The Cumulative Impact of High and Low Quality Leads

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The B2B industry is infamously known for its time-consuming sales cycle. While B2B sales are challenged by more decision-makers than B2C, they are also impacted by varying-quality leads that make the process even more unpredictable. 

A sales person is only as good as his or her leads. When sales reps receive poor leads, the total time and effort they waste in qualifying, engaging, and selling to low-interest prospects is significantly more expensive than the time and money spent in pursuing better quality leads.

High Quality Leads vs. Low Quality Leads

Marketing and sales departments are now more intertwined than ever in the sales process. Marketers, pressured to meet individual quotas, often turn over low-cost, low-quality leads to the  sales organization. However, these leads don’t convert well and instead make the company suffer hidden costs that can damage interdepartmental trust.1

High quality leads (HQLs) are sourced from buyers who have shown more interest in finding out more, mostly by consuming quality content provided by the seller, have expressed interest in following-up, come from within the right market space and types of accounts, and have the right buying roles. Low quality leads (LQLs) are often scraped online, mass collected, are primarily collected as a result of email opens or clicks–there is no real reason to believe they have purchase intent. 

Experienced sales people are able to ask the right questions in order to identify a potential customer’s true interest in the solutions provided: Are opt-ins based on content downloads, or were they sourced from promotions that incentivize responses? Is there detailed research activity for each account? Does the data illustrate high probability for conversion?

The False Economy of Low Quality Leads

The current sales process exposes the false economy of low quality leads, or the notion that more low-cost leads lead to higher conversion rates at a fraction of the cost. Ultimately, if these leads are mostly made of false-positive LQLs, it can cost more to blindly pursue a number of leads in hopes of engaging the small percentage of companies who are genuinely interested in a product.

Below is a breakdown of lead conversion rates for low, strong, and top quality leads throughout the marketing and sales processes using data from SiriusDecisions.2

Lead quality has a progressive effect on each conversion rate throughout the sales funnel. The total closed deals per 1000 leads for average is only two, maybe three if lucky. Assuming the average lead quality is mostly composed of low-cost LQLs, the number of closed deals for every 1000 leads per year for HQLs is five times greater than deals closed form LQLs.

What the data shows is that while low-cost leads may present upfront savings, it can cost up to five times more to convert than HQLs in the same time frame; even if low-cost leads cost a third of what a quality marketing offers, representatives will still spend almost twice as much to convert them in the long run. Starting with HQLs can result in lower cost per conversion and increased number of closed deals, both factors that contribute significantly more to a company’s revenue.

Hidden Costs of LQLs

The hidden costs associated with LQLs come from wasting time, resources, and human capital. On average, bad lead prospect data costs sales departments 550 hours and $32,000 per representative.3 Assuming the average cost of $60,000 per year for a sales representative, not including additional payroll-related expenses, this means individuals are spending over 50% of their time and payroll working with low-interest customers—for SMEs, this number can often be higher at 85%. According to SiriusDecisions, each bad lead can also cost as much as $100 per record.2  For instance, the cost of 5,000 bad leads is about $500,000. These numbers can add up very quickly.

The Solution to Meeting Sales Projections

The big B2B question: How can companies consistently meet sales projections?

The solution to this problem statement is not hiring more people, even though this continues to be the traditional response. At its core, sales projections are caused by insufficient high quality lead generation. Salesforce reports that 57% of sales reps expect to miss their yearly quotas, with the actual average quota attainment rate falling slightly lower at 54%.4, 5 Employee dissatisfaction stems from potential low opportunities for commission ultimately caused by inability to close deals. These are all likely factors contributing to the 27% annual turnover rate among US salespeople—twice the rate in the overall labor force.6

Given the data, there are two potential solutions. The first is hiring only stelar sales reps experienced in differentiating between low quality and high quality leads. The problem with this approach is that stelar sales reps are at a premium–there aren’t enough of them to fill a sales organization, even if a company could afford paying top prices for all its sales reps.

The second solution lies within the data: focus efforts on lead quality and the cumulative nature of HQLs to potentially increase the number of annual leads by tenfold. In other words, build your sales organization based on the average sales competency level, but feed all your sales reps with HQLs. The difference is dramatic, as we shall see below.

Cumulative Nature of HQLs

As demonstrated, HQLs have an undeniable effect on conversion rates that trickle down to revenue, profit, and valuation.

Not only do top HQLs increase the number of closed deals, but they also often shorten the overall sales cycle. The data below has been modified to reflect this change in each respective buying cycle, assuming that strong and top quality leads take the upper and lower range bounds for the average B2B buying cycle, respectively.2

These numbers illustrate the full, cumulative effect of HQLs in the sales pipeline. Given the higher conversion rates and shorter buying cycle, top HQLs can lead to a representative closing 10 times more deals in a single year. Another way of putting it is that low quality leads can cost as much as ten times more than high quality leads.

Next Steps

Contact us to discuss how we can help you begin generating High Quality Leads to significantly improve your sales productivity and profitably hit your sales targets each quarter. Read more bout the impact of High Quality Leads on sales and profits here.