Guest Post By Dan McDade, CEO & President, PointClear

The lead farm—it may not sound very sexy at first hearing, but its function and resources are critical success factors in overcoming challenges that prevent B2B sales and marketing groups from operating at peak efficiency and delivering full revenue potential.

A look at how marketing and sales groups’ core competencies create a resource and functionality gap is followed by a review of how a best-practice lead farm operates and what it can deliver. 

A resource and functionality gap between marketing and sales

Marketing resources act as prospectors or beaters who beat the bushes and drum up interest. They are incented to deliver high volumes of interested names, and they don’t have the skill sets and bandwidth to nurture leads or close sales. Great sales people are generally not good prospectors or long-term nurturers—they’re hunters who are motivated and incented to close deals with short-term, sales-ready buyers.
Ironically, marketing’s success in delivering large quantities of interested prospects creates a problem. Because there is no accompanying intelligence—prospect buying authority, compelling need, budget, or timeframe for purchase—sales is deluged with unfiltered, low-value names. It doesn’t take long for sales to realize these so called “leads” are a waste of time and turn attention back to deals they feel are likely to close within one or two sales cycles.  

In fact, experts say, sales does not follow up on more than 70 percent of leads provided to them, a number that includes many valuable mid- and long-term opportunities. And research has shown that 45 percent of qualified leads will end up buying a solution from someone within a year. Unfortunately, this “someone” too often turns out to be a competitor. 

Dedicated lead development resources and functionality are needed to bridge the gap between marketing and sales. 

The lead farm bridges the gap

In our experience, best practices suggest that a separate group—inside or outside the company—needs to take control of the vital lead development function.  

Think of this group of specialists as “lead farmers,” or prospect development experts. They qualify raw leads, nurture lukewarm prospects into the hot category, and turn the developed leads over to the sales force for harvesting. The best lead farmers are experienced professionals who are patient, persistent, and informative. They are exceptionally skilled in engaging C-level executives in high-level conversations and probing to uncover and understand their business challenges. 

Lead farmers employ a proven multi-touch/multi-media/multi-cycle contact process over a period of weeks and months. Executives often don’t respond until a need’s priority has escalated, and successful connections occur when the latest touchpoint coincides with their timing window.

Ultimately, the lead farmer will either disqualify mismatches or turn over a fully developed short-term opportunity. With advance insight into the prospect’s motivations, pain points and buying plans, the sales rep can engage the prospect in a fully informed consultative conversation—a more efficient usage of rep time and a closed deal as a more likely outcome. 

A lead farm success story

Working with a global consulting company, we deployed one of our prospect development professionals for a full quarter to make contact with CFOs at the nation’s top 50 utilities. A CFO called us back after the 42nd touch and said, “Don’t stop calling me…you are my conscience. I have listened to and saved your voicemails, and I have saved some of your emails. I want to talk to you. I have just been extremely busy. Call me back in two weeks on Tuesday at 10:00 AM, and I will take that call.” Two weeks later we generated a high-quality opportunity for our client. It closed in five months for $1,000,000,000. Yes, a billion.

Best practices call for a team of dedicated lead farmers—either a specialized in-house group or an outsourced firm—to successfully bridge the resource and functionality gap between marketing and sales.  

About the Author  

Dan McDade is President and CEO of PointClear, LLC, a prospect development firm that helps B2B companies drive revenue by nurturing leads, engaging contacts and developing prospects until they’re ready to purchase. The Sales Lead Management Association named Dan one of the 50 most influential people in sales lead management in 2009 and 2010.   Dan’s first book, The Truth About Leads, is a practical, easy-to-read book that helps B2B companies focus their lead-generation efforts, align their sales and marketing organizations and drive revenue.