I’ll admit it. We are a wonkish bunch at Compile when it comes to the topic of sales and marketing. We scour the web for interesting research reports, we follow some of the best thinkers and try to stay on top of best practices in the domain.

Part of this is self-serving – we want to continuously optimize our sales machine as we seek new customers. But we also want to share new ideas with our customers and remind them of tried and tested processes so they can improve their win ratio. As a lead generation service, we show more value when our customers are able to close more deals.

We have collected valuable insights on sales and marketing organizations over the years. And while industry and company size vary, one issue that cuts are across teams is the paucity of well-qualified prospects.

In some ways this is paradoxical as inbound marketing has revolutionized how companies engage with their customers. And with social selling and data-driven outreach, outbound is no longer a synonym for cold-calling.

Here’s what we have realized: The number of leads isn’t the issue; it’s the quality of leads that trips most organizations.

In our experience, if your pipeline is flooded with leads, yet conversions are not happening, it’s because of the following reasons:

Your leads are static, your customers aren’t

Most lead sources are great at giving you names and phone numbers of potential buyers at organizations. However, people change jobs or move to a new role. Chances are that your lead source won’t catch the change, particularly if it is fairly recent as most use crowdsourced or web scraping techniques to identify contacts.

It’s estimated that contacts in your database deteriorate at the rate of 24% each year. So if you don’t update your database every few years, half of the information in it could be junk.

You may be chasing the wrong people

There is no guarantee that your contact is the right person to make a decision on buying your product. For instance, if an IT administrator has downloaded a whitepaper on networking protocols, it doesn’t necessarily indicate a need for your product. He or she could be a stakeholder, but may not be an influencer in the eventual sale.

Your leads have to be linked to a buying activity within the organization and must identify relevant people. Otherwise your sales reps waste valuable time chasing either cold opportunities or contacts that aren’t empowered to make a decision.

You may have connected a little too late

Finally, the right details of the right people are only useful if there is an active project and you connect with them early. It’s an oft-repeated statistic that most buyers are more than halfway through the buying cycle before reaching out to vendors. While the exact timing varies, you have to connect with the buyer during the early stages of the sale.

Too often teams confuse activity for outcomes and are disappointed when the end of the quarter looms. Take a closer look at the leads in your sales pipeline. Are there any that fall into these three buckets?

My next post this Thursday will discuss how data science can help improve the quality of your leads.

Editor’s note: This is an edited version of a previous post, which was published on 12 June 2014.