Executives and sales leaders often ask, "Should we provide leads for our sales team or should they generate their own?"

Good question. My answer is, "It depends." Here are three options to consider.

1. Self-Generated Leads

Self-generated leads are those that are acquired exclusively by the salesperson. The question is really whether it's the best use of a sales rep's time, energy, and effort. For instance, a field sales rep that can make contact with ideal prospects within a small geographic area can generate plenty of business by simply making cold calls. This can be far more effective than traditional marketing or social media where the physical presence of a good salesperson can gain access to a decision-maker much quicker through a direct phone call or office visit.

Requiring the sales team to drum up their own business is the M.O. of a fair number of sales organizations. It doesn't require the additional investment like that of company-generated leads, and it puts the entire responsibility on the sales team, instead of the duty being split between roles or departments. If your company doesn't have the resources to invest in a company lead generation strategy, then supply resources directly to the sales team to enable them to self-generate leads.

PRO's

  • Easier to manage because salespeople handle the entire sales process alone
  • Lower cost by minimizing marketing overhead
  • Easy way to launch a start-up or satellite office

CON's

  • Salespeople have to develop prospecting skills
  • Salespeople spend a lot of selling time building lists and cold calling
  • Time and priority management for sales reps can be challenge

2. Company-Generated Leads

Company-generated leads are those that the organization provides to the salespeople without their involvement. In some cases, it's a prospect's name and email address from their website or a name and phone number left on the company voicemail. In other cases, it can be an entire department dedicated to conducting marketing analysis, lead generation, and appointment setting for the sales team with pre-qualified prospects.

This is Nirvana for a salesperson. No prospecting required--just selling to warm prospects. On the downside, it can be challenging if the sales rep moves to another company that employs a self-generated lead strategy. Unused prospecting skills can go away after a period of time. Getting them back can be problematic for sales reps who have to start cold calling again.

PRO's

  • Sales team focuses their efforts solely on face-to-face selling
  • Salespeople do not have to develop or maintain prospecting skills
  • Salespeople eliminate time spent on list building and cold calling

CON's

  • Higher cost due to additional lead generation staff
  • Conflict can arise due to poor quality leads that the sales team cannot close
  • More people and systems to manage

3. Hybrid Lead Generation

A hybrid lead generation strategy splits the responsibility between the sales team and a sales support person or staff. The sales support role handles the up-front data mining, list building and cleaning, and even customer surveys. They provide the sales reps with clean lists of organizations that fit the target customer profile. This removes a portion of time-consuming data responsibilities from the sales rep, so they can prospect more efficiently and with less data management tasks.

Implementing a hybrid strategy allows lead development to happen on 'two fronts' simultaneously. In-house, the sales support staff and externally, the salespeople.

PRO's

  • Sales team saves time not doing data management
  • Salespeople receive less rejection because leads are targeted
  • Lower cost than company-generated lead strategy since sales support staff is an extension of the sales team and not a full marketing department

CON's

  • Higher cost than self-generated lead strategy
  • Sales support is not expected to generate leads for the sales reps
  • Sales support typically have to be trained in sales and database management

Any of these three strategies can be quite effective depending on the needs of your organization. A review of company resources, target markets, the abilities of the sales team, current sales figures, and future goals can help shape the selection of the best lead-generation strategy for you.

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