How long does it take to convert B2B leads to sales?

Generating sales leads is the goal of almost every B2B company. But in many cases, the marketer loses sight of the lead once handed off to sales. This lack of transparency makes it difficult to evaluate the disposition of the lead and the length of the sales process.

Marketing Sherpa recently released a study of more than 1,000 B2B marketers that analyzed the time span between lead generation and sales conversion. The results illustrated how this buying cycle can range from weeks to over one year. 44% said their sales conversion process took more than 6 months while only 17% said sales required one month or less to close (see figure 1).

In addition, the survey asked about the likelihood a lead would move from one stage of the pipeline to the next. The study found that on average, about four out of 10 leads moved from initial inquiry to being sales ready, and the same ratio of prospects advanced from sales-ready to fully qualified. From this point, only three of ten prospects converted to a sale. That means for every 100 leads that initially enter your pipeline, an average of only 5 will become customers.

The extreme length and complexity of the B2B sales process, coupled with dramatic pipeline erosion, highlight why lead nurturing has become an essential strategy for best-practice B2B marketing departments. Nurturing leads by offering highly relevant content satisfies early-cycle prospects’ information needs, plus helps accelerate their migration through the pipeline to conversion.

B2B Marketing Benchmark Survey 2009 © 2009 Marketing Sherpa