people will gravitate to the work they find most interesting. For a salesperson, lead generation is rarely the most interesting thing they do. Consequently, they will oftentimes spend less time and do a poorer job of lead generation than a person could whose entire job is to generate leads.
Overall, the decision to split out lead generation or keep it embedded in the sales role is company specific, and depends upon how important each of the above factors is to a business. For example, if lead generation is only 10% of a sales team’s time, the cost savings benefit from splitting it out would be much less than for a team that spends 25% of its time on lead generation.
All companies, however, owe it to themselves to make a conscious decision between the two approaches (vs. just defaulting to one), as the benefits, and costs if the wrong approach is used, are too great.