Lead Generation Challenges: Problems You’ll Face and How to Avoid Them

According to the recent survey by Gartner, lead generation is a key pain point for 58% of business leaders, and this percentage is unlikely to decrease in the near future. Constantly increasing competition and abundance of information makes it very difficult for a company to track, reach, and engage with potential clients. As a result, many businesses find it hard not only to succeed but also to survive “in the B2B jungle.”

However, things aren’t as discouraging as they might seem at first glance. CIENCE has been providing B2B lead generation services for more than five years already. Having helped to build and implement lead generation strategies for more than 1,000 companies from different industries, we’ve noticed that some problems occur multiple times, and they require similar solutions.

Overcoming some of them isn’t as difficult as it might seem. A proper analysis of lead generation challenges will help you to survive the natural selection of business, fill up the sales pipeline with qualified leads, and acquire potential clients more effectively. With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at the lead generation challenges.

Main Takeaways of Lead Generation Surveys Over Time

We’ve found six surveys that studied the lead generation process and its challenges. The first one was conducted in 2010, and last one in 2019. We listed these surveys along with the top three lead generation challenges they found:

Top 10 Lead Generation Challenges 2010 survey by RAIN Group in cooperation with ITSMA:

  • Finding a strategy, tactic, or offer that gets the attention of potential leads – 42.1%
  • Having enough people/the right people to generate leads – 38.2%
  • Measuring and documenting lead generation success – 31.2%

2012 Lead Generation Benchmark Report by MarketingSherpa:

  • Generating high-quality leads – 71%
  • Getting a high volume of leads – 44%
  • Creating public relations “buzz” – 36%

2013–2014 Survey of CPA Firm Best Lead Generation Practices by Vitberg LLC:

  • Generating high-quality leads – 43% (Very challenging) and 35% (challenging)
  • Generating a high volume of leads – 35% (Very challenging) and 36% (challenging)
  • Time or resources – 25% (Very challenging) and 42% (challenging)

2015 Lead Generation Survey of B2B Technology Marketing Community on LinkedIn:

  • Generating high-quality leads – 59%
  • Converting leads to customers – 42%
  • Delivering effective lead nurturing programs – 37%

The State of B2B Lead Generation and What it Takes to Succeed held by Digital Doughnut in September 2017:

  • Lead quality – 30%
  • Getting the right processes in place – 28%
  • Tracking ROI from leads – 26%

2019 Lead Generation Challenges Research by Inv.tech:

  • Leads that go through the sales process are low quality – 84%
  • Ineffective or only slightly effective lead generation practices – 80%
  • Roughly 80% of leads never convert, and about 70% of all leads fail due to nurturing issues.

What are biggest lead generation challenges? We gathered data from multiple reports.As you can see, there was a major shift in the perception of lead generation challenges between 2010 and 2012. Ever since 2012, the top challenge has remained unchanged—generating high-quality leads. We look forward to seeing the surveys dedicated to this topic in 2021, which should offer us insights into how the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the lead generation priorities for B2B companies.

How to Define a High-Quality Lead

After figuring out statistically that generating high-quality leads is the main pain point for B2B business leaders, we must now understand what a high-quality lead means, and most importantly—how to differentiate these from the bad-quality ones.

A quality lead is a person holding a particular decision-making position in a certain company who has a high chance of becoming your customer.

In other words, this is a type of lead that fits your ideal customer profile (ICP) like a glove, which means the following:

  • A quality lead needs to hold a position of a decision-maker (i.e., VP of Marketing, CEO, Director, etc.).
  • The company this lead works at has a problem that your product/service can solve.
  • Your business can bring great value to your lead’s company.
  • They should have the financial capabilities of buying your product/service.
  • The timing should be right for both of you.

Quality Leads = Quality Contact Data

One of the reasons why CIENCE is named a top lead generation company on the market by multiple review platforms is because the requirements for the quality of our lead contact data are very high.

Every sales research we conduct for our clients is unique since each customer has their individual research criteria (i.e., different ICPs for different businesses). That’s why every single contact list is made from scratch by CIENCE research teams.

Also, we never trade the data we generate for previous clients to new ones. It’s not only because we realize how sensitive and important this information is, but it’s also because we know how damaging the outdated contact data is for the lead generation process.

For example, let’s imagine you purchase a list from a random platform. Do you know when it was last updated? Only when your sales lead generators manage to find ten prospects on Monday and your SDRs send first emails to them on Tuesday can it be called an up-to-date lead list.

That’s why companies that buy leads most often get a high bounce rate. Good sales research has to keep your bounce rate below 40% (at CIENCE, this rate is way lower).

Another important criteria of a quality lead is that the data acquired about this person must be up-to-date. In other words:

  • The company should still be operating in the same industry and have the same revenues, number of employees, location, etc.
  • The person should still be working at this company in the required position.

Now that we’ve seen what a quality lead exactly is, it is important to see what challenges business leaders need to overcome daily to build a successful lead generation strategy.

What Are the Main Challenges Faced in Lead Generation?

Many factors make the acquisition of quality leads extremely difficult even for very successful companies. Business leaders should never underestimate the importance of this process. The sales development and marketing teams need to learn how to continually generate high-quality leads, overcoming all the challenges and obstacles along the way.

1. Lead generation requires a lot of time and effort.

Lead generation is a very time-consuming and resource-demanding process. It takes up to thirty minutes for an SDR to complete additional research on the company, up to thirty minutes to write a follow-up, and up to eight dials to get to a prospect. Thus, if your lead isn’t a good fit, all these efforts and time will be wasted in vain. Avoiding this situation is one of the biggest challenges business leaders need to overcome.

