It’s a politically sensitive issue, but in private, many B2B organizations would admit that ‘cherry picking’ leads within their sales teams is an issue. Addressing it can bring real rewards.
The practice of sales teams or in-house sales development representatives (SDRs) choosing to work leads that appear easiest to convert, while ignoring those leads that may require more effort can be damaging to your marketing ROI, sales performance and data collection, not to mention creating an inconsistent customer experience with your brand. In some cases, cherry picking leads can be so endemic, it’s difficult to know where to begin in tackling it but addressing this problem can potentially deliver immediate results.
What is cherry picking?
Cherry picking leads occurs when sales have visibility of marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and only choose to work on the ones that appear to have the highest potential to convert – this may be based on job title, company ranking, location, industry, appealing brand name and other, sometimes subjective, factors. This can happen even if companies are making full use of a range of marketing tech such as predictive lead-scoring, ABM, sales acceleration, and marketing automation.
Why is cherry picking a problem?
As a result of choosing the lowest hanging fruit, only a very small percentage of the leads are worked, leaving others that may have had potential to go cold and even be ignored. This unequal lead distribution often leads to:
- A lack of visibility of marketing tactics and return on marketing investment (ROMI). If many leads remain unworked it becomes very difficult to understand which marketing efforts have paid off and which are unsuccessful, resulting in poor measurement and meagre data collection, making it harder to optimize campaigns
- A loss of earnings and poor sales performance. There may well be one or more large deals in leads left languishing with their potential untapped
- Issues with sales and marketing alignment, leading to poor relations between silos. While marketing may be feeding sales quality leads, sales may begin to perceive all or most MQLs as poor quality, creating a mistrust of marketing’s efforts. Marketing will in turn be frustrated with the negative feedback on their campaigns
- Poor team morale. If senior members of sales teams are seen to be, or perceived to be, taking the best leads for themselves, other members of the team may feel that they are left with difficult leads, resulting in fractured teams, dissatisfaction and frustration
- Poor customer experience. An eager lead who is ignored, perhaps because of a lower ranking job title but still in control of company budget, may get tired of waiting and go straight to a competitor
How can you stop cherry-picking?
In Pipedrive’s State of Sales Report, 2020-2021, over a half of respondents (52%) said lead qualification is salespeople’s biggest challenge. What can you do about potentially hundreds, perhaps thousands, of leads falling through the cracks?
- Outsourced Sales Development Services can fill the gap where marketing ends and sales begins. This specialized role brings together email nurturing, phone prospecting teams and data analysis tools to create sales accepted leads (SALs) and get them ready for sales teams. Put simply, outsourced Sales Development Services can help to create the sought-after alignment between sales and marketing, bringing prescribed rigor to your lead qualification.
- A Sales Development team can sit alongside and complement other methods to limit cherry picking leads. These include an intelligent assignment system where system leads are sent to individual sales reps automatically, limiting overall visibility and factoring in workload, product knowledge and skillset for example.
- You can also use data to capture and analyze sales activity to identify common causes of cherry picking, including how long on average team members spend on a lead before disqualifying it.
- Implementing SLAs between marketing and sales, including how many touches a lead should have before being disqualified and how many touches should be emails and phone calls can go some way to addressing cherry picking leads. Sales and marketing should agree on what truly is an MQL, the cadence once an MQL is delivered to sales, how marketing can support sales with MQLs likely to convert and sales’ commitment to actioning each MQL.
- A lead management process including enough detail on lead disposition reasons ensures a greater level of feedback and sets up more informative performance review conversations between sales and marketing teams. If you only provide sales with ‘accepted’ and ‘rejected’, you will learn very little, and make cherry picking easier to do.
The root cause of cherry picking, however, will always be a lack of sales and marketing alignment. SLAs while useful in theory can often be ignored in reality. Marketing can go to sales and say, “this is the best practice, you should have (for example) at least five touchpoints”, but this will only work if the processes and agreements are in place that ensure sales will follow the plan laid out by marketing, and feed back fully on its results.
Eighty-seven per cent of sales and marketing leaders say collaboration between sales and marketing enables critical business growth (LinkedIn, 2020). What’s more, internal alignment between silos inevitably leads to an improved buyer experience, or what we call a Unified Customer Experience, where frictionless communication between internal teams enables buyers to buyers to manage their own journey rather than being forced down a clunky linear funnel.
Sales teams often cherry pick leads because they don’t always have strategic insight into the marketing campaigns that are driving them. By becoming an inside sales partner and by bridging the chasm between marketing and sales teams, we find that MarketOne’s sales development teams can fill this gap, providing crucial feedback and harnessing our insider industry knowledge to offer scalable business outsourcing that delivers increased ROMI and improves internal alignment into the bargain.