The Dangers of Filling Your Sales Pipeline W/ Low-Grade Leads

13 min read
Apr 19, 2022

Are you one of the many sales reps who finds filling their sales pipeline with new leads an excruciating process?

Are you also the sales rep who hops on any potential lead opportunity regardless of who they are, just so that you can finally be done with lead gen?

If so, then we have a (major) problem.

Filling your sales pipeline with low-quality leads for the sake of alleviating your hatred for lead generation is only a setup for bigger problems down the road. It’s a prime example of how short-term thinking leads to long-term disaster!

I’m sharing the true consequences of filling your sales pipeline with low-grade leads. Unless you switch to a long-term mindset, then you’ll continue to bear these long-term consequences!

By long-term consequences, I’m talking about things like:

  1. Constant headaches
  2. Losing out on prime sales opportunities
  3. Routinely missing sales goals

Filling your pipeline is critical for overall sales success. Therefore, set yourself up for success by only taking the best of the best leads!

 

What Is a Sales Pipeline Used For?

 

A sales pipeline is a sales tool used as a visual representation of the selling and buying processes. There are different stages of the pipeline in which each stage represents a new phase of the simultaneously occurring processes.

As sales teams generate leads during the early stages of the sales cycle, the leads officially enter the pipeline. Once leads convert into paying customers, they exit the pipeline.

There are a couple of key sales pipeline metrics that help sales teams optimize the way that they sell, including:

  1. Conversion rates
  2. Sales velocity

First off, when it comes to pipelines, conversion rates represent the rate at which leads convert into paying customers. Of course, sales teams strive for a 100% conversion rate.

Second, sales velocity is the speed at which salespeople convert leads into paying customers. The higher the speed, the less time leads spend in the pipeline and the sooner they convert into paying customers.

Oftentimes at the end of the selling cycle, sales teams will use these two key metrics to conduct a pipeline review in which they determine whether or not they have an overall healthy sales pipeline.

While the term pipeline is thrown around a lot and often takes on several definitions, its main purpose is to keep the selling and buying processes organized and aligned.

 

What is a sales pipeline?

 

What Are Sales Leads?

 

In B2B sales, sales leads are businesses that may convert into paying customers.

In B2C sales, sales leads are people who may convert into paying customers.

The term lead is often thrown around with the term prospect. While they are often used as synonyms, they are technically different–a prospect is a potential lead who has yet to be contacted, while a lead is a former prospect who has already been contacted and has technically ‘entered’ the pipeline.

Additionally, sales teams sometimes break leads down into two categories:

  1. Marketing qualified leads (MQLs); and
  2. Sales qualified leads (SQLs).

An MQL is a lead who expresses interest in your product or service but still isn’t intent on making a purchase yet, while an SQL is a lead who has a clear interest in making a purchasing decision.

If you’re extra keen on organizing your pipeline and particularly your CRM software, you can break your leads down into prospects/leads and MQLs and SQLs. However, it isn’t 100% necessary.

 

How Do You Generate Sales Leads?

 

Generating sales leads takes place during the lead generation step of the selling process. It is represented as the first stage of the sales pipeline.

There are three key lead gen techniques that sales teams use to siphon leads into the pipeline, including:

  1. Cold outbound outreach - cold calls, emails, and social media messages
  2. Inbound marketing - content marketing, webinars, SEO, etc.
  3. Referrals from current customers

First off, cold outreach is the technique in which you’re most likely to generate the vast majority of your leads by reaching out directly over the phone, email, or social media.

Second, inbound marketing is the technique in which you get sales leads to come to you by putting out appealing marketing content. Be sure to sync up with your marketing team to curate the best inbound marketing strategy yet!

Lastly, so many sales teams miss out on the single-best opportunity to generate leads, which is asking for referrals from current customers! Don’t miss out on this opportunity to generate high-quality leads by simply asking your current customers for referrals.

It isn’t rare at all for salespeople to completely overthink the process of generating leads. That said, simply stop overthinking it by sticking to these reliable, key techniques.

 

Who Is a Good Sales Lead?

 

Not every lead is a good lead! Just because a prospect happens to respond to your cold call or reach out after seeing your marketing content DOES NOT make them a “good” lead.

That said, who is considered to be a good sales lead?

Good sales leads are those who are the most likely to convert into paying customers because they fit your:

  1. Ideal customer profile; and
  2. Ideal buyer persona.

Sure, there might be some “good” leads in your pipeline who fit your ideal customer profile and ideal buyer persona but never end up converting into a customer for whatever reason.

Still, you should stick to leads who fit those two key profiles rather than simply spending all your time, energy, and resources on leads who don’t!

 

Who Is a Qualified Lead?

 

Before going any further, what makes a lead a qualified lead?

A qualified lead is a lead who has gone through your qualification processes. The goal is to work with as many qualified leads as possible versus as many leads as possible. Hence, why I always say that lead gen is a quality game versus a quantity game.

There are usually two qualification processes that take place at different phases of the sales pipeline, including:

  1. Before making initial contact with the prospect
  2. The lead qualification phase of the pipeline

First off, before even reaching out to prospects, you need to determine whether or not they fit your ideal customer and ideal buyer profiles.

