Generating leads is a task that requires in-depth strategy and ongoing refinement. Some sales and marketing activities consistently result in leads pouring in, while others have them trickling in one by one. Whatever the activity used, a lead is not a lead for the sales team just because it comes in as a result of your lead generation efforts.
So, what makes a lead sales ready? While the definition of a sales ready lead may vary from company to company, the vast majority of companies would agree that a sales ready lead is a person that meets all, or most, of the following criteria: has budget, authority, need and timeframe (often referred to as BANT).
Crying Wolf with Leads
When does it make sense for marketing to pass leads to sales? This is a question that has been known to spark heated conversations between many marketing and sales professionals. While opinions may vary, the bottom line is, the only way to answer this question is to get very specific in the definition of a sales ready lead and make sure sales and marketing are in agreement on this definition. Note: mentioned above is BANT, and defining a lead versus a sales ready lead based on the four “categories” of budget, authority, need and timeframe can be a good place to start internal discussions.
If there isn’t a clear definition of a sales ready lead in place and if marketing consistently passes a large quantity of leads to sales that are not a fit (cries wolf), sales will begin to assume all of the leads are false cries.
A recent survey of over 900 B2B marketers conducted by MarketingSherpa, uncovered only 42% of those surveyed require that the lead has indicated a valid business need before passing on to sales. This means that over half of these marketing professionals pass leads to sales without even knowing if they are a fit for the organization. This also means, the non-lead to lead ratio that sales sees is most likely pretty high.
This commonly seen practice can be devastating to lead generation efforts, as the sheer amount of leads passed to sales for follow up can be overwhelming for the busy professionals. Plus, the repercussions of following up with these leads, time after time, only to uncover they were never even a lead at all are quite damaging to the process and can lead to frustration and avoidance. This shift in attitude from sales and unwillingness to follow up with marketing generated leads in a timely fashion means, that even though true leads are mixed in to the incoming lead pool, they can easily be overlooked. To avoid this and generate the best results, the role of the marketing professional should extend beyond the initial lead generation efforts.
3 Key Steps Marketing Should Take With Every Lead
To ensure sales professionals consistently value the leads generated by marketing and follow up in a timely matter, marketing professionals need to take a few extra steps before passing leads on, including:
1. Pre-qualify incoming leads. As leads are coming in, it is important to ensure they are actually a fit. There are multiple ways this can be done, ranging from quick web searches on the company to more in-depth changes to your marketing practices. For example, if a lead comes in through a web form, you can be strategic with the questions asked, helping to weed out those that are simply conducting research, are smaller than your targeted profile, etc. If a lead comes in as a result of a tradeshow, you can require them to fill out a quick onsite survey (note, as an incentive, you can use this as a necessary step to qualify for your booth giveaway). Or, if a lead comes in through web chat or phone calls, you can have important qualification questions prepared in advance. Having marketing perform these simple steps to qualify leads will drastically help reduce the amount of dead-end leads passed to sales and ensure the sales professionals stay motivated to follow up with the leads that are sent on.
2. Nurture leads that are qualified, but not sales ready. Just because a lead isn’t sales ready when first received, doesn’t mean it couldn’t lead to a sale down the road.
So, what should be done with these leads? Just because they are not sales ready, does not mean they should simply be placed in a marketing database with other potential prospects to just “sit there.” Instead, these leads should be treated with care and entered into strategic nurturing campaigns that will help keep your organization top of mind and enable you to continue a longer term relationship with them. When they have taken additional steps to show they are ready to be passed to sales, marketing can send them on with confidence.
3. Only pass leads to sales that meet your company’s definition of “sales ready.” In order to ensure marketing’s hard earned leads are being followed up with in a timely manner, it is important to eliminate as many dead-end leads as possible before passing on to sales. This will not only keep sales excited about incoming leads, it will ensure they continue to value the hard work that marketing puts into generating these leads and ensure sales continues to support ongoing marketing programs.
Call on Sales, Only When Needed
When it comes to lead generation, it is not the quantity of leads that sales professionals care about, it is quality. And, the higher the quality leads you pass on, consistently, the more likely sales professionals will be to drop everything to follow up.
On the flip side, the more bad leads you let slip through, the less likely they will be to “come running.” Following the steps outlined in this article can eliminate leads being overlooked and ensure those sales ready leads get the immediate attention they deserve.
Contact Launch Marketing
Need help on increasing alignment between sales and marketing around leads? Or want to implement an effective lead nurturing program or marketing automation solution? Contact Launch Marketing today to learn how we’ve helped our clients achieve great results.
Graphic Source: https://justpenandink.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/youre-never-supposed-to/