How to Motivate Your Lead Generation Team

November 11, 2010

So you’ve hired an eager lead generating cold caller for your expansion-stage business.

That person might be a young, savvy inside sales rep who is solely responsible for making outbound calls to engage new prospects in your target segments. The sky’s the limit, right?

If that person is successful, they’ll pour qualified leads in to your sales team’s funnel. If they’re not, you should know within their first three to six months. A lead qualifier should be contributing to your sales team’s success, not simply treading water.

The problem is that lead generation is an arduous and repetitive task. It can wear on even the best lead generation specialists and the job’s turnover rate tends to be high. A forum conversation on brought together some great inside sales minds to discuss that specific issue.

The culprits for high turnover are numerous. Sometimes the employee lacked the right personality and disposition for the job. Other times, the work environment drove them to a competitor or a different industry. Or, even worse, sometimes a lead qualifier is destined for failure because a company’s target segment wasn’t well-defined, it didn’t possess a concrete value proposition, or it lacked the systems and strategies to help its employees succeed.

But here’s the real catch: Even if you do everything right, the best lead qualifiers likely don’t want to be lead qualifiers forever. They want to be the sales reps. There are some exceptions of course.  However, successful lead specialists already have a gift for captivating prospects over the phone. Sooner or later, they’ll want to be closing deals themselves rather than passing leads on to someone else.

The key is to keep those lead qualifiers motivated and eager. It’s great training for a junior rep to start as a cold calling lead generator. They learn about the company’s target customer, its selling methodology, and the product itself, all without a monetary quota hanging over their head.

But because lead qualifiers often aren’t compensated with the same commission-heavy structure of sales reps, companies need to be creative in how they motivate them. Troy Wilson at Next Wave Marketing Strategies addressed that topic on his blog. Here are a couple of his ideas:

  • Not every reward has to be financial. Consider giving employees days off based on performance. Other possibilities include a coveted parking spot, extra break time, leaving work early, or free lunch.
  • Create a team-based environment. Encourage employees to be competitive and allow each team to create their own name or personality. If teams perform well together, have weekly or quarterly prizes available for them.

Cold calling is tough work. Generally, we encourage our portfolio companies to expect their lead qualifiers to make 60 calls a day, leading to 10 conversations, and at least two sales opportunities.

In a much more extreme example, claims that its lead generation specialists can make up to 85 dials an hour. It takes a significant amount of diligence to perform that call volume and the right kind of person to fight through the inevitable failure. That’s what makes recognizing a lead qualifier’s hard work so important. If they feel like they’re unappreciated, their production is likely to drop off.

Here are few more strategies to follow to set the right expectations, reward lead qualifiers, and keep your lead generation teams operating at their optimal potential.

  • Make your timeline clear from day one. When you interview candidates, let them know right off the bat that there’s potential for them to move in to a sales role. But to get to that point, they need to be comfortable in the lead generation role for a pre-determined time (six months, a year, two years?). The timeline is up to you, but establishing it will keep the employee in check and indicate that there is hope to move up in the company.
  • Offer frequent bonuses. Provide your lead generation reps a bonus every quarter based on the number of qualified opportunities that are presented to the sales team. Offer an additional incentive for the opportunities that actually close. You should also set short term goals for the lead qualifier and reward them with small prizes (like, for example, the ones Wilson mentions above).
  • Constantly appreciate your lead qualifiers’ hard work. Cold calling isn’t easy. Even those with the thickest of thick skin can burn out, particularly when their team or bosses aren’t showing support or appreciation. Make certain that your sales team understands the lead qualifiers’ value and acts on all opportunities they create. A friendly pat on the back can do wonders, too.
  • Maintain ongoing recruitment for the back-fill. When your lead qualifier is exceeding all expectations and is prepared to become a closer, you need to be ready with their replacement immediately — not two months later. Always keep a job description for a Lead Generator on your website and any recruiting sites that you typically use.

Lead qualification is a challenging vocation. Companies need to stay as in tune with their employees’ needs as they do with their customers. If those lead generators feel wanted, supported, and compensated, they’ll often motivate themselves.

Photo by: Sombilon Art & Photography