January 19

Disciplined Lead Qualification improves sales performance

Lead Generation


Recent studies show that sales people want selling time more than sales leads.  Best practice driven companies are recognizing that it is futile to continue to pass marketing driven inquiries directly to sales before they are rigorously qualified as "sales ready." 

Last week, I visited with a CEO who was really upset with his marketing team because he felt they were generating a lot of "junk leads."  He said, “I don’t think my sales people will invest any more time calling marketing generated leads until I pay them to do so.”  That may sound extreme but numerous studies have shown that 70 – 80% of leads are never contacted by a sales person. 

We must realize that the extreme time pressure salespeople face—especially those with a complex sale—requires them to ignore what is not immediately relevant and highly likely to produce revenue. Why? They are not paid to do anything else. And that makes quality more important than quantity to them.

Today’s article, in MarketingSherpa, is on point because it argues that marketing must drive the entire lead qualification process.  In addition, they found that phone calls aka telemarketing is the single best way to qualify leads and provide some great tips on how to do it right.  How to Qualify Sales Leads for IT Products & Services via Telemarketing

Related post: How to ensure every single lead is followed up on

My company has tried and tested a number of different lead qualification and scoring approaches for our clients.  We have found that using the phone – aka teleprospecting – is the single best way to qualify leads as part of a overall lead management process.  No other tactic is as accurate when it comes to collecting the qualitative information salespeople require to justify pursuing a prospective lead. The phone is timely, interactive, and personal—the perfect combination of assets for building a relationship.

About the author 

Brian Carroll

Brian Carroll is the CEO and founder of markempa, helping companies to convert more customers with empathy-based marketing. He is the author of the bestseller, Lead Generation for the Complex Sale and founded B2B Lead Roundtable LinkedIn Group with 20,301+ members.

  1. The problem of generating inquiries that turn into customers is complex. One part of the problem is that marketing departments are frequently measured differently than the sales department — their goal is maximizing inquires instead of maximizing revenue.

    One part of the solution is to measure marketing and sales management using the same metrics, such as the number of new customers, new revenue, and possibly total revenue.

    There are a variety of ways to track inquiries all the way from first contact through to closing an order. Once the marketing department and the sales department are both measured on orders and revenue, they’ll work together to increase orders and revenue.

  2. Brian,

    Good post, and I totally agree that a disciplined “process” approach will improve sales, lower the cost of sales and reduce the sales cycle.

    Along the lines of Cliff’s comment, the fundamental problem is the division between sales and marketing. For the purpose of selling, and that’s where lead generation falls, they need to be viewed as one process. We “market” the way we do because it’s a lower form of customer acquisition than selling…otherwise, every company would just hire more sales people and do no marketing. Yet companies don’t view this as one process, everyone ends up with different goals and measurements, and this problem persists.

    You’re doing a good job of bringing this to everyone’s attention.

    Tim Young
    [email protected]

  3. Brian-

    Sales representatives are sometimes hesitant to follow up on leads provided by marketing based on historical close rate and inconsistent definition of a “lead”. Most marketing organizations are very adept at creating “target”-i.e. customer segments where the company’s product or service should add value and fit within the competitive offerings.

    What is normally missing is the further qualification that sales requires before they will add the “lead” to the potential sales currently in the sales funnel.

    Those qualification points are:
    -Confirming the names/titles of the decision maker/influencers within the customer organization. The target list provided by marketing may be a contact that provided the data to the telemarketer or list compiler.
    -Knowledge of the business problem the customer is trying to solve by use of the company’s product or service. If the customer is not seeking (or at least receptive) to a discussion of a current business problem, the sale usually does not move forward.

    Getting through these first steps in the sales process is time consuming. If a sales representative takes the time to move through these steps only to find that the “target” does not currently have a need, or that the decision is made in another location, or that the potential sale will be very small, he/she will be hesitant going forward.

    What is needed is a method to better qualify targets, even those provided by telemarketing. The process would provide reps “leads” where the customer has self- identified the business problem and interest in solving. The process would give the representative the contact data for the decision maker or recommender that has pre identified the need.
    The process would enhance the “diagnostic” steps in the sales process, and insure that the rep is spending time closing rather than finding business.

    Great column-

    J. Allen Hurst
    VP Sales
    Pinpoint Selling

  4. I was struck by the COO who said “My sales people will not invest any more time calling marketing generated leads until I pay them to do so.” I would venture a guess that this company’s problems have more to do with “people” issues than with not having a more disciplined lead qualification system.

    Anyway, what’s considered a good lead generation program will vary considerably depending on a number of factors including industry, buyer demographics, product type and price. A lead generation program used by a company selling a $100 web-based software application will be quite different than what Oracle may use for their ERP solutions. Furthermore, not all leads are equal. If a prospect takes the time to email me and/or visit my web site to request more information, that should certainly be given more weight than someone who put their business card in a fish bowl at a tradeshow in order to win a Palm. Any sales rep at my company who doesn’t respond within an hour to the email or web request “because they didn’t get paid to do so” would have some explaining to do.

    J. Allen Hurst’s comment “What is needed is a method to better qualify targets” is exactly right. Whatever method is used to generate the lead, there must also be a consistent method in place to qualify, weight (e.g., fishbowl versus email) and triage the lead. And while there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this task, there is one basic rule every company must follow – FOLLOW UP ON EVERY LEAD 🙂

    Good posting and great comments.

    Mark Willaman

  5. A direct marketing study 20 years ago denoted that people who inquire about items usually inquire about several items. They tested reply’s to two groups. The first group they marketed the normal way they had been doing. The second group they added one more thing, they included a copy of the actual article/advertisement the reader had to have been looking at when they decided to inquire. Guess what, the second group with the copy of the ad generated results almost 40% higher than the first group.

    The same is true today with consumers, they are either to busy, inquire to too many things or have simply forgot about why they were interested in the first place. If you don’t respond instantly and create the same feeling for that consumer that he or she was feeling when they decided to inquire, you might as well forget paying for a bunch of leads. Learn to close more leads. Revsourceinc.com “opportunity cost selling” leads to higher closing ratios.

  6. I cover this subject on a pretty regular basis on my weblog. The alignment and level of communication/ collaboration between Sales and Marketing is a universal issue. For the period between Nov ’04 and Jan ’05 I attended 6-7 networking events … all of which had subjects that revolved around this vast chasm of nothingness.

    Here’s one of my posts:
    Marketing and Sales Alignment

  7. Great article. Been in business most my life but it was always brick n’ morter. Now its mostly on the net and it is so much different, but oddly enough the principals are the same. The phone remains a very important tool, and aside from talent, it IS a numbers game. If I call 5 people in a day, I can almost be sure I’m not going to make a sale. If I call 50 I’m going to make 3-5 sales. Doesn’t matter how pretty my website is (and it is), or how many items I have on it (it’s the biggest of its type); I STILL have to make those calls as do my salespersons to targeted qualified leads. Since we do unique gifts and collectibles we can slack (only a little) simply because we are so busy with clients coming to us, but that is just for a month or two.

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