| May 12, 2023 | | 15 min read

7 Fastest ways to burn sales leads in 2023 (and what a sales lead manager can do to help)


Sales leads are a precious thing and that’s why sales professionals work tirelessly to market, attract, and qualify them. But it can all be squandered and tossed aside in a single step, or even with a click of a button. Companies waste an astonishing 71 percent of their inbound leads, according to Forbes. As a lead comes in and goes through the sales funnel, you need to avoid any mistakes made along the way. In this blog, we explore what those big mistakes are, how sales professionals can take ownership of those missteps and get their acquisition numbers back on the right trajectory.

Download our ready-to-use email templates to reengage old leads for free and scale your sales process.

What is a sales lead?

A sales lead is a prospective customer who has shown interest in your products or services, serving as a potential source of revenue and growth for your agency.

While there is no shortage of opportunities out there for sellers of digital services,  growing a successful agency isn’t as simple as waiting around for those opportunities to present themselves. Your success hinges on your ability to identify, cultivate, and close deals with potential customers. That’s what the concept of sales leads is all about: creating a steady pipeline of sales opportunities to secure tomorrow’s revenues and growth.

At the heart of every thriving business lies a well-orchestrated sales process, and identifying sales leads is the first step in this process. A sales lead can be any person or business that has expressed an interest in your offerings. Leads can originate from a variety of sources, including inbound marketing efforts, advertising campaigns, or referrals from happy customers. The key is to cast a wide net, capturing as many business leads as possible to ensure a healthy pipeline full of lots of good-quality opportunities.

Of course, identifying a sales lead is just the beginning of the sales process Once acquired, these leads need to be qualified and nurtured through a systematic approach, tailored to your agency’s goals and the specifics of the lead. This can include:

  • Providing the lead with valuable information to help them make their decision
  • Using personalized communications to build a relationship with the customer lead
  • Following a schedule to touch base with the lead and keep them interested
  • Offering deals, bundles, or other incentives to encourage the lead to close

The bottom line? Sales leads are the fuel that powers your agency’s growth engine, and without a consistent supply of leads, even the most innovative and useful products or services can fall flat.

What does lead burning mean?

Lead burning refers to the process of losing a prospective customer by engaging in any of the common mistakes that salespeople can make to turn off an otherwise promising potential buyer.

Given the central importance of customer leads to the success and growth of a business, you don’t have to be a sales guru to recognize that they should be treated with great care, giving each one the highest chance of converting into a paying customer.

However, without the right strategy, tools, and structure, it’s worryingly easy to lead burn, diminishing your agency’s future revenues. Lead burning can even lead to a diminished reputation for your agency, so it’s important to know how to avoid this sales pitfall.

While there are plenty of ways to unwillingly lead burn, they tend to share some things in common:

  • Lack of systematized process: In the absence of a structured lead management system, it becomes difficult to track and nurture leads effectively, increasing the likelihood of lead burning through uncoordinated, haphazard, or redundant marketing efforts. This is especially true for growing agencies that haven’t created a system to manage a greater number of leads than they’re accustomed to.
  • Lack of research and understanding of the business lead: Failing to properly research and understand a lead's needs and preferences can lead to irrelevant or impersonal communication, ultimately causing the lead to lose interest in your offering. It can also cause salespeople to position the wrong products since they don’t take the time to understand their prospect’s pain points.
  • Breakdown in communication: Poor communication with clients, or even between marketing and sales teams, can result in inconsistent messaging, over-contacting leads, or neglecting sales follow-up, all of which contribute to lead burning and the loss of prospective customers.

Different types of sales leads to explore

Business leads all represent potential opportunities to become paying customers, but they vary in important ways. They are generally categorized according to the source through which they were gained or by their stage in the sales funnel.

Understanding these categories can help agencies and sales lead managers take the correct actions at the right time to maximize the chance of a sale.

