Leads are a double-edged sword to many companies and salespeople. Companies who cast too wide a net may end up wasting other businesses’ time, and ultimately hurt the morale of their employees. While there is always a chance of converting an unlikely prospect with the right words and product, eventually leaders will need to decide if these long-shots are worth it. Bringing departments together and increasing lead accountability may be the answer to getting better leads.

Numbers, incentives, and change

Sales is all about numbers, but these incentives can skew the real goals. Sales is really about making the relationships that lead to profit (hopefully for both parties).

Sales expert Zig Ziglar observes, “Every sale has five basic obstacles: no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, no trust.”

For those who rely on leads to earn their living, they may ignore the more extreme versions of these barriers in an effort to meet their quota. There are some people who will never do business with you under any circumstances, and pestering them may only decrease your chances. Whether people understand game theory or not, they’re always coming up with ways to get more for less. So when the people who are responsible for leads aren’t responsible for converting those leads, you may see a large disconnect that hurts everyone in the company.

When quality is forgotten

Speaking of numbers, there are companies out there who do not place a huge emphasis on the quality of leads. If a company’s goal is to simply onboard droves of salespeople to contact as many businesses as humanly possible to see what sticks, then sales reps should understand this before diving in. They should know that they’re likely going to be met with a lot of uninterested parties before meeting their quota.

In these circumstances, the people at the top are only interested in those who can survive under these often brutal conditions when it comes to being aggressive enough to get the sale. These environments typically are only conducive to the most ruthless salespeople, and would definitely benefit from a little finesse.

Increasing accountability

If your salespeople are voicing a constant thread of complaints that they can’t find interested prospects, then perhaps it’s time to start a conversation.

When your best salesperson is struggling, then they may be the person to single out for information to see how prospects are reacting. The software company Ektron had a major problem with their cost-per-leads because they weren’t taking the time to nurture them, essentially creating a database with disinterested parties based on rented email lists. Instead of accepting this as their fate, they made it a point to change their strategy. When they focused on their content instead of lists, they began to see a turnaround for their business.

In fact, 93% of businesses state that content strategy does more for them than marketing strategy does. Once Ektron recognized this, they focused on creating segments based on demographics that would eventually lead to strategies of how to best target different groups of customers with relevant information.

More creativity, better leads

Creativity has always been necessary in business, and it may be crucial for lead generation too. Just as we saw with the case of Ektron, they created more content as a way to improve the quality of their existing leads.

While email still ranks as an influential source of information (behind recommendations and intermediaries), success will likely end up being a combination of research, analysis, and timing.

It doesn’t mean that those who generate leads need to be afraid of taking risks. There are very few companies that don’t have untapped markets — and those subgroups will take some time to explore. It does mean there should be some consequence to sticking with the same strategies that clearly aren’t generating the right leads. Whether creativity means employing SEO experts or just doing more background work on each company, it will mean making additional investments early on in the sales funnel.

Laying out the future of lead generation

When you’re planning your new year sales strategy, you should highlight several ways to modernize your approach. And this should definitely include finding higher quality leads. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake either. As entrepreneur Seth Godin says, “The cost of being wrong is less than the cost of doing nothing.”

Even when your mission goes awry, you’ll still learn something. What you should be fearful of though is continuing to make the same mistakes over and over again. If your company has been focused on quantity, it may be time to make an important shift over to quality instead.