Do we need more sales leads, or do we really need more customer business intelligence?
In the hotel industry there are various perceptions for what constitutes a “sales lead”. I’ve spoken with many hotel sales leaders from the DOSM in a desparate situation needing to close business quickly to recover lost revenue for whatever reason, to corporate executives who’s goal is to assist their sales teams by finding a cost-effective way to build a qualified sales pipeline. The current situation of whomever I am speaking to at the time drives their “perception” and expectation of a sales lead.
I did just a little bit of research (translation: I took 5 minutes to google “sales lead” one day). According to Wikipedia, A “Sales Lead” is the identification of a person or entity that has the interest and authority to purchase a product or service. This step represents the first stage of a sales process.
Investopedia says: A Sales Lead is a prospective consumer of a product or service that is created when an individual shows interest and provides his or her contact information. Businesses gain access to sales leads through advertising, trade shows, direct mailings and other marketing efforts. They can also purchase sales leads from third-party companies. A sales lead is not a sales prospect, meaning that further qualification of the lead is necessary to determine intent and interest.
It goes on to explain that the quality of a sales lead depends on if the contact was incentivized to provide their contact information and if they were aware of what they were signing up for.
Ask several of my hospitality industry friends, and they will tell you that a “sales lead” is a fully qualified piece of business ready for a proposal. I’m serious. I think hotel sales professionals must all have the “high expectations” gene. I love you all, and can say this because I score off the charts in this category as well.
Ask some of my friends in other industries, such as technology, consumer packaged goods, real estate, insurance, and they will tell you that a “sales lead” is simply contact information of decision-makers. Hence, a little closer to the Wikipedia definition. I think I make friends with realists outside the industry to over-compensate for my hotel friends being so darn picky! Kidding!
So we’ve got just a bit of a gap here within and outside our industry, and this is where I struggle. You see, I’ve termed my business’ service as generating “sales leads” but what we’re actually generating is “business intelligence” and highly qualified prospects. THAT is what we’re aiming for, anyway. So, it’s actually somewhere in the middle.
Our service has 3 main goals:
- To enhance our hotel partners’ sales CRM with robust business intelligence quickly and cost-effectively
- To build a pipeline of qualified prospects in all stages of the buying process
- To facilitate meaningful conversations between our hotel partners and their most qualified prospects. Think…rare face-to-face meetings, and follow-up emails and calls that have a stronger chance of being answered.
So, I’m making a conscious effort this year to stay away from the term “sales lead” when we refer to our services and discuss “business intelligence”, “building a pipeline of qualified prospects” and “facilitating meaningful sales conversations.” It seems closer to the mark to me of what our hotel partners really need, and on the mark of what we strive to provide each day.