leads fuel your sales engineBusinesses sell things. And to fuel their sales engines, they need leads. But how do you generate leads? How do you ensure your sales engine is fueled by the best quality leads? And how do you know which marketing communications programs give you the most bang for your buck when it comes to lead generation?

Inquiries versus leads

Let’s start with a couple definitions. These terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but this is how we define them at CCC:

INQUIRY   Anyone who’s expressed any interest in your products, services or company. It could be a student, an arch-rival, a random person or your next big customer. An inquiry is the first step towards making a purchase.

LEAD   Someone who is involved in specifying or buying your product/service and who has an application in mind (even if they’re not going to buy for a year or more.)

Generating inquiries

Many marketing communications tactics generate inquiries: email campaigns, advertising, public relations, trade shows. Making an offer of something relevant and of value, like a white paper, educational booklet or webinar, can help generate inquiries.

At CCC we’ve seen great results from trade publication email blasts offering high quality videos, case studies or white papers. We’ve also used ads on trade publication websites with good results. The ads offered the same kinds of information as the emails. We’ve found that both generate inquiries at a cost-effective cost per inquiry. It may take some experimenting to see which medium and offer do best for your company.

Of course once you have the inquiries the trick is to figure out which are leads. (Generating inquiries from lots of people who don’t buy your products or services doesn’t feed the sales engine.)

Qualifying inquiries

Most leads start as inquiries, but not all inquiries turn into leads. Inquiries have to go through an assessment or qualifying process to determine which ones are leads. And leads may be further sorted in a way that makes sense for your company: Hot, Warm and Cool; A, B and C; or some other rating scheme.

Sales engines purr along if they get a steady flow of good quality leads (Hot or Warm.) A sales engine that gets a lot of unqualified inquiries may stall.

The best way to find out more about an inquirer is to talk to them. Some companies use out-bound telemarketing for this. Some use sales people. No matter who’s responsible, the goal is to ferret out which inquiries are leads and to what level they can be sorted. (This is usually best done through conversation, not intense questioning.)

Sometimes all a company gets from an inquiry is an email address. In this case you’ll need to send a series of emails that provide more information and ask the inquirer for more information. The goal in this case is to establish a dialogue that gets you more qualifying information.

Tracking and measuring

The path to a sale may be short and straight, but more often it’s long and twisty. Good reporting on whether leads convert to sales is essential to marketing, and you’ll need the cooperation of the sales force to get it.

Getting this cooperation may involve:

  • Finding software that makes reporting easy.
  • Identifying and cultivating marketing champions on the sales team.
  • Talking to the sales team in terms of what’s in it for them if you can focus marketing efforts on the best lead-generating programs. (More, better quality leads = more sales = more commission income)

To figure out which marketing and communications programs generate the highest number of good quality leads at the lowest cost, you’ll need to know:Leads fuel sales

  • Cost of the marketing communications program
  • Total number of inquiries generated by the program
  • Number of those inquiries qualified as leads
  • Number of leads converted to sales
  • Dollar value of those sales

From this data you can compute things like cost per lead and ROI for each program.

Cost per lead = Marcomm program cost divided by Number of leads

Return on investment (ROI) = (Sales minus Cost of program) divided by Cost of program

Gather and compute this information and you’ll know the best sources of leads to power your sales and business success.


Need help developing lead generation programs? Contact CCC or email me, Susan McPherson, at smcpherson@cccinc.com.

Creative Communications Consultants, Inc. (CCC) is a business-to-business marketing communications agency. We specialize in providing strategic marketing communications thinking to marketers of industrial and commercial products who target B2B audiences.