hot leadsEveryone surely knows of the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, written over 175 years ago by British author and poet Robert Southey,back in 1837. By the way, a man named Joseph Cundall transformed the original antagonist from an ugly old woman to the pretty little girl we have come to know as Goldilocks in 1849.

As the story unfolds, our willful heroine Goldilocks sets out for a walk deep in the forest. She eventually comes upon the bears’ home, and having assured herself that no one is there, she walks right in and begins to look around. Being quite hungry, she tries three different bowls of porridge laid out on the table. The first bowl is too hot, the second bowl too cold, and the third bowl is “just right.” Then, she sits in a chair. But it is too big. She sits in a second chair and it is too small. The third chair, once again, she finds to be“just right.” After these endeavors, she journeys upstairs for a nap. She lies down in the first bed, and it is much too hard. The second, of course, is much too soft. The third bed is, as we all now know, “just right” and the audacious young girl falls asleep. When the bears finally return home, Goldilocks awakens and runs away.

Okay, that last part doesn’t help my point. The point I want to make here, and the reason this has anything to do with sales leads is this: Goldilocks wasn’t looking for as many bowls, chairs, and beds as she could get her hands on. She just needed one of each – the right one. Unfortunately, she had to sift through several ‘unqualified’ options before finding the one that provided a suitable return on her investment of time and energy. It’s here where we can segue into the topic of sales leads.

Having too many leads is like a bowl of porridge that’s too hot –

The bowl contains what you want, but in both cases, you’ll lose valuable time before you can reap the reward.

Having too many leads—especially if they are of poor quality—will force reps to spend less time talking to qualified prospects.

Perhaps of equal importance, is the fact that reps can only make so many phone calls in a given day. You should do the calculations. How many hours will reps spend qualifying new leads? Will it be 8 hours? Will it be more like 4 hours? Whatever it is, determine the maximum number of leads that can be contacted each day/week/month. If more leads are generated than whatever that number is determined to be, there will not be enough time to contact each lead.

So two things happen as a result:

  1. Someone has to decide who gets contacted and who doesn’t. If they get it wrong, salespeople will chase prospects that will never buy from them or they will miss opportunities for closing business with real prospects—or both.
  2. Lots of time and money went for nothing. Marketing spent large sums of money and effort getting tons of leads that will never be contacted, and then sales spends even more time and effort sifting through those leads in an attempt to prioritize. Having too many leads is not a good thing (thus the word “too”)

Having leads of poor quality is like a chair that’s too small –

No matter how hard you to try to get comfortable, finding a good position in an uncomfortable chair is impossible. So too, is the prospect of chasing too many poor quality leads.

You can and should classify lead quality into specific categories (just like Goldilocks), which will dictate the priority and any active framework for further efforts by sales reps.

Dubious Leads – A name and contact information exists, but there is little or no history of interaction, nor is anything known about the suitability of your company’s solutions for that specific contact.

Unworthy Leads – A name and contact information exists, and there may have been some substantial lead activity, but based on their buyer profile, your company’s solution is not likely to be a match

Unqualified Suitability – They have demonstrated an interest in your product or service but have not been qualified for suitability.

Unqualified Interest – The lead’s profile corresponds to that of a typical buyer, though there has been no indication of any lead activity to demonstrate interest.

Qualified for Suitability and Interest – of course, these are the highest quality leads

Having too few high-quality leads or too many low-quality leads is like sleeping in a bed that’s too soft or too hard –

You’ll roll around for hours trying to capture just a few minutes of precious sleep and awaken feeling exhausted.

After spending extensive amounts of time and effort, trying to substantiate and differentiate between the dubious, the unworthy, and the unqualified, and sifting through all the ‘data’ trying to qualify and quantify the levels of interest and suitability, there is no wonder why reps are blamed for not hitting their lead follow-up goals consistently. Conversely, the blame is often placed on marketing for not producing enough leads of value.

And this is what fuels the ongoing “marketing vs. sales” debate. A perfect time to focus back on what I will now officially call the “Goldilocks principle of Sales leads.”

Lead quality and quantity exist in a state opposition, and share an inverse relationship. Having a high volume of leads invariably equates to a sacrifice in overall quality.

Yes, marketing’s activities will often generate unworthy or unqualified leads and sales will often fail to follow-up on leads. The push-pull of contention between these two ‘factions’ must settle into a state of compromise. Unfortunately, we do not happen to live in a fairy tale, nor do we—as salespeople—have the luxury that Goldilocks certainly had. Finding that ‘just right’ state of performance, and productivity should not mean having to test each bowl of porridge, each chair, and every mattress just to achieve our goals.

When it comes to sales leads, the goal should be to generate the quantity and quality that Goldilocks would find to be “just right.”

About the author

Nancy Nardin

Nancy Nardin is a recognized thought leader on sales technologies and building a sales stack. Smart Selling Tools reviews the latest sales and marketing software across multiple categories, including Inside Sales, Sales Intelligence, Sales Acceleration, Pipeline Management & Deal Flow, and Predictive Sales Analytics. It's been named a Top Sales Blog by HubSpot, and Nancy Nardin has been named alongside Forbes’ top 30 social sales influencers in the world. Follow Nancy on Twitter @sellingtools