Types of sales leads by source

  • Inbound leads: These are leads that are generated via marketing efforts, like content marketing, SEO, or social media campaigns. Inbound leads are often considered high-quality since they actively sought out your agency or expressed interest in your services. Instead of having to reach out to these leads, they present themselves, indicating an existing need for your offering.
  • Outbound leads: This type of lead is generated through outreach rather than marketing efforts. This can take the form of cold calling, email campaigns, or direct mail campaigns.  These aren’t quite as “hot” as inbound leads, since they may only be hearing about your agency for the first time, but they can still be valuable if they are properly researched and targeted. Sales is sometimes a numbers game, so generating more leads through outbound marketing efforts can help fill up your pipeline.
  • Referral leads: As the name implies, these types of sales leads are referred by existing clients or others who are familiar with your agency. These are considered very high-quality leads, because they tend to have a higher conversion rate than other types. It’s easy to understand why: we tend to trust referrals from people we know more than we trust advertising.
  • Event leads: Trade shows, conferences, webinars, and other events can be fruitful sources of business leads. Attendees at these events are often actively seeking information or solutions, making them great candidates for lead generation.
  • Paid advertising leads: Any leads generated through paid ad campaigns are advertising leads. These customer leads can be costly, but a well-targeted ad campaign can result in lots of quality leads for your business.

Types of sales leads by stage

  • Cold leads: Cold business leads might match your target audience but have not yet expressed interest in your products or services. They require engagement and nurturing to build awareness, develop a relationship, and potentially land a sale.
  • Warm leads: Warm business leads have already demonstrated some interest in your offering, increasing their chances of converting. Interest can be shown by signing up for a newsletter, opening and clicking through emails, downloading lead magnets such as ebooks, attending webinars, or browning your website multiple times.
  • Hot leads: Hot business leads are prospects with a clear intent to purchase, like those requesting a demo, submitting a sales inquiry through your website, or creating an account. These types of sales leads are the most likely to convert, are farthest along the sales cycle, and should be prioritized by salespeople.

The importance of a sales lead manager

A sales lead manager plays an important leadership role in the process of generating and developing opportunities and overseeing the entire lead management system, from acquisition to conversion.

While it may seem like hiring an additional person in a sales lead manager role increases sales costs without directly increasing capacity, in reality, this function is likely to maximize the efficiency and success of your sales team. Here’s how:

Streamlining the customer lead generation process

A sales lead manager can take on the responsibility of designing and implementing lead generation strategies that effectively target your agency’s ideal prospective customers.

This involves identifying the most appropriate lead generation channels, optimizing marketing campaigns, creating sales outreach rules, and maximizing return on every dollar spent generating leads. In this way, a sales lead manager can help to ensure a steady influx of high-quality leads for the sales team to pursue.

Implementing lead segmentation and scoring

Once leads are generated, they have to be organized and scored according to their purchase intent, likely budget, engagement level, and other factors. A sales lead manager can develop a rubric for lead segmentation and scoring, making it easy to organize customer leads in an efficient way.

This helps teams identify and prioritize high-value prospects so they can spend their time more effectively. It also makes it easy to tailor marketing efforts to the needs and preferences of each segment.

Enhancing lead nurturing efforts

A sales lead manager can help define lead nurturing strategies that guide prospects through the sales funnel. This might include the creation of personalized marketing campaigns, the development of relevant content and assets, outlining of a communication schedule for leads, and the creation of sales negotiation guidelines. By helping salespeople nurture leads effectively, a sales lead manager can increase the likelihood of more leads converting.

Facilitating alignment between sales and marketing

Sales and marketing teams need to work together to maximize conversions. By creating shared objectives and establishing clear communication channels between sales and marketing, lead managers can minimize the likelihood of prospects receiving redundant or misaligned communications from different departments in your agency.

