The Train Wreck Almost Nobody Foresaw

This week’s blog is by Jeff Ogden, President of Find New Customers, “We Make Lead Generation Simple.”  Ogden will also be special guest on SalesBuzz radio on Thursday, Sept. 17 at 3:30 p.m. EST, where he will share best practices in Lead Nurturing.

Once there was a time when business made perfect sense.

The CEO would look at last year’s EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) and factor it up by a fairly aggressive number, say 25%.  Then he would back out recurring revenues like maintenance and upgrades.  The result became the company sales quota, which the vice president of sales would divide by the number of reps and assigned to each salesperson.

Each salesperson would receive his or her quota and scale it up based on conservative estimates and close rates.  The result would be the pipeline needed.  Finally, each rep would figure out what calls, emails, events, etc. were necessary to find enough good prospects to fill the pipeline.

For a company seeking to earn $200 million in revenue, and which has 40% in recurring revenue, would need to book $120 million in new revenue.

If the company has 40 salespeople, each would have a quota of $3 million. A typical salesperson might decide it will take $7 million in prospects to ensure he makes quota and goes about planning his activities to find them.

That process worked for decades.  But suddenly, seemingly overnight, it stopped.  The train crashed.  What happened?

As the Internet grew more robust and broadband connections became commonplace, buyers realized they no longer needed salespeople.   They simply did their own research and narrowed their selections.  In fact, they began avoiding salespeople altogether.

Unfortunately companies thought they had business as usual; continuing to hand out higher and higher quotas and relying on salespeople to find leads.  But no matter how many phone calls they made or emails they sent, all they found were deaf ears.  Salespeople missed their numbers, were let go, and more were hired.  But the result was the same.

What almost everyone failed to realize was that a railway shift had just occurred, and nobody bothered to change tracks.  With the balance of power squarely shifted to buyers, early parts of the sales cycle moved to marketing.  Marketing now needed to take the ball and run with it – they needed to use new approaches to build trust with potential buyers.
Now, buyers turn to websites to search for solutions to business problems – and websites need to offer what they’re looking for.  More than ever, companies need remarkable websites filled with compelling thought leadership content.  Lead nurturing, the process of gaining the trust of potential buyers, has moved to the forefront.

What are you doing to avoid a train wreck?

4 thoughts on “The Train Wreck Almost Nobody Foresaw”

  1. What do I mean?

    What I mean is this: Companies using the sales approaches of as little as 5 years ago are no longer successful. The entire sales game has been turned around. Companies adapt or die.

  2. Jeff, Completely agree with your post. I could feel the train coming 2 years ago and knew it was closing distance daily. The company I worked for had scant marketing resources, and very old school sales management who laughed about barely being able to spell “w-e-b”. Finally, after 6 painful months, I was fired for not having my pipeline adequately filled.

    After leaving there, and began to read and listen to those, who like you, have a real handle on the sales (2.0) world. Today, I’m using inbound marketing techniques, as well as some outbound prospecting, and learning about lead nurturing.

    For those who haven’t figured out the train is coming it’s time to think and act differently – starting now. Follow Jeff’s advice, and find others like him who can help many to avoid their personal train wreck.

  3. Thanks for the thoughtful note, Gary. Most businesses have not adapted to this new world. Remember, Netscape came out in 1993. So the leadership grew up pre-internet, pre-Twitter, pre-everything. Unfortunately, buyers adapted to this new world.

    I’m utterly astounded at the poor quality of almost all B2B websites. Companies have a wonderful opportunity today — things can be done for far less than ever before. is every Friday and it’s done with a webcam. Same for

    Brooks Group does a great monthly radio show called the SalesBuzz. No radio required.

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