Effective lead management is crucial to sales success. Unfortunately, the reality is that many leads often go to waste. One reason is that marketers forward leads to sales and expect salespeople to know exactly what to do with them.
Don’t underestimate the power of well distributed leads. A lot of marketing departments overlook lead distribution and put all their efforts toward getting more contacts and prospects. Of course, that’s not bad–but if leads don’t convert, there is no benefit. Getting busts from leads isn’t always an issue of a badly qualified lead. The core of effective lead management is not only getting the leads to sales teams right away. It’s getting a good lead-salesperson match to result in a conversion.
Implement some of these tips to get the most out of your lead generation efforts.
Evaluate current practices
It all begins with testing your existing practices to see the areas you could improve upon.
Are you matching leads to salespeople’s skills?
Each lead is different. That said, marketing and sales teams that work in lead generation should try their best to categorize leads during qualification. There’s potential contract size and estimated budget. These are information that should be easily accessible based on your lead generation process.
A good way to categorize leads is by the level of sales skills needed to close the deal. The bigger potential contracts to go reps with experience handling similar. Here’s the deal: send the appropriate type of lead to the salesperson with the skill to match their need–or at least send them to the right team. Send leads needing further qualification to inside sales reps, but don’t send them straight to the closers.
The bottom line is to have a system of sorting and categorizing leads so you can distribute them quickly and smartly!
Are you matching leads based on location?
Sales orgs with a huge army of personnel would likely be organized based on territory. For smaller teams, it’s necessary for the sales org to categorize and group salespeople so they’d have a system when receiving leads from marketing. This opens up many opportunities to succeed–from the possibility of making local connections to just getting on the better side of prospects because the conversation would be “localized” to their area. The sales rep who will reach out would have made prior research as to what’s happening in the area to find tidbits of info helpful to the conversation.
Are you matching leads based on salespeople’s product or niche expertise?
There is no single route to becoming a salesperson. There are many interesting sales career stories, and marketing has to take this into consideration when distributing leads. Salespeople have unique abilities, experience, networks, and motivation. This unique set of skills and attributes should be leveraged to pair salespeople with prospects that have points of intersection with them.
Hasty round-robin lead distribution could do more harm than good. This randomized lead distribution tactic wastes so many leads because of bad matching. Not all salespeople are the same–so if you want to close more deals, you have to be mindful if the salesperson getting the prospect has the ability to close the deal.
Don’t drop the responsibility after the hand-off to Sales
When handing off leads to sales, it’s not only about forwarding the information. Make sure you gather all the information that would be helpful to the salesperson receiving the lead. Of course, be open to further inquiries–you want Sales to be able to run far with your lead. Pass on the lead but don’t drop all responsibility and ownership.
Send qualified sales leads to qualified sales people.
When deciding how to distribute leads, keep technical competencies into consideration. Leads that close are often from salespeople who can pose themselves as experts. This added to other categories like being in the same location as the prospect is the recipe for a hot sale. If you’re selling a high-level engineering product, make sure you get the prospect in touch with someone who is qualified to sell.
Push to hand-off only sales-ready leads
Always match the readiness of the lead (Are they sales-ready? Fit the profile of the ideal customer?) with not only the skills but the expectations of the sales team. There is often a disconnect between what marketing deems a qualified lead. Of course, the disconnect becomes apparent when salespeople are left frustrated with dropping conversion rates. Use tools that do lead scoring for you. Implement a solid lead qualification workflow. Continue tweaking your process based on the results of the hand-offs and iterate accordingly.
Verify through inside sales
Deciphering exactly when a buyer is ready to buy based on demographic attributes and online behaviors is a difficult process. Having inside sales or an equivalent role perform an outbound qualification upon reaching a lead score threshold, but before distributing the lead to sales, will add human intelligence to the lead profile, deliver more qualified leads to the sales force and improve the SAL rate significantly.
Capture appointments as much as possible
When generating leads, it’s always best to get some information about the prospect’s availability. As much as possible, pre-scheduling appointments should be done while qualifying. Setting appointments is one of the biggest humps that salespeople have to overcome each day. When you preset appointments while qualifying leads, you need to keep in mind that getting crucial information and potentially setting up an appointment save salespeople hours chasing leads for a good time to meet.
Track down the outcome of every lead
Tracking the outcome of every lead ensures that all sales opportunities are pursued– and pursued effectively while leads are still warm. On the whole, this practice helps organizations see the ROI of marketing. Getting the results in for various leads distributed not only helps you refine your lead scoring efforts, it also gives you an idea which leads were brought to salespeople who are effective in closing that type of sale.
Aberdeen Group reported that top performing companies are 50 percent more likely to have a dedicated person for lead management. This person is designated to communicate between sales and marketing for concerns regarding pipeline and lead data. The report continues on by saying that companies that don’t assign staff to dig up the results netted by Marketing are pouring money into a bottomless drum.
Define the stages
Gauging sales-readiness is tough if you don’t have a grasp of the spectrum of readiness across all leads. Instituting lead stages that define each of the stages a lead goes through on to its way to being sales-ready will help marketing and sales see eye-to-eye when it comes to matching leads with the appropriate salespeople. It’s also important to institute definitions for each revenue cycle as parallel with your sales cycle so the tracking and analysis continue as leads are handled by Sales.
Common industry terms are Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL), Sales Accepted Leads (SAL), and Sales Qualified Lead (SQL). The meaning and value assigned to each one vary from organization to organization. That said, what’s crucial is having defined stages.
Create an SLA
Sales and Marketing Service Level Agreements (SLA) codify each group’s objectives, responsibilities and performance measures. Typically, marketing agrees to deliver a fixed number of SALs and sales agrees to respond to each and every lead pursuant to agreed upon processes – which should include the timing, persistence, messaging and measured progress applied to distributed leads.
For example, it’s helpful to require each distributed lead be accepted or rejected within 12 hours (or it automatically reverts back to marketing for continued nurturing or redistribution) and be advanced to an SQL within 3 days (or again, it reverts back to marketing). Sales should also commit to returning stalled leads to marketing for continued nurturing (more on this in the lead recycling step). It’s critical that if either side doesn’t meet their SLA objectives, a meeting ensues and a remediation plan is quickly implemented
Lead Response Collaboration
Sales people should be the eyes and ears for lead behavioral responses and a process should exist to funnel this information back to marketing. Lead reactions will reveal what points of differentiation resonate and what messaging falls flat. Sales reps should invite marketers to listen in on prospect discussions and experience firsthand the trials and tribulations of winning business if they expect marketing to aid their sales pursuits.
In an Aberdeen research report titled Sales and Marketing Alignment, the firm found that two-thirds of top performing sales organizations have a formal process which brings marketing staff into active prospect selling situations. This participation is influential in helping marketing understand what customers want and how they can better assist their sales colleagues.
The same report shares that top performing companies are 29% more likely for sales and marketing to jointly perform win/loss reviews. Don’t let lost sale opportunities go to waste. It’s been my experience nothing changes people and processes faster than the loss of a heartfelt and significant sale opportunity.
What’s worked for you to optimize lead distribution?
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