One of the greatest travesties I’ve seen in companies that serve manufacturing or industrial markets is the system for managing ‘leads.’

The approach I’m talking about  immediately renders the prospect or customer as a number. Less than human. It creates the impression that the primary concern of the company is gettin’ the dough and moving on to the ‘next one.’ It minimizes the problems  a prospect is trying to solve, while elevating the company’s bargaining position. And we rationalize this as ‘just how business is done …’

How many relationships – business or otherwise – are sustained or even last after a beginning like that?

Maybe some. But I’ve seen far more partnerships fail under the weight of this system than those that were built on loyalty. And exceeding expectations.

Imagine for a moment the last time you were on the phone with your cable company, power company, or another service provider, trying to resolve an issue. We’ve all experienced the frustrations. How many conversations have we all had, lamenting the crumbling of our entire society & culture, based on our loss of basic customer service and social skills?

I’ve had these conversations, and many, many times with company owners and marketing cats. They share your (our) frustrations when bumping up against the cold, hard truths of relationships built on a lead rather than a need. And then …

They return to their jobs of demanding or sustaining the same type of system that frustrates their own customer base in the same ways.

A customer isn’t a lead to be harvested, but a person serving something that needs help to grow. Yet, a lead-based system permeates an entire organization, where overworked and misdirected resources follow flowcharts or standard practices to build revenue rather than loyalty. Consider this:

  • A system that serves leads rather than needs passes the responsibility of gathering the customer’s problems & challenges to sales or applications engineers for engagement – costing time.
  • A system that serves leads rather than needs passes basic contact information down the line and counts this as success.
  • A system that serves leads rather than needs doesn’t bother following up with the customer – even if the company doesn’t get the sale – to see if they’ve been taken care of.
  • A system that serves leads rather than needs pushes automated, broad messaging designed to attract targets, to an audience that has very specific, real needs.
  • A system that serves leads rather than needs treats a new addition to a database as success.
  • A system that serves leads rather than needs looks to generate a contact, rather than one that shows the potential the customer can realize by partnering with us.

Is this you, or your company? Is the cycle of lead generation a seemingly unbreakable machine that can’t even be discussed or challenged?

Some customer relationships just don’t work out. That’s a fact. But many cease too soon because they begin on a foundation that leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy of disappointment. These systems are often built on measuring a lead reaching a specific point in the chain through the seller’s organization, and less about the progress the customer is making at each stage.

Consider our own frustrations as we deal personally with lead generators. And then we must ask ourselves, ‘Are we generating something valuable, or just an invoice?’