More Leads More Problems: Why Too Many Leads is Unhealthy for Marketing & Sales
Is there such a thing as too many leads?
Yes. Yes there is.
What kinds of problems can too many leads really cause for an organization?
The list of problems from too many leads (a selected portion, in no particular order):
1. Lower data quality in the CRM or database
2. Higher difficulty finding patterns from data
3. Unnecessary marketing spend on excess leads
4. Unnecessary sales time spent on excess leads
5. The illusion of insufficient leads when current lead volume doesn’t fuel sales goal attainment
6. Compromised lead quality standards by marketing to hit quantity goals
7. Compromised lead follow-up standards by sales to process excess lead volume
8. Board / C-Suite expectations perpetuate “not enough leads” illusion
9. Marketing’s production never seems sufficient enough for sales
10. Sales’ processes around engaging leads never seems sufficient enough for marketing
11. Marketing is regularly at odds with sales
12. Sales is regularly at odds with marketing
13. Business growth remains slow or stagnant despite increases in marketing & sales activities
14. Nothing ever changes until something breaks
15. The demands of hitting inflated lead volumes breaks marketing’s budget
16. The demands of processing excessive lead volumes inflates sales’ headcount
17. Labels like “raw lead,” “Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL),” “Sales Qualified Lead (SQL),” and even “pipeline” or “opportunities,” become arbitrary or even meaningless in the flood of activities
18. Top-to-bottom level marketing team members burn out and leave
19. Top-to-bottom level sales team members burn out and leave
20. Basic math haunts ROI reporting as relatively unchanged revenue numbers get divided by ever-increasing lead volumes – 1 deal from 100 leads becomes 1 deal from 100,000 leads.
The list goes on, so suffice it to say, too many leads can cause very real and lasting problems.
Moreover, you don’t just have to take my word for it as a marketer. Founder & President of Figure-8, a sales training firm, and 20+ year veteran of the sales trenches, Lauren Bailey calls a state of too many leads “Silver Platter Syndrome,” and explains the detrimental sales impacts in her post for Sales Hacker.
How to Know When Your Organization Has Too Many Leads:
Of course, it doesn’t really matter if this realization of “too many leads” comes from marketing or sales; someone has to see it and put a stop to it. At its core, the problem of too many leads is much like the problem of too much water – as long as the flow continues, so does the damage.
While flooding or water damage is easy to spot, though, the issue of too many leads can be a bit more difficult. After all, one of the biggest symptoms of having or pursuing too many leads is an ever-ringing chorus of “we need more leads.” Fittingly enough, when too much is never enough, it is pretty clear you have a problem.
Still, here’s what else to look for:
1. Assumptions in lead volume expectations:
A response like, “because 100 wasn’t enough,” to a question of why you need 500 leads is a bit of a dead giveaway, but the core principle is that healthy lead volume targets should be built on math, not assumptions. If you need 12,000 raw leads annually to get to 1,200 MQLs to get to 600 sales qualified leads to get to 300 opportunities to close 100 deals averaging $25K apiece to hit a $2.5 million sales goal, you have a complete, end-to-end explanation. If you need more leads in such a scenario, it’s because you do actually need more leads to compensate for diminished conversions at a certain phase, or increased overall revenue goals. It’s what’s needed, not an assumed reaction.
2. No conversion rate benchmarks / lead-to-revenue measurements:
If you can’t calculate how many leads are required for your current business performance, how can you expect to accurately target the right lead volume to hit the desired revenue performance? To make fair predictions, you don’t need comprehensive end-to-end analytics and expertly maintained data quality (of course, it doesn’t hurt). You just need clearly defined stages from initial lead conversion to revenue that you can measure against. You can follow comprehensive models like , or if you’re not ready for that much detail or that many variables, you can start with the simplest things you can track like raw conversions / responses (everyone who fills out a form), qualified leads (could be marketing qualified, sales qualified, or just qualified), sales opportunities, and closed-won opportunities. As long as you have defined stages against which you can measure, you can have useful lead-to-revenue tracking. The ultimate benefit of a model like this is that when you do need more leads, it’ll provide context on where (in terms of stages) the need really is, and how to pivot efforts accordingly.
3. Neutral or negative marketing and sales efficiency:
More revenue from more leads is not an ideal state of marketing and sales efficiency. If an increase in revenue is proportional to an increase in lead volume, it’s literally just more of the same. If you go from closing 10 deals a month from say 100 MQLs a month, to 20 deals a month from 200 MQLs a month, it’s still the same ratio, and it likely required double the effort from marketing and sales to achieve. Moreover, if it starts taking 200 MQLs to hit that original 10 won-deal outcome, efficiency is moving backwards.
Instead, you want to be moving toward more deals from the same amount of leads, or if you get really good, more revenue from a reduced amount of leads. This kind of efficiency revolves around knowing the key members of a buyer collective, engaging them effectively, and minimizing wasted efforts on lower-probability prospects. By increasing efficiency, you can increase revenue from the same amount of marketing and sales effort, instead of red-lining teams to process more for more or just for more of the same.
To turn the tide, so to speak, marketing and sales teams need to throttle down their production and efforts to operate in a more measured, controlled way. Lead volume was likely set to a fast, running pace, but operationally, if you do have too many leads, your capabilities are likely more on a crawl or walking sophistication level.
Your best bet is to go back to basics and start back at your business plan for the year. Find your average lead-to-revenue conversion rates, and your average deal value, and start with lead volume numbers that you should expect from standard performance. If you’re still not where you need to be, try to improve on the process – using better content, providing more lead nurturing touches, having different kinds of sales conversations, etc. – before upping the target lead volume again.
In the end, the goal should be effectiveness and efficiency around leads; not inflation and exhaustion of lead production.
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