Are you trying to get sales leads …or just enquiries?

The sales department is always putting pressure on marketing to provide “leads”, understandably. Every sales manager says: “Just get me the names and contact details of people who are willing to see me. Once I’m in front of them, the sale is as good as made, that’s why I have this job”. These aren’t necessarily leads though, they’re probably just enquiries. And there’s a big difference. In an enquiry numbers-led organisation, the result is that undue pressure is often put on the website to leap straight to “contact us”, far too early in the buying cycle. I firmly believe that companies lose a huge number of sales leads by constantly trying to set up (possibly unwanted) sales calls.

Some people will be fine about talking to your sales department after just a cursory glance at the product details. But others want to take that step only once they’re absolutely convinced that your product is right for them because they only want to talk to salespeople at the stage where it’s unavoidable. I know, because I’m one of those people. And so are lots of other engineers and scientists. If I read about your Blue Widget, and the only way to find out if it’s compatible with my system is to “call our sales advisors now” then guess what? I’ll go back to Google and find another supplier whose Blue Widget clearly states it’ll work for me. Maybe I will have missed out on the best product. But bad luck – you should have told me your product was compatible.

People like me will rarely give you our name and contact details in exchange for information. If you try to force us, we’ll just go elsewhere.

The reason so many sales departments think it’s a good idea to keep product information behind a barrier (on the assumption that people will want the information badly enough to reveal themselves to get it) is that they’re worried that their product might be incorrectly overlooked or dismissed by some prospects without that all-important sales call. And that’s a possibility. But if you do that, you lose the group of people above, who want complete product information – and confirmation that the product is right for them – before they’ll get in touch.

The question is, which is the bigger group of people? And more importantly, which of the two will produce more genuine sales prospects?

Let’s look at two scenarios. I’ll put some numbers in, but you can change these to suit your own experience. I’m going to randomly say that for every 100 people who you spend money on getting to a product page on your website, your product would be a good choice for 70 of them, and unsuitable for the other 30.

Firstly, let’s say that you force people to reveal their names and contact details to get hold of your full product information. This is what many sales departments prefer, because they think it gets them more sales enquiries. Of the 70 people who you could conceivably end up selling to, let’s say 20 get in touch, and 50 are put off by having to reveal their names and contact details before knowing if your product is right for them. Of the other 30, who your product isn’t suitable for, 10 get in touch anyway because they can’t yet see that the product is wrong for them. So you have 30 “enquiries”. Once you’ve called them, you find 15 of the 20 are genuine sales leads, and of course none of the 10 are. Total sales leads: 15.

Alternatively, let’s say that you reveal every last scrap of product information on your website, freely. This time, of the 70 people who you could conceivably end up selling to, let’s say just a slightly higher proportion contact you, 25 instead of 20 (let’s be conservative for once). None of the unsuitable 30 above get in touch, because all have enough information to see that your product is unsuitable. So you have 25 “enquiries”, slightly fewer than before. And that’s why less enlightened sales departments prefer it. But why are there fewer enquiries? Because unsuitable people have ruled themselves out. When you call these 25, it’s likely that 20-25 of them will be genuine sales leads. Why wouldn’t they be? They’ve read everything you can possibly say about the product.

That’s why I believe that the more information you give about a product, the more sales leads you’ll get, and the happier the sales department will be. They might demand enquiries (which they’ll call leads), but what they really want is sales. I simply don’t like the school of thought which says: “make the prospect reveal themselves to find out the full details about the product, that way we’ll get more enquiries.” That may be true, as the numbers above show. But you’re letting potential genuine sales leads get away in exchange for unsuitable enquiries which will just waste everyone’s time.

Of course, you may be somewhere that judges you on the number of enquiries received, regardless of quality. I know of many such companies, where marketing is not seen as something to generate more sales, but merely to feed the sales machine. You’ll know which type of organisation you’re in when I describe a great piece of sales collateral in tomorrow’s article. If your immediate reaction is: “I’ll demand people’s contact details in exchange for that”, you know that you’re in an enquiry numbers-led organisation.


  1. Tim

    An extremely well written article. I agree I do not like giving away any information for two reasons bombardment and receiving junk everyday through inbox and mailshots. However many companies a sales department is judged on LEADS meaning forget the quality we have 150 leads today of which maybe 10% are valid. If MD’s realised how much time is wasted on these so called leads I believe they would be alarmed. A sales professional can spend all day driving around on visits without an order. I personally hand pick my leads and rank in a category system of importance. Its called the traffic light system Red meaning its urgent a good goer. Amber meaning maybe but dont put too much time there and green nothing urgent not totally convinced so use as a fill in. However there are always exceptions and I have had cases where one that I thought was pointless was in fact Not.

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