We lost because we didn’t win.
Regular readers of this blog will have noted that I have plenty to say about lead management, marketing automation, search engine marketing, lead nurturing and e-mail marketing. And quite rightly so; this is all part of what we do here at B2B. But vital as these areas are to the marketing mix, they are only rendered profitable when they convert into sales-ready qualified leads. And the key word here is ‘qualified’.
This is achieved by having a full-time dedicated lead qualification resource working on the phones. Their exclusive job in life is to process incoming enquiries, as well as warm leads generated by the marketing team, and qualify them before they are passed on to sales to be pursued. And in all my years in this business, this one action has remained unquestionably the most important factor in generating profitable leads.
The fact is that when it comes to making an intelligent judgement, marketing automation is no match for real-life sentient human beings who follow up leads based on a set of qualification criteria. But, often carried away by the idea of having instantaneous incoming leads, too many companies pass these unqualified enquires directly on to sales without first having spoken to them. However, missing out on this vital step is a false economy. Our experience shows that businesses that use an optimised lead qualification and lead nurturing process can convert leads at 40% or even higher. Those that pass leads directly to sales frequently convert as low as 5%. Sending unqualified leads to sales means you will almost certainly fail to achieve a sustainable ROI.
A sales team exists to close business
In today’s marketing landscape it takes from between 3-15 contacts to generate a qualified lead. And this is not something you want your expensive commission-driven sales reps working on. And even if they are burdened with this responsibility, sales people simply don’t enjoy following up on unqualified leads and it can be a full time job just to get them to do it.
Worse still, it’s time poorly spent.
The benchmark for a profitable lead is leads-to-opportunity conversion or MQL (marketing qualified lead)-to-SAL (sales accepted lead) conversion, and you won’t come close to hitting a healthy ratio by having your high-performing sales people stuck on making routine phone calls.
Far better to employ someone whose exclusive job is to make prior contact with leads, to overcome any objections, to check that there is a fit between your product and their needs. Save your heavy guns for the final assault and use the infantry to locate the targets.
It’s also a case of horses for courses. A dedicated lead qualification person has the opportunity to optimise the process of connecting with prospects (as well as maintaining a fully updated CRM system) and it gets easier with practice. Isolating this task is shown to make a marked improvement on conversion rates and ROI.
Whether you have the resources to run an in-house lead qualification team, or whether you outsource the process, make lead qualification a priority. By all means automate your marketing, but never underestimate the effectiveness of real live people on the end of a phone. It works.
That’s it for now. Thanks for reading and, as ever, your comments and ideas are very welcome.