What To Do When Sales Won’t Cooperate

It happens. You’ve done everything right. You invited them in. You listened. You’ve gone on sales calls, sat through demos, listened to their customers. You’ve created a qualification model that gets them qualified leads according to their definitions. You’ve worked with them to create a demand generation process that aligns with their way of doing things.   And yet, they still won’t cooperate by following up and reporting on the qualified leads you’re sending them.

This frustration seemed to be the theme last week throughout the conversations I had with clients and colleagues.  It still seems, in some circumstances, that good enough is never good enough for some salespeople.  So, the question is, when you’ve done everything you can do, and sales is still not closing the loop, what do you do? Let me offer three tactics that have worked well in the past.

1. Follow Up On The Leads Yourself.
Now, before you dismiss this idea, hear me out.  I’m not suggesting that marketing take over the sales role.  Perhaps a story will help here.  A few years ago, I had a large client whose sales team followed up on less than 30% of the qualified leads sent to them. The marketing director had no control over how this sales team handled leads, and sales management was no help either.  So, instead of fighting them, we implemented a simple follow up process on leads after they were sent to sales.   During the teleprospecting process (which was owned by marketing), the phone rep would tell a qualified prospect, “It sounds like you could benefit from speaking to one of our account reps. I’ll forward your information to them directly, and you can expect a call in a day or two.”  Then here was the kicker: “Also, I’ll personally loop back with you in a week or so to make sure you have all the information you requested”.  When the phone reps looped back, more often than not they found that prospects had not been contacted by sales.

Adding this follow up step did more than just uncover sales’ failure. It created a “big brother is watching” dynamic that forced sales to follow up, helping them to more than double follow up rates, and significantly increase conversion rates in less than 2 months.

2. Remove Individual Sales Reps From The Process.
I’ve rarely found a situation where every sales rep fails to follow up.  There are usually a handful that see the wisdom of following up on quality leads.  If your sales team is in a similar situation, then don’t waste time trying to convert the unbelieving.  Instead, work with those who are willing to work with you. Whether your sales team is direct, or you work with an indirect channel, find the 3-5 “smart ones” and reconfigure your lead flow to go to them.  I realize that territorial alignment may limit what you can do, but the point is that you should base your lead management process on those reps and territories that are following leads all the way through.  Over time, you’ll be able to report the success these reps are having, which often leads to the rest coming on board.

3. Formulate Your Reporting To Expose Them.
This tactic should be used a last resort.   You have to make sure you have exhausted every other possibility in bringing the sales team along.  But sometimes, you have to expose the saboteur,  simply because if you don’t, the entire organization will suffer. Again, another story to illustrate the point.After working with a client for 6 months helping them to set up a demand generation process, which included marketing automation integrated with their CRM system, we launched campaigns and began to generate inquiries and qualified leads.  We did this despite a sales director who was resistant from the start. After one quarter, our reporting showed that inquiries and qualified leads were at an all time high. However, sales remained flat.  The same thing happened at the end of the second quarter.  Even though the sales team was getting qualified leads, the sales director refused, for whatever reason, to have his team follow up.  So, we took the gloves off.  We helped our client reconfigure the reporting so that the data (charts, graphics, etc.) showed both marketing’s contribution to pipeline over the first two quarters, as well as the roadblock (the sales team) that was preventing increased revenue.  Then, the client used this information in presentations to executive management and the board.  The result?  A 180 degree turnaround on the part of the sales director. He was told to get on board, or look for another job.  Soon after, the sales numbers began to increase.

In a perfect world, marketing and sales work together to build a demand generation and lead management process that yield qualified leads, and increased revenue.  But we don’t live in a perfect world. Sometimes, you gotta get tough.  So build the process, give the sales team the chance and invitation to join you.  But if you run into the roadblock, don’t give up.  Use these suggestions to make the demand generation process work.  Believe me, you’ll be thanked later.