While this first qualifying step is usually softer, it’s still 100% necessary, because you don’t want to waste all your energy reaching out to potential customers who are highly unlikely to ever work with you at all.

Second, after making initial contact with the prospect, you siphon them into the next stage of the sales pipeline for an initial meeting.

That initial meeting is commonly referred to as lead qualification, in which you do a much deeper dive into whether or not the lead is qualified to work with you. During that meeting, your job is to dive deeper into the lead’s:

  1. Top pain points
  2. Company culture
  3. Current state

At the conclusion of the meeting, depending on whether the lead is qualified or not, one of two things happens:

  1. Qualified leads get a step up for the next sales pipeline stage; or
  2. Unqualified leads give you referrals, you connect on LinkedIn, and separate.

This is the make or break point in which you separate the high-grade leads from the low-grade ones!

 

Why Sales Reps Waste Time on Low-Grade Leads (Important)

 

The reason why we’re all here today is because too many sales teams spend too much time and resources chasing too many low-grade leads who are completely, and sometimes very obviously unqualified!

The reason: They have a scarcity mindset rooted in fear!

By that, I mean that they approach sales with the belief that there are only so many leads out there, and for that reason, they grab on to whoever they can because they tell themselves that leads are generally scarce!

Moreover, it’s like being in a field of flowers and picking the first one you see out of fear that you won’t find a better one further into the field!

On top of that, sales reps are often conditioned to believe that filling a pipeline with leads is a difficult process with many hoops to jump through. With that in mind, the scarcity mindset penetrates even deeper.

That said, while filling your pipeline is certainly challenging, that doesn’t mean that it’s difficult and that leads are scarce!

Instead of letting your scarcity-based mindset overwhelm you, learn to get the root fears under control. The moment you do so, you’ll start to recognize more and more high-quality leads out there at your disposal.

Furthermore, filling your pipeline with high-grade leads instead of low-grade ones starts with your mind!

 

What is a sales pipeline used for?

 

Here Are the Dangers of Filling Your Pipeline With Low-Quality Leads

 

As much as you might despite lead generation, that’s not an excuse to start filling your pipeline with low-grade sales targets for the sake of closing out the lead gen process.

Sure, it might make you feel good for the moment, but you’ll eventually have to face the consequences of having low-quality, unfit leads in your pipeline.

Not every seemingly new opportunity is worth your time or is even an opportunity at all. Instead of lowering your standards for the sake of alleviating momentary discomforts, get strict with the types of leads in your pipeline!

 

1. Wasting Time, Energy, & Resources

 

First and most obviously, you waste a whole lot of time, energy, and resources when you have a pipeline filled with crummy leads.

Rather than only having to focus on your qualified leads, you suddenly have tons of additional unqualified ones to give your attention to.

As a result, you’re left feeling totally drained!

Sound familiar?

If you’re feeling drained early on in the lead gen process, then it’s a good sign that you’ve got too many low-grade leads in your pipeline who don’t deserve your resources.

 

Your Sales Team Needs Leadership

 

Your team members need your strong sales leadership!

However, if you’re feeling extremely drained in the early stages of your pipeline, how do you expect to keep up as a sales leader for the rest of the selling process?

Rather than draining all your time, energy, and resources right off the bat and inevitably neglecting your role as a leader, preserve what you’ve got!

Otherwise, you unfortunately can’t be the leader who your team members and even current customers need.

 

2. Elongating the Sales Process

 

The more leads in your pipeline, the longer the lead gen process and the entire selling process gets.

Nothing good ever happens when the sales process gets longer than it needs to be.

Not only do you and your team members probably despise it when the selling process gets exceedingly long, but so do your qualified leads.

Because whenever your selling process gets super long, their buyer’s journey also gets longer, which they certainly don’t like!

Think about it: If you’re a lead trying to solve one of your pain points, wouldn’t you want to make a purchasing decision sooner rather than later? Of course, you would!

If you’re wasting tons of time on unqualified leads, your sales process will get longer, and then your qualified leads will start to resent you.

 

Qualified Leads Will Resent You

 

Imagine that you’re on the side of the highway with a flat tire. You pull out the phone number of a roadside car repair company that you were recommended. After getting on the phone with the repair company, they say, “Great! We’ll be there in 5 hours!" While you were hopeful that you could get out of the situation quickly, you suddenly realize that it’s not going to be that simple. One second later, you’re on the phone with another repair company.

If you elongate your new customer’s buying process in this same way, they will inevitably start to resent you and go looking for other options.

At the end of the day, they don’t want to have their own time wasted, especially by someone who claims to want to help them.

That said, stop wasting time on low-grade leads and simultaneously ruining your qualified lead’s buying process. In the end, it’ll only make them resent you and they’ll go looking elsewhere for options.

 

Target Decision-Makers

 

What is the simplest way to shorten your sales process altogether?

Simple: It’s targeting the top stakeholders who do the decision-making at your target companies. By doing so, you reduce the odds that a lead has to communicate back and forth between you and their superior who has the final authority in making purchasing decisions.

