This is a guest post by Craig Rosenberg. Craig is Author of The Funnelholic, his very popular B2B sales and marketing blog. He is also VP of Products & Services at Focus where he oversees product creation, management, and delivery
These days, there are lots of buzzwords being marketed as panaceas to Marketing ROI woes: lead management, marketing automation, content marketing, lead nurturing, etc. Don’t get me wrong, all of these things have major impacts to your marketing bottom line. But there is a big mistake: people are talking less and less about dedicated lead qualification teams.
In my years in the business, one thing has not changed. The most successful lead generation/lead management programs have dedicated phone resources whose sole job in life is to take raw inquiries and qualify them before they are sent to sales.
There are a couple of things you need to know upfront. First, marketing automation is not a replacement for lead qualification. As a matter of fact, marketing automation makes the lead qualification function more efficient, that is, they can qualify more leads for your sales team. Secondly, sending a list of “scored leads” to quota-carrying sales guys doesn’t work either. As you might imagine, I listen/read tons of content on lead management and I’ve heard this a couple times and it’s ridiculous. Actually, I take this back, you can do this if you want your marketing automation/lead nurturing initiative to fail. Lastly, no matter what you do, if you send unqualified leads to sales, you will either fail or get minimal ROI from your marketing programs. Period.
The key to every lead management process is to have a human tied to a phone-based function that sits in between lead generation and the sales team. What they do all day is follow up on leads from marketing and based on a set of qualification criteria, decide which ones should go to sales. You can in-source, outsource, I don’t care. But I do care if you send raw, unfiltered leads directly to sales. Here are the 6 reasons why:
- Sales exists to close business, let them do that please
Just look at the numbers: today it takes 3-15 touches to generate a qualified lead. That is NOT something you want your expensive, bag-carrying sales reps working on. Instead, you want them focused on closing business.
- Sales reps don’t want to follow up on leads anyway
They don’t, they won’t, and it’s a pain in the butt to get them to do it.
- You don’t want them to either
If you are a marketer generating raw inquiries or leads, your benchmark for success is leads-to-opportunity conversion or MQL (marketing qualified lead)-to-SAL (sales accepted lead) conversion. You won’t come close with sales doing their first voicemail follow-up. You want someone whose sole job it is in life is to reach your leads, overcome objections, make sure they are a fit, and get them connected to sales teams. We generate leads for 100s of clients, the differential of conversion rates between clients with lead qualification teams and those without is staggering. We have two clients who get the same leads, client with an optimized lead qualification and lead nurturing process converts leads at 40%. The other client, passing leads directly to sales, converts at 5%. (True story).
- You get the ability to optimize the process of “connecting”
Taking a raw inquiry and creating a qualified lead is hard but gets better with optimization. When you isolate this process, you allow for the process to continue to improve with lifts in conversion rates and ROI along the way.
- You get data
It’s amazing how many times I hear how marketers don’t get data because “sales isn’t updating their CRM.” With a dedicated lead qualification team, you get data…real data on your leads so you can optimize.
- It’s a tried and true method
I didn’t invent this. This process has been around for years because it works.
The message is clear: make lead nurturing a priority, create a lead management process, go buy a marketing automation product, but don’t forget the phone. Without lead qualification as part of your process, ROI will be elusive.