Skip to main content

    B2B Marketing: Why the Number of Leads You Generate is Irrelevant

    Bob Apollo
    Post by Bob Apollo
    October 13, 2011
    B2B Marketing: Why the Number of Leads You Generate is Irrelevant

    When I ask many B2B marketing departments how their success is measured, the most common answer is “the number of leads generated”. But if you’re involved in selling high-value products or services with a lengthy and complex buying process, this is a metric that could lead you to make entirely the wrong resource allocation decisions. Here’s why…

    B2B Sales and Marketing FunnelThere’s no point in generating a high volume of “leads” that are either never followed up or which turn out to be very poor prospects for what you are offering. But a focus on maximising lead volume simply clogs the top of the funnel with yet more clutter, making it harder to identify the handful of truly promising opportunities that may be in there.

    This can turn out to be one of the most enduring sources of friction between marketing and sales teams. Marketing complains that sales hardly ever follow up on the leads they are generating. Sales complain that they don’t have enough good opportunities to work on. But there is a way to break this vicious circle.

    Start With The End in Mind

    The first step is to ensure that sales and marketing have a jointly established and clearly documented agreement about what a “sales ready lead” looks like, and to focus marketing resources on programmes and campaigns that are intended to find more prospects that fully comply with the agreed definition. But that of itself isn’t enough.

    Measure the Right Metrics

    You also need to be able to track the progress of every marketing generated lead through every step of the sales process until the opportunity is won, lost or the buying process is abandoned. If your CRM system does not allow you to do this, or if it does but the capability isn’t being used, find the resources to fix this immediately.

    I recommend that you apply 4 key metrics to every lead generated by marketing: Number of Qualified Sales Opportunities, Stage Reached, Velocity and Win Rate - and then track the averages and trends for each type of lead (campaign, source, etc.) generated by marketing.

    Number of Sales Qualified Opportunities

    This metric tracks the number of marketing leads that pass the “sales ready” test and then go on to be entered as a qualified opportunity in the sales pipeline.

    Stage Reached

    This metric tracks the stage that each marketing generated sales qualified opportunity reaches in the sales pipeline before it falls out of the process - or turns into a sales win.


    This metric tracks the amount of time that each marketing generated sales opportunity spends in each stage of the sales pipeline, and is a critical predictor of future success. Simply put, winning deals move faster than losing deals.

    Win Rate

    This metric tracks the number of marketing generated sales qualified opportunities that are ultimately converted into a sale.

    Not Just for Marketing

    Of course, these metrics are not just relevant for marketing generated leads - they are essential to monitoring the health of the sales pipeline, regardless of how the opportunity was originally generated.

    Marketing Isn’t Just About Leads

    Of course, marketing isn’t just about generating sales ready leads - its role extends to facilitating the entire sales process. And if you’re tracking progress through the pipeline in this way, you can also determine the effect of other marketing interventions - events, materials, sales tools, etc., in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the prospect/customer engagement process from start to finish.

    In Conclusion

    When you focus on quality, rather than outright quantity - as these metrics force you to do - they encourage you to ask intelligent questions (and get useful answers) about the effectiveness of every marketing action or activity. They allow you to identify what is working - and reinforce it. They allow you to identify what isn’t - and to do something about it. They bind marketing and sales together around a common language and a common set of objectives. And they concentrate attention on outcomes, rather than activities.

    You might well end up generating fewer leads, but of a far higher quality. And that - for most companies with complex and expensive sales cycles - would be a great result for everybody concerned.

    One More Thing...

    The above are just a handful of the recommendations contained in our latest “20 Best Practices for B2B Sales and Marketing” checklist. You can download a copy here. Don’t forget to tell me how you score.



    Bob Apollo
    Post by Bob Apollo
    October 13, 2011
    Bob Apollo is a Fellow of the Institute of Sales Professionals, a regular contributor to the International Journal of Sales Transformation and Top Sales World Magazine, and the driving force behind Inflexion-Point Strategy Partners, the leading proponents of outcome-centric selling. Following a successful corporate career spanning start-ups, scale-ups and market leaders, Bob now works as a strategic advisor, mentor, trainer and coach to ambitious B2B sales organisations - teaching them how to differentiate themselves through their provably superior approach to achieving their customer's desired outcomes.