“We Aren’t Closing Deals, My Lead Qual Team Must Suck!” Come Again?

So you’ve invested in a lead qual team — a group of outbound prospectors responsible for penetrating your target segments, talking to your target buyer profiles, and finding new qualified leads for your sales team.

  • Lets just say your average sales cycle is 90 days (common in our portfolio).
  • And your team has been up and running for about two quarters.
  • At this point they are cranking — hitting their activity, process, AND productivity metrics (productivity being number of appointments set/opportunities created goal)

…But your sales team isn’t closing deals. WTF?!

Who’s fault is it? Well, I can tell you who’s fault it ISN’T (if the third bullet above is true) — your lead qualification team’s. Why? It’s COMPLETELY out of their hands. You are not paying this team to close deals — you are paying your SALES reps to close deals.

Rather than point fingers, lets have some reflection time:

  • Yes, your average sales cycle is 90 days, and the team has been up and running for six months, but you have to understand that your prospecting team is not reaching out to people who are necessarily ready to buy or have seriously considered it. They may actually need your solution (and your lead qual team captured that on the initial call), but they didn’t even realize that this type of solution existed. These opportunities are NATURALLY going to take longer to close. Outbound leads are so different from inbound leads, people.
  • Your lead qual team received awesome training on the product, buyer personas, segment, and PROCESS. Has your sales team (i.e. the closers) collectively received this type of training recently (in the last six months)? Don’t think that just because your sales guys have a decade of selling under their belts that they get (and apply) YOUR company’s sales process and know what it takes to push opportunities through the pipeline to close. For starters, have you as the leader of the sales organization defined what the process looks like with leads generated from the outbound team’s efforts? What is the structure of the discovery call? What questions should be asked, what is the structure, how should it conclude, and what are the follow up steps that provide a call to engage?
  • Do you have a relationship marketing program in place to continue to engage/stay top of mind with the prospects who you had the qual call with, but who, quite frankly, didn’t meet the qualification criteria around time frame? They are interested, but not until the end of the year at the earliest. Do you REALLY think that your sales reps who are trying to close deals this month and this quarter are going to foster relationships with leads like this, especially if there are 20 of them in his/her name? I doubt it. You really need an automation touch point model that will send these prospects the right content at the right time/frequency based on their particular profile. This program is NOT easy to build, but it’s worth it. Without it, qualified leads WILL fall through the cracks, and when the time comes and the prospect is actually ready to buy your company has been long forgotten. They’ve gone with your competitor, instead. This happens all the time.
  • Are ALL of your sales reps saying something along the lines of, “All of the appointments that my lead qual reps set are weak. They don’t meet have any sense of urgency. How can I work with that?” Okay, well, they might have a point. But did you establish a specific time frame — “must be ready to by the next 3 months,” for example — as part of the lead qual’s criteria? Most of the teams I work with don’t. If you DO want to have a time frame as a criteria, that’s fine. But understand, there will be FAR fewer appointments being set, and you should increase the dollar value of the appointments if the criteria is more strict. You are basically setting up the sales rep for a layup (check out this recent blog post for ideas around creating this structure). Before you establish additional criteria, ask yourself, do you really want your sales reps having less qual calls? Shouldn’t you want your reps to take all of those calls? After all, they are so damn persuasive — they know how to sell your business/product more than anyone else within your organization, right?

Before you start pointing fingers, make sure you take a look at the sales and marketing organizations as a whole to see if there are gaps that are leading to a lack of closed deals. It’s hard enough being in an outbound prospecting lead qual role — you take punches every day from prospects. The last thing this team needs is punches from management for things that are out of their hands!


Devon McDonald is a Partner at OpenView, where she sits on the firm’s investment committee and oversees OpenView’s Growth team, a group of Research, Sales and Marketing Strategists responsible for helping its portfolio companies acquire more customers and scale at an accelerated rate.
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