Leads vs. Deals – truly a B2B marketer’s word jumble. I originally posted about this way back in 2015, but I find I am still having this conversation on a weekly basis with clients – so I think it’s timely and worth re-posting today!

What do leads and deals have in common? Well… same letters, different order? (Reminds me of a word jumble – remember that? It was in the newspaper alongside Sudoku and the crossword.) But despite the similarity in appearance, the two are distinct.

Unjumbling – A Lead is not a Deal

I was having a conversation with a client the other day, and realized something – as B2B marketers, many of us create our own word jumbles in our heads – we see or hear leads but rearrange the letters in our head and understand deals. But they are VERY different, aren’t they?

Yes, leads (or a portion of them) should turn into closed deals. But they aren’t there yet. They aren’t even close! A lead is just a lead. Expecting a lead to be a closed sale is a pipe dream; leads still need to be worked. And sometimes you need to work them hard to get them to move forward.

Leads still need to be nurtured, and sometimes leads will die. That’s the nature of the business. Perhaps it’s the optimist in us: we get someone that is a lead and we think they should be a customer. That’s great – that should always be our goal. But realistically, they won’t all be customers. So as marketers/sales professionals, we need to understand that a lead is not a deal. Those 10,000 tradeshow leads are not going to turn into sales. In fact, many (or most) of them only stopped by the booth to enter your raffle.

Cultivating – Leads Won’t Cultivate Themselves

As a young marketer at an enterprise software company in the late ’90s, I fell into this trap. I thought that all of the leads I generated with my campaigns were awesome and I would personally help the company shatter its revenue goals. But I realized pretty quickly that leads require time and tenacity to move through the sales process. I got pretty good at explaining to our sales team why they should keep calling and following up with leads, even after they had left them one message or sent one email. Those 50 webinar registrants aren’t going to turn themselves into sales. Sure they expressed some interest, and filled out a form with some qualification criteria, but they need to be convinced that they need to keep interacting with you.

They need to be cultivated. They need to be guided through the buying process.

So they didn’t return your call when you called them after the webinar? Keep trying! Tenacity! Your competitors are calling/emailing/interacting with them – if you sit back and wait for them to reply or respond, they will probably respond to someone else!

Collaborating – Bring Sales and Marketing Together

Companies like SiriusDecisions have spent years talking about sales and marketing alignment. They have built a powerful niche in the research industry around it. Their demand waterfall is quite powerful – it’s a shared view between sales and marketing of the health of an organization’s new business-related activities. It measures the progression of leads through a range of stages – from cold to closed.

The key here is that it is a progression, and to move leads through the waterfall, marketers and sales professionals need to use various tactics to help leads move through the stages and eventually become deals.

Forget the Pipe Dream – Remember Your Pipeline

Leads are leads. Deals are deals. Don’t mix them up.

Rick Endrulat, President | ricke@v-causeway.com | www.linkedin.com/in/rickendrulat