September 7, 2023

Beyond the Funnel: Revamping Your Lead Generation Approach

Lead gen is a mess. Always has been. Today it’s fractured, complicated and maddening but this kind of chaos also creates opportunities for those willing to think differently and experiment. I recently discussed this topic on a LinkedIn Live session hosted by William Gilchrist, founder of Konsyg, who has declared that "Lead Gen is Dead." A provocative battle cry. If it is dead, what replaces it and how do we build strong sales pipelines?

Here were my big takeaways from the chat:

*Lead gen is too short-term focused. It needs to be replaced with a longer-term approach towards building pipeline. To do this, we first need to look at how the buyer and seller landscape has evolved.

The Buyers landscape has changed:

  • Buyers know more and usually don't need basic messaging they need specific consulting.
  • Unfortunately, buyers are being bombarded with more and more introductory sales pitches. The reasonable response is to strengthen the gates in order to hold off ambitious salespeople from getting to the eyes and ears of prospects.
  • What do Buyers want? --Specific information, thoughtful consultation and interaction with customer-facing team members.

The Salespersons landscape has also changed:

  • There is more information about companies and buyers and there are more ways to connect with them ("multichannel"), even though those ways all have their own blocking mechanisms.
  • The concept of “inbound” is here to stay. Basically, the internet allows anyone a megaphone. Use it well and companies will come to you rather than you having to always come to them. The challenge is that millions of people now have a megaphone but don’t know what to do with it.
  • Our first impression is now digital. Salespeople need to up their digital presence. (Perhaps post-part tuxedos and purple lighting is this season's hottest video call look? You be the judge.)
  • Salespeople frequently lack conviction about their product and / or company.
  • What do Salespeople want? --Stronger selling ecosystems, more targeted messaging and data, personal brand building and inspiration.

So we need to kill short-term lead gen. But if we are to strengthen sales funnels in the long-term, we need to go beyond the funnel.

We need to start cross training.

This is the Sales Pipeline's cross training moment.

Let's go back to 1987. Walk Like An Egyptian is at the top of the charts, appropriating an ancient civilization's dancing style, Ronald Reagan is in Berlin with a truck full of sledgehammers and Bo Jackson knows something. Yes, this is the year Nike introduced the world to the Cross-Trainer, a shoe that could be used for walking, breaking down walls and conquering multiple sports fields.

Lead gen (or whatever we're calling it) needs to start cross-training. This means tearing down the walls between sales and marketing, integrating Customer Success teams and re-discovering sales team purpose.

  1. Getting Sales and Marketing to work together is not easy. I've written about how to get started here. Generating leads is about combining account knowledge, developing and executing targeted messaging. This should be a joint effort.
  2. Customer Success also needs to be better integrated to help keep and grow clients. Existing customers and referrals are the fastest way to generate leads. Customer Success should play a key part in this. They need to be trained to be more consultative and to work with their sales counterparts.
  3. Finally, re-discover individual and team purpose. I think this is the biggest opportunity hiding in plain sight of customer-facing teams. Salespeople who lack conviction about what they are doing will perform poorly. It is up to their managers to fix this. There are ways to get this done!

Reach out to me if you want more information on how to set up this kind of cross-training playbook.

There will never be a single "right" answer for generating leads because this is a moving target that requires ongoing efforts and a creative mindset. Back in 1987 there was another refrain heard blaring from gyms filled with athletes and their shiny new cross-trainers. It was Bono, singing from the Joshua Tree album, he summed up lead generation past, present and future when he wailed, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.


For those of you who do not know me, I build sales pipelines and develop leadership training programs that help companies increase business across regions and prepare next-gen leaders for tomorrow's global threats and #hybridwork opportunities.

I wrote a book about the lessons learned, good, bad and ugly, when expanding into foreign markets called The Accidental Business Nomad: A Survival Guide for Working Across a Shrinking Planet.  It makes fun of the hyper-growth expectations over the last few decades and won the 2021 Axiom Business Book Award and has been translated into traditional Chinese.

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