Remember the first law of thermodynamics?
It states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; it can only be transferred or changed from one form to another.
Often, I wish this law governs scaling B2B lead generation and sales, too.
As it turns out, this wish will never come true. Because in helping several businesses, founders and entrepreneurs, I’ve noticed the contradiction.
Scaling B2B lead generation and sales
Think about it. Founders, entrepreneurs and business owners create products that solve real problems and bring them to market.
Through their own networks, word of mouth and a touch of luck, they’re able to nurture market opportunities so well that the momentum grows beyond themselves.
Ironically, at that point when they need to scale, destruction sets in. Unknowingly.
This is largely because despite all the good intentions to hire more people to take charge of the bigger market opportunities, they cling on to toxic misconceptions.
Mostly, misconceptions about how a repeatable and scalable sales process works.
Here are five main misconceptions I’ve come across.
1) Overestimating the quality of inbound leads
One B2B sales leader targeting the mid-market once told me that they had close to 1,000 “hot” inbound leads. He was stoked. I was cautious.
He expected deals to close within 15 business days. Assuming the lead quality (aka “hot leads”) was true, it’ll be a major hurdle surmounted.
It turned out 70% of the supposed ‘hot’ leads were of poor quality. Most of them had signed up about 3 – 6 months ago. And no action had been taken on them since.
Additionally, several leads had invalid emails. There was a massive qualification challenge. Overrating the quality of leads falsely lead entrepreneurs and founders to overestimate the sales opportunities for their products.
They tend to push this false expectation on their new sales hires in a form of unrealistic quotas.
This in turn compels the team to focus on the wrong things (e.g. setting up demos instead of qualifying the leads).
2) Underestimating sales cycles
Sales cycles vary depending on the market you’re targeting. Most entrepreneurs and founders acquire their first few customers through word of mouth and network effects.
As a result, they do not ascertain an accurate timing of how the market’s sales cycle works.
Look, convincing someone who knows you to try your product is very different from starting a conversation with someone who doesn’t even know you exist.
Getting a meeting through cold emails and phone call is a different beast.
Scaling startup sales through systematic outbound and inbound methods take time. Your pipeline will smile only after months. Remember the 30 Day Rule in sales prospecting?
It’s this: “the prospecting you do in this 30-day period will pay off for the next 90 days”.
Therefore, it is completely amateurish to think that without any sales process set up whatsoever, your sales team can initiate, nurture, and close a B2B deal in 10 days.
Founders, small business owners and entrepreneurs with this misconception push this incredibly false expectation on their sales hires. And even tie compensation to it. Their hires won’t be able to close and will lose motivation.
3) Underestimating the role of multiple sales touches
I’ve spoken and written a lot about the need for multiple sales touches and particularly avoiding assumptions during those touches.
Rarely does anyone engage, nurture and close a deal with one sales touchpoint.
Surprisingly (actually shockingly), some founders tend not to see the point of a sales process with multiple touch points.
Part of the reason for this misconception is genuine. Until that point of bringing on more sales reps, the founder has neither reached out at scale to potential customers, nor tracked sales activities in the past.
This leaves her with unrealistic ideas as to what would or wouldn’t work.
As a result, she undermines the time factor needed to create a truly scalable and predictable sales process. She consider the different sales touches and tracking as a waste of time or resource.
4) Underestimating the role of product and industry training
Most small business owners and entrepreneurs are very knowledgeable about their industries and products.
Heck, some have 10, 20, even 50 years of experience of knowledge split among them.
But too often, they underestimate the role product and industry knowledge in enabling their sales teams.
The best sales organizations understand the ramp times for sales reps, if enablement is done right, can be between 3-6 months.
For example Dev Ittycheria, CEO of MongoDB talks about how he dedicates a whole team to sales enablement and productivity.
Look, your sales hires may be brilliant. But if you do not set up a reasonable time plan to train them about your product and industry, you’ll short circuit their productivity and performance.
Put them in real prospect facing role and iterate their conversations and demos during a period of time.
They will not know everything you know in 30 days or even 60 days. But they will become better. That increased knowledge will make a huge impact on their close rates.
5) Misconstruing the role of initial pilot customers and partners in b2b lead generation
Recently one founder told me, “We have a check of $4M dollars from a venture capital firm, and they are willing to give this to us if we bring in at least 10 paying customers.”
Great software, but no paying customers. Classic scenario.
The underlying challenge is that when founders eventually acquire initial paying customers (mostly through their networks and word of mouth) they assume that it’ll be the same process for scaling their sales.
This process of network effects that got you the initial partners or customers is very different from the one that will help you scale. Adding more sales people is a different dynasty.
If you do not understand this, you’ll compromise the momentum of setting up a repeatable process.
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