Rather than having a bottom-up approach, follow a top-down approach. Decision-makers at your target companies who fit your ideal buyer persona are the highest-grade leads!

 

3. You Set a Low Standard for Yourself

 

Don’t you think that you’re worthy of leads who respect you and your expertise? Don’t you think that you deserve leads who match your level of commitment?

If you believe those things yet you’re constantly going for the lowest hanging fruit, then you’re basically a walking contradiction. Moreover, you’re setting a low standard for yourself.

When you set a low standard for yourself, how could you expect anyone else to hold you to a high standard?

 

You’re Supposed to Set a Positive Example

 

As the sales leader of your business, you set the tone for what is and isn’t acceptable behavior.

So when you set a low standard for yourself by always allowing your time to be wasted by low-grade leads, you’re inevitably saying that that is acceptable behavior. Suddenly, your sales team will start following your negative lead.

Does that sound anything like setting a positive example?

Instead of always setting a low standard for yourself and inevitably leading by a bad example, set your standards high to lead by a positive example.

 

4. Major Disorganization

 

The more leads in your pipeline, the more likely you are to get extremely disorganized. More specifically, the more likely your time will be incredibly disorganized.

Rather than blocking out your time each day to focus solely on your most qualified leads, you’re getting pulled in countless different directions by an unnecessary amount of people at once.

Had you not filled your pipeline with an insane amount of low-grade leads, this wouldn’t have happened.

 

All You’re Doing Is Putting Out Fires

 

How often does this happen to you: You open your computer for work in the morning knowing what you need to do to have a productive day. Suddenly, you’re getting pounded with messages from leads who are all begging for your attention. Then at the end of the day, you realize that instead of getting actual work done, all you did was put out fires.

Had you organized your time better by choosing to focus solely on problems related to qualified leads, then you wouldn’t have this problem at all. Rather than putting out fires all day, you’d actually be getting legitimate work done.

 

5. Less Time for High-Quality Leads

 

Perhaps the most obvious and most damaging consequence of filling your pipeline with sub-par leads is the high opportunity cost that it’ll create with your qualified leads!

While you could have spent more time and energy investing in leads that are actually good, you’re being pulled away by leads who are highly unlikely to buy from you.

NEVER let a low-grade lead steal you away from a high-grade one. The opportunity cost is simply too high, plain and simple.

 

You’re Taken for Granted!

 

The moment a high-grade lead realizes that you’re wasting time on low-grade leads, then they’ll start to take you for granted. More specifically, they’ll start to take you less seriously.

Why?

Because they’ll see you as somebody who doesn’t hold themself to a high standard. In that case, why wouldn’t they take you for granted?

 

sales pipeline stages

 

6. Guaranteed Prospect Ghosting

 

Is there any worse feeling than getting ghosted by prospects and leads? Probably not!

That said, filling your pipeline with countless unqualified leads is like asking that to happen!

Why?

Because unqualified leads will realize that they’re wasting time talking to you as you really aren’t fit to help solve their problems.

At the moment, you might feel like you’re doing the absolute most to increase the number of deals you close, but all you’re really doing is setting yourself up to get ghosted.

Also, it won’t be just unqualified leads who ghost you, but qualified leads too!

Why?

Because their buying process will get extremely long and they’ll start to take you for granted.

Unless you like being ghosted (which literally nobody does), then stop filling your pipeline with sub-par leads.

 

7. Guaranteed Sales Plateaus

 

Hitting a sales plateau is another one of the most painful consequences of filling your pipeline with crummy leads.

Sales growth takes extra time and effort, so if you’re putting that added time and effort towards undeserving leads, then you’ll inevitably plateau instead of grow.

Moreover, you’ll get that feeling as if you’re spinning your wheels extremely hard yet not growing at all.

 

8. Sacrificing Existing Customer Relationships

 

Up until this point, I’ve left one victim of your bad sales pipeline habits out of the conversation... and that victim is your current customers!

Never forget that your existing customers play a critical role in your overall sales success. Just because they’ve already signed their name on the dotted line doesn’t mean that you can kick them to the curb. In fact, if you do that, then they’ll find any reason to ditch working with you altogether.

That said, instead of wasting time on undeserving, sub-par leads, put that time and attention towards fostering your existing customer relationships.

At the end of the day, your customer relationships are your BIGGEST business asset. You truly don’t understand the value of your relationships until you lose them.

Therefore, don’t put yourself in the position to neglect and eventually your current customers who have already invested in you for the sake of focusing on sub-par leads. It’ll only turn your current customers off and make them want to run for the nearest exit.

 

Final Thoughts on Filling Your Sales Pipeline With Low-Quality Leads

 

Stop disrespecting yourself, your selling process, and your valuable sales pipeline by filling it with leads who are the least likely people to close deals with you. Moreover, stop filling your pipeline with leads who don’t deserve to be there in the first place.

As challenging as generating leads is, it’s not an excuse to hop on any lead who just so happens to answer your cold call or email!

Bottom line: When it comes to your pipeline (and quite frankly B2B sales in general), always opt for quality over quantity and long-term versus short-term. It’s the best way to ensure sales results that actually match your efforts!

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