Measuring and analyzing sales performance

Sales lead managers can gather data about the effectiveness of lead generation and nurturing efforts, identify roadblocks and causes of lead burn, and define areas of improvement for sales teams. Overall, they can help your agency continuously improve when it comes to finding, managing, and closing more business leads.

Let’s take a look at some of the fastest ways salespeople tend to burn leads. By getting familiar with these, you’ll be well on your way to creating a more effective, optimized sales process.

1. Slow sales follow-up

The odds of qualifying a lead decreases by 80 percent when you contact that lead in 10 minutes vs. five minutes from their initial inquiry. Improving response times often means connecting with that lead while they are still poking around on your website. Waiting until the next day to reach out or call means you’re no longer top of mind. Track when a client is opening an email with tools like Yesware, MailTrack® and Pipedrive. You can also utilize the hot-lead notifications feature of Vendasta’s built-in CRM and reach out immediately when you know that a prospect has clicked through an email link in your latest nurture campaign. Then call the prospect with a soft-sell strategy in mind to avoid seeming overbearing.

Instead of a more curt approach like:

“Hey I noticed that you’re inside the email I sent .” or “Hey I see you’re looking at that email right now. Do you have any questions?”

Try a less direct way of addressing the content you know they just opened. You could use an opening similar to this to get the conversation flowing:

“I sent you some information recently, and there were a number of components in that information that I thought might be of value to you. I was wondering if you’d had a chance to read it?”

"The quicker the response time means that the lead is likely still on your website, or maybe they are retaining some of that information in the email you just delivered before they opened 16 others, and now they’re thinking about those brands. So don’t wait to call. The longer you wait the colder the lead gets."

George Leith

Chief Customer Officer, Vendasta

Bar chart illustrating that the number of sales leads qualified by responding in 5 minutes is 80% higher than the number of sales leads qualified by responding in 10 minutes.

2. Not enough points of contact for business leads

Another misstep sales organizations can make is not to touch base often enough, or through a  mix of different mediums. Cadence of contact will vary with every industry, but persistence is important.

Sample Schedule of Contact with a Prospect:

  • Day one: sales qualified lead receives a call and email
  • Day two: a LinkedIn connection is made and email sent
  • Day three: follow on Twitter and call again
  • Day five: email and retweet

Every action you take needs to move a lead closer to a sales discussion. Avoid messages that contain phrases like ‘reaching back out’ and ‘just checking in’ that have no takeaway. Sales professionals need to demonstrate the value of speaking with them every time they connect with a prospect. Prodding communication without value is annoying and will only drive a lead to unfollow and unsubscribe from your nurture efforts.

Pro tip: calls placed on Wednesdays and Thursdays are your best bet. You’ll have more success getting a hold of someone mid-week rather than on Fridays.

“It’s the message that you deliver that touches the audience, and it is the repetition of that message that really gives you that top-of-mind awareness. It ensures a marketing campaign has a hope of reaching its goal. Often, we don’t have enough points of contact and we don’t try hard enough,” Leith says.

Bluetooth earbuds with the Conquer Local podcast logo on the case, portrait of George Leith against backdrop of lit matches representing burned sales leads, and text “Listen Now: Four Fastest Ways to Burn a Lead. Master Sales Series on the Conquer Local Podcast with George Leith”. A green button with the text “Listen Now”.

3. No specific sales guru assigned for follow up

“We need to understand where the leads are coming from, how they’re being tracked so that we can follow up with them in a timely manner. And then determine who is following up? We also have to learn as much as we can about the customer...and move that knowledge into our talk track, so that when we do follow up, it is purposeful,” Leith says.

It’s important to ensure your marketing and sales teams work together to track where leads are coming from and who these are being assigned to. Sales professionals  should also ask whether any of the steps being carried out manually can be automated to increase initial response times and keep prospects engaged until an actual person can be assigned for follow up.

Finally, If your leads are ending up in an all-access spreadsheet wasteland, consider switching to using a customer relationship management or CRM system like those offered through mondayCRM, hubspot or Vendasta.

