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Are Your Lead-Gen Efforts Failing? Here are Five Reasons Why

July 5, 2021

Generating the correct type of lead that converts to a sale is a struggle for many metal-manufacturing businesses. Before the pandemic this was true, but even more so now.

Generating the correct type of lead that converts to a sale is a struggle for many metal-manufacturing businesses. Before the pandemic this was true, but even more so now. The struggle is particularly true for manufacturers that relied on tradeshows for leads.  The pandemic disrupted tradeshows, and, according to Thomasnet, more than 60 percent of manufacturers have reported having their sales and marketing plans impacted.

Of course, lead generation means more than collecting business cards at a tradeshow. Rather, it comprises a multistep process that requires consistent execution in order to garner results. If you are struggling to find the right type of leads, evaluate whether you have fallen into one of these five pitfalls.


1.       Not Viewing Lead Generation as a Long-Term Strategy

Manufacturers must plan for and execute lead generation as a long-term strategy, not as an activity or project. It requires the same commitment and investment as any other business process. When you execute other processes, such as an ISO quality system or a production process, you establish a strategy, set goals, outline activities and set timelines, among other tasks. You schedule production, take care to use the right machines, implement corrective actions should issues arise, ensure that machine operators receive the proper training, etc.  In short, successful production requires planning, investment, training and, most importantly, patience.

The same is true of a successful lead-generation program. It starts with goals, but more than that, it requires an integrated plan with supporting processes and technology to measure, monitor and track your return. Like your quality system or production, lead generation requires a long-term strategy, so that the process becomes consistent, runs continually, and is monitored and course-corrected when required.


2.       Not Having a Clear Plan on How to Reach Sales Goals

Lack of planning surely will lead to failure. You can’t reach goals without a plan to get there. How many sales-qualified leads do you need each month to hit your annual sales goals? How many prospects do you need to reach out to each month? If you don’t know, you aren’t alone. 

The planning stage of a lead-generation process begins with mapping out your goals. Using sales-conversion rates (exclude current customers), start with annual sales goals and work backward. What is your desired (or typical) annual value for each sale? Dividing your annual sales goal by this number will tell you how many closures you need. Then work backward using your conversion rates (percentage of quotes that close, meetings that lead to quotes, initial contact that leads to a meeting, etc.) If you haven’t tracked conversion rates, make an educated guess and track moving forward. You can make corrections if you find that your original estimates were incorrect. By mapping this out based on conversion rates, you can estimate the number of prospects you need to speak with each month to reach your goals. 


3.       Thinking That More Leads Mean More Sales

More isn’t necessarily better. Many companies turn to inbound marketing as their primary method for generating leads. Good search-engine optimization (SEO) and content marketing will drive traffic to your website, but if the traffic doesn’t result in viable leads, you are wasting time. Plus, you must evaluate and follow up on those leads to convert them. Inbound marketing complemented with outbound marketing can prove very effective when done right, however, many manufacturers lack the strategy and process to make outbound marketing worthwhile. Simply casting a wider net may not necessarily improve the quality of the leads generated. 

Many companies want a high inflow of leads because they lack a clear vision of whom they should be targeting. Effective target-market profiling, which pinpoints specific targets, will increase the efficiency of a lead-generation process and result in a lower number of leads required to reach the established goals. It is better to have five prospects per month that meet your requirements for spend, company size, location, etc., than to have 100 prospects that you know nothing about. How much time will you spend on those 100?


4.       Following Up and Nurturing Leads Isn’t Happening

Follow up, follow up, follow up! This can’t be stressed enough. One-time follow up often won’t suffice. Statistically, prospects say “no” four times before saying “yes.” Now, if someone says no because they don’t manufacture products that require your services, obviously there is no point in going further. However, if they say “not now” or that they are happy with their current vendor, plan to keep following up every six months or so. 

According to Michael Le Boeuf’s “How to Win Customers and Keep them for Life,” when a salesperson asks for an order:

•             44 percent give up after one “no.”

•             22 percent give up after two “nos.”

•             14 percent give up after three “nos.”

•             12 percent give up after four “nos.”

Additionally, 60 percent of customers will say “no” four times before saying yes. Looking at these statistics, you can infer that 8 percent of salespeople are selling to 60 percent of customers. 

How do you ask again when after hearing “no?” Anticipate potential reasons for rejection and prepare rebuttals. And, if they aren’t ready today, they may be ready at another time, so keep communication lines open. You want your company to be first to mind when a prospect has a need, or when its current vendor has stumbled. If a prospect suggests a time to call back, put it in your calendar and make sure that you do! 


5.       Assigning Lead-Generation Activities to the Wrong Person

Most manufactures have their salespeople handling all aspects of selling, from finding potential prospects to closing the sale. Instead, have your salespeople working the end of the sales funnel, building relationships with fully qualified prospects and closing sales. For all activities higher up the funnel, such as lead generation and nurturing, practice division of labor and assign a team of people with the right skill set for each activity—research, warm-calling, content/graphics creation, email, RFQ/quote management, etc. 

Division of labor requires breaking down the sales process into separate tasks performed by those who are, or will become, specialized in each task.  Don’t confuse account management with sales. Selling to current customers (farming) requires a different skill set than creating new business from nothing (hunting). 

Assigning the front-end processes to the wrong people can be troublesome for other reasons. An untrained intern or entry-level person, for example, may struggle because of a lack of experience and skill set. Some companies will hire a telemarketing company to make calls on their behalf. In this case, remember that a successful lead-generation strategy goes beyond making calls. You also must ensure that the telemarketing firm knows your industry and your business. Does it understand your products and services? Do you feel comfortable having it represent you? If the telemarketing company promises you a high number of leads, be prepared to waste time with leads that may not be a great fit.


Implementing a Lead-Generation Strategy That Works

Manufacturers can create a consistent flow of qualified leads through their sales pipelines. We have found that the most successful companies:

•             Set goals for prospects, leads, closures, etc.

•             Create a malleable process (change when data support it)

•             Use the right people to execute activities

•             Use the right tools (CRM, marketing automation, webinar software, research tools, etc.)

•             Collect data And monitor regularly

•             Course-correct when needed.

Once you implement these actions, you will learn to pivot quickly when a major disruption occurs—such as COVID-19.   For example, once tradeshows were canceled, some manufacturers quickly moved to virtual plant tours and webinars to connect with prospects virtually.


Article provided by Athena SWC, Amherst, NY:



Industry-Related Terms: Case, Lines, Point
View Glossary of Metalforming Terms


See also: Athena SWC LLC

Technologies: Management


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