Lead, You’re Dead to Me: An Open Letter to Sales

Dear Sales Friend,

Once, It was all about the form fill for lead generation.

My entire universe once revolved around “the lead.” That’s when I was a sales rep years ago. Back then, sales reps lived and died by the lead. We would tell ourselves that however hard it was to chase a lead, at least it beat cold calling. Remember those days? Sadly, for many sales reps, it’s still the case.

If someone took the time to complete a form, we thought it meant interest, a hand raiser, someone who wanted to be contacted. At least that’s what Marketing told us. But any sales rep who has followed up on a lead knows that sometimes, the person on the other end only completed the form for the free coffee, the white paper, or some other type of enticement.

We used to say, “It’s a numbers game.” Which meant, the more leads we followed up on, the more engagements we might find. We’d say, “Every no is one step closer to a yes.” Because, back in the day, it was our job as salespeople to qualify the lead.

When I left the sales world, I went into marketing as a demand generation lead, but I still possessed the sales mentality. Even when my take-home pay was dependent on how many form fills I was able to land, I was still always asking, “Yeah, but how many of them actually turn into opportunities?” Now, as an ABM Strategist, I finally get to follow my instincts and advocate for more effective sales engagement.


Top-of-funnel inquires result in only 4.4% conversions and .03% wins.

Traditional B2B marketing wastes time and money.
Only 4.4% of top-of-funnel inquiries convert, and .03% move to closed/won. (SiriusDecisions)


The days of qualifying leads are over! Intent is the new lead.

Happily, the old days of the lead are so over! Using the intelligence that forms can provide is fine, but it can’t be your only play. Today, Marketing has much more insight available than a form fill to guide their efforts and the efforts of their sales teams. Today, it’s Marketing’s job to qualify the lead before it falls on the lap of the sales rep. Instead of giving you a list of people with unknown intentions, your Marketing department should be telling you which accounts are already in-market for your products and services and sharing their purchase intent data with you. In today’s B2B world, it’s all about the intent, not just the information in a form fill.

Yes, intent is the new lead! If a prospect has been consuming high-value content online around the solutions you or your competitors offer, then it’s qualified. Relying on purchase intent rather than on form fills goes directly to sales productivity, the holy grail for sales folks. Of course you want to be more productive. Of course you want your daily activity to yield more results. You want to spend your time landing fish, not tossing lines out into still waters day after day.

Marketers who count success by form fills are quickly falling by the wayside.

Not only are leads from form fills typically terribly unqualified (interns fill them out, buying committees are well down the path to purchase before any one on them completes a form, and people are not all that truthful with their responses), but few folks even fill them out anymore. Everybody knows it’s a ruse: Completing a form is a license to be marketed to for the rest of time. So they don’t.

It’s time to focus on intent, rather than the lead. Letting sales folks know which accounts are in-market early in the purchase process is the only path to success today. Further, letting salespeople know exactly what topics the accounts are interested in so they can tailor their outreach accordingly paves the way to much higher email open rates, returned phone calls, and meaningful sales conversations.

If your marketing department is celebrating because someone’s completed a form on your website, run the other way. Better yet, ask them to share intent data with you, which will is a more efficient and fruitful endeavor for everyone, Sales and Marketing alike.

Interested driving more accounts through the conversion funnel? Watch the webinar Intent Is the New Lead.

Wishing you abundant sales success,

Bonnie Thomas (Senior ABM Consultant)

Senior ABM Strategist, Demandbase

I partner with customers to optimize their operational capabilities, including formulating Account-Based Marketing plans and strategies and guiding them to fully leverage Demandbase capabilities. And I help them set overall marketing objectives and KPIs, measure performance, and quantify success. When I’m not carrying out tailored workshops, guided discussions, and other engagements with stakeholders at all levels of the customer organization, I’m coordinating with Demandbase Marketing, Product, Customer Success, and Sales management teams to deliver strategic services and support at key points in the customer journey.