2. Unsuccessful lead generation causes emotional burnout.

When your dedicated work doesn’t bring any results, the feeling of rejection gets harder to avoid, even for the thick-skinned SDRs. Without any doubt, an experienced sales representative will sooner or later understand that a potential prospect isn’t qualified. However, it doesn’t mean that this sudden realization will increase their performance and their personal satisfaction from getting the job done. The SDR’s task is to sell things. When they are not successful, they don’t feel satisfied. And when employees feel unsatisfied, the whole business’s efficiency suffers dramatically. That is why it is crucial to building a strong lead generation strategy.   

3. Lead generation demands large budgets.  

Your sales team’s work time is money. Apart from that, you also spend money paying bills on calls, electricity, Internet, and office supplies. Not to mention investing in paid ads, pre-targeting, landing pages, email campaigns that adds to the costs. If you rely exclusively on your in-house team, it might get extremely challenging to fit all of these jobs into the budget. In some cases, outsourcing your sales development might become the only answer to cut the costs of lead generation.

4. The post-COVID working reality takes time to adapt.  

Even though lead generation was already a serious challenge for most B2B companies before, the COVID-19 pandemic made it even more complicated. Many businesses were not ready to switch their teams to a remote-only work routine. They needed time to adjust to the new virtual-selling reality, substituting face-to-face engagements with digital communications, and developing certain skill sets to use new technology tools like marketing automation, CRMs, and digital advertising. Overcoming these challenges in a lead generation might take a while until companies can fully adapt to the new working conditions.

5. Business leaders follow the crowd instead of building their lead generation strategies.

In B2B lead generation, there is no magic combination of SDR actions that will always nurture more prospects into the sales pipeline. What works for others will not necessarily work for you, especially in times of crisis. Even though the temptation to simply follow the crowd is very strong, you should find your own path to nurture more leads.

Monitor your sales team’s performance and outreach channel metrics, experiment with new lead generation techniques, and analyze what exactly works for your business the best.  

The Negative Outcomes of a Poor Sales Lead Generation Strategy

A bad lead generation strategy can cause serious negative consequences for the entire business. A poor-quality lead that gets into the later stages of the sales funnel can do more damage than just wasting an SDR’s working time.

As a lead generation firm with many years of experience in the field, we’ve seen (or rather heard) prospects who agreed to set up an appointment with us or our clients and then never showed up for the meeting. Some of these people did it for a single reason—to end a call with an SDR.

The “no-show” appointment problem of a poor lead generation should be addressed through three points of control:

  • ICP creation
  • Contact list compilation
  • SDR motivation

A bad quality lead will cost your company more time, effort, resources, and, of course, money. That is why it’s important to cut off unqualified prospects right at the very beginning of your sales funnel.

How to Improve Your Leads Quality: Best Solutions

When thinking about the ways to improve your leads, you have to do three essential things: First, create relevant criteria for the lead search. Second, conduct a lead search. And third, develop a methodology to improve the quality of the leads. Let’s look at these steps in detail.

1. Create an ideal customer profile and buyer persona for your business.

In the B2B lead generation, the criteria for searching potential leads (i.e., businesses that are a good fit for you) is called an ideal customer profile. Crafting it is one of the first steps you need to do in your lead generation process. The mistakes made at this stage will undermine all of the efforts that your researchers and outbound prospectors make.

Take a look at your ICP and buyer persona. They should be:

  • Up-to-date
  • Detailed
  • Reflect the perfect fit for your company and your product

What can you do to improve it? Sometimes, it’s better to analyze your own product and your company, and then craft an ICP and buyer persona from scratch rather than trying to fix the old ones.

2. Conduct sales research.

If everything is fine with your ICP, you should go to the next stage of the lead generation process—research. You won’t find quality contacts unless you conduct thorough research on businesses that match your ICP criteria.

Some companies think that acquiring a contact list of companies is enough to fill in the sales pipeline. However, in most cases, the quality of these lists is extremely low. This is because they are usually out-of-date: businesses close, people leave their jobs for various reasons, and the size or location of the company may change over time.

The lists are also mostly generalized. They won’t have many quality contacts to match your ICP. They’ll contain many companies that are absolutely unlikely to become your customers. You’ll end up with a lead list based on quantity, not quality.

That’s why completing targeted research is very important in a proper lead generation process.

lead-gen-challenges-image-13. Improve the quality of the leads during the first engagement.

If for some reason, you can’t narrow your list of prospects to “quality contacts,” you can try to find out if these leads fit your ICP during your first conversations with them.  

For example, when crafting the first email to your potential client, make sure it hits the pain point of your prospect’s business. As a reminder, your ideal customer profile is a company with a problem you can solve. Does your message appeal to it? It might be that the content of your email attracts the wrong type of leads.

Your SDRs are your last line of defense. They turn the contacts into leads and set the appointments. If your researchers can’t filter your prospects with through high-quality research, that’s something your salespeople will have to do for you.

Take the time to explain to your SDRs what an ideal customer profile is, and teach them how to determine quality leads.

In some companies, the earnings of SDRs depend on the number of quality leads they've passed to account executives. However, we suggest you incentivize quality over quantity to ensure your SDRs are focused on only generating leads that fit your ideal customer profile.

Overcome Lead Generation Challenges

To improve your lead generation process and overcome the main challenges, you need to analyze it carefully. Check your ideal customer profile and conduct a targeted research of quality contacts. Review your target message and make sure your SDRs have the necessary knowledge and skills to filter unqualified leads in the later stages as well. These actions will help you tackle the key challenges of lead generation and increase the quality of your sales process.

If you need practical advice on how to overcome lead generation challenges for your business, set a meeting with CIENCE experts. We are always here to help improve your sales.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in April 2018 and has been completely updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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