4. Weak discovery and qualification for customer leads

Going into a call blind is the fastest way to tank a lead. It’s important to understand that your prospect is an expert in their field and can tell right away if you don’t know what their company does or who they are.

“By doing weak discovery and qualification, we’re just basically throwing product at a wall, or at our customer and hoping something sticks. We’re hoping that they’ve done a ton of research and really understand what their problem is, and we’re just there with the right thing at the right time, at the right price. That’s not sales. That’s called, Amazon,” Leith says.

“What’s going to happen is that customers can just go buy that stuff themselves. They don’t need you, the trusted expert. True sales professionals are doing excellent discovery, not just at one stage of the buyer’s journey, but all the time.”

Steps for Discovery and Qualification:

  1. Do a quick website search and look up the lead on LinkedIn
  2. See if there are any links that can help you build rapport right away
  3. Nail down key qualifiers like business size, budget, and timeline
  4. If a customer isn’t the right fit, it’s okay to disqualify a lead

Moving an unqualified lead onto the next selling stage only wastes time that could be spent pursuing qualified leads. If you do need to disqualify a lead, refer them somewhere else that might be a better fit. You can even develop a referral directory to point them to.

Pro tip: If a lead is not ready to buy just yet, ensure your prospect still has a great interaction with your company and move them back to top of your marketing funnel and nurturing them through a marketing campaign until they are ready.

5. Failing to personalize the message

Generic, impersonal messages can make customer leads feel like they're just another name on a list, causing them to lose interest. The result? Another avoidable instance of lead burning.

To avoid this, make sure to personalize your messaging and tailor it to the individual business lead and even the specific contact. This can include referencing their needs or concerns as well as using their name and other personal details. This can increase the chances of the lead engaging with your message and moving further along the sales funnel. Given the increasing emphasis on personalization and data-driven marketing, failing to personalize your message can quickly result in lead burning and missed opportunities for conversions.

6. Not understanding the lead's needs

It's important to take the time to understand the needs, pain points, and goals of your sales leads before attempting to sell them anything. An excellent sales intelligence tool can help you do just that, by conducting a needs assessment and revealing the most urgent marketing opportunities.

Skipping past this step can result in a message that's irrelevant or out of touch with the customer lead's present situation. The goal of any salesperson should be to address the existing pain points of their prospects, rather than shoe-horn ill-fitting solutions that aren’t likely to result in a happy customer.

7. Focusing too much on the product

While it's of course important to highlight the features and benefits of your product or service, focusing too much on it can be a turnoff for some leads. Features are great, but the primary focus of conversations should be on the value that your offering provides, and how it can help them achieve their business goals faster, more effectively, or more economically. A benefits-focused conversation can help buyers see the bigger picture and understand how your offering fits into their overall strategy, making their lives easier rather than more complicated.

There’s no shortage of digital solutions out there in 2023, and many of your business leads may be inundated with marketing messages and sales offers. Cut through the noise by taking a customer-centric sales approach, shifting the focus from the product itself to the effect it will have on their work or business.

The result? Less lead burning, stronger relationships, and an increase in the likelihood of converting those leads into loyal customers.


Just to recap, the fastest ways to burn sales leads include:

  1. Dragging your feet on response times
  2. Not reaching out enough times
  3. Not properly tracking and delegating your sales leads
  4. Not asking the right questions
  5. Failing to personalize the message
  6. Not understanding the lead’s needs
  7. Focusing too much on the product

About the Author

Nicole Lauzon is a Content Marketing Manager at Vendasta and has spent the last decade of her career helping local businesses tell their stories. Kickstarting her professional journey as a writer and producer for a major Canadian television network, Nicole would later spend five years as a PR Agency Creative Director, managing brand journalism, social media, blog and video content for corporate, non-profit and local business clients. Whether Nicole is marinating over her next piece of writing or enjoying some down time with her family, she likes doing it in floral print.

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