You will likely agree that through various demand generation strategies, the process of qualifying sales-ready leads has become more efficient and effective than ever.
That means better alignment between sales and marketing as both teams strive to improve lead quality and to maximize customer lifetime value.
Traditionally, marketers manage the top of the funnel, attracting prospects and converting them into leads that can then be handed off to sales partners who manage bottom of the funnel, including converting leads into customers.
As you know, lead generation is just one of the demand generation strategies in your tool belt. Now more than ever, marketers work with leads and customers at every stage of the buyer’s journey. That includes leads further down the funnel at the decision stage as well as existing customers.
At the same time, sales have expanded their efforts toward helping marketers in top-of-the-funnel activities as well. Demand generation activities like lead scoring and customer segmentation now rely heavily on the sales team’s input for increased efficiency and effectiveness.
The result of this new relationship is a better definition of what makes a sales-ready lead.
So what exactly makes a lead “sales-ready”?
In the past, “sales-ready” meant the lead aligned with the old sales acronym, B.A.N.T., which stands for:
However, in the age of digital marketing, you will likely agree that definition is a bit outdated. That is because perfectly qualified leads may not meet all the criteria in the early stages of the sales process. Through lead nurturing and other demand generation practices, it is possible to uncover (and even improve upon) areas like budget and timeline.
Keeping that in mind, here is how to best define a “sales-ready lead”:
- In a position of authority (or direct influence). Ideally, you would love to only pass decision-makers to your sales team, but you know that is not realistic with the way companies research solutions. 60 percent of the B2B sales process now happens before contacting a sales rep, and much of that top-of-the-funnel activity is being done by subordinates either on behalf of the decision-maker or in coordination with him or her.
- Has a problem and the desire to fix it. For a lead to actually convert to a customer, he or she needs to be aware of a problem and in search of a solution.
- Has adequate demographic data (particularly contact information). Finally, a sales-ready lead has at least one form of contact information - whether it be email or phone - so that sales can actually make contact with the lead.
Of course, every organization has its own criteria to add, but all in all, these three areas make up the basic criteria for whether or not something should be passed along to sales.
Are all sales-ready leads created equal?
Not if sales and marketing are working together to define a structured lead scoring process.
The combination of sales’ insights into what defines a “hot” lead and marketing’s wide array of incoming data from across various campaigns and channels gives both teams the opportunity to collaborate on a scoring system. That system can be used to prioritize sales-ready leads, giving a higher score to those who potentially meet more of the traditional B.A.N.T. criteria and a lower one to those who may be missing contact information or are clearly not decision-makers based on their job title.
Does lead scoring only work with top-of-the-funnel leads?
No, in fact the best demand generation specialists are applying the same lead scoring methods to their company’s existing customer base as well.
With such a huge emphasis on customer lifetime value as the new measurement of marketing ROI, teams are focused on identifying upsell and cross-sell opportunities within their book of current customers.
Just as the top-of-the-funnel process requires input from sales, so does the process for existing clients. Sales should help marketing “learn what to look for” in customer data, while marketing helps sales by quickly handing off high-quality leads to sales for follow-up.
What impact does lead scoring have on the business overall?
Simply put, an efficient lead scoring process means higher conversions and more revenue. With 35-50 percent of B2B sales going to the vendor who responds first, getting your hottest inbound leads in the hands of your sales reps quickly could be the difference between a closed deal and a missed opportunity.
Here is another impactful statistic. Companies using lead scoring showed a 77 percent increase in lead generation ROI.
Pretty crazy, right?
Of course, that level of success hinges on the idea that you are working with clean, quality data - not something most companies can claim.
That is why using a good data management platform is absolutely critical for any successful lead scoring process. Lead scoring requires accurate and up-to-date demographic data to properly assign a priority-level. That is exactly where a tool like ReachForce can help.
Not only does Reachforce collate data from across your various inbound channels, it enriches that data in real-time to fill in important gaps that can dramatically affect a lead score.
For example, suppose you had a simple lead score scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being a hot lead.
If you had a lead come in for a Chief Technology Officer at an enterprise-level prospect, but the contact information is wrong, that is a dud lead, right? That is unfortunate, because aside from the missing contact information, it is likely sales would be interested in talking with someone like that.
Enter your data management platform. As the CTO completes the lead capture form and joins your database, the tool searches for alternative contact information to fill the gaps. Now, that lead is easily a 5 that can quickly be passed along to your sales partners.
What other demand generation strategies can increase sales-ready leads?
There are quite a few. Consider each one individually:
While marketers should take pride in knowing their audience, do not forget that it is the sales team who work in customer-facing roles each and every day. Data can tell you a lot about what your customers want to see from a content standpoint, but salespeople hear it from the customers themselves every day.
That is why collaborating with sales on a monthly basis to brainstorm content ideas can really help increase the number of sales-ready leads that come from your nurture campaigns. If leads are being fed the content they need to help them make a buying decision, then you are directly impacting that conversion and increasing revenue for your company. You need sales to give you their insight into what content will work best.
Gating Your Most Valuable Content
Another strategy surrounding your content is to put the most valuable material behind a lead capture form.
The average B2B buyer reviews three to five pieces of content before engaging with sales. While top-of-the-funnel leads might spend time perusing your blog, reading your FAQ, or checking out your social media pages, leads further along in the buying process will want access to whitepapers, case studies, and pricing comparisons. Gate that type of content with a simple lead capture form that asks for only the information you need to properly score the lead.
What happens when someone plugs in a fake email and phone number? That is where using ReachForce helps you. Not only will the platform scrub the bad data, but it will also help you find the missing details your sales partners need to follow-up on the accessed content.
Depending on the page your leads are visiting on your website, the number of times they have visited before, and how well they match the buyer persona of your target customer, you can present any number of different calls to action to try and qualify a lead as “sales-ready.”
For example, if a lead clicks on a “contact sales” link or engages with a live chat on your site, that lead is likely much warmer than one who clicks the link to subscribe to your mailing list.
Both are valuable. One, you want to hand off to sales right away; the other, you want to nurture over time.
Speaking of nurturing, one of the most important demand generation strategies you can employ to increase sales-ready leads is a quality lead nurturing program. While 61 percent of B2B marketers just send all leads through to sales, here is the worse truth. Only 27 percent of those leads are actually sales ready.
That means nearly three-quarters of the leads entering your pipeline every day need to spend more time in a nurture campaign before being handed off. It also means handing them off early can have some dire consequences for your conversion rate and brand reputation.
If your sales partners are contacting leads before those leads are ready to have a conversation, they may be perceived as aggressive or over-eager, thus damaging your brand.
Leads contacted too soon are also more likely to unsubscribe from your mailing list and detach from your brand altogether in order to avoid future communication.
With that in mind, keeping a well-planned lead nurturing plan in place means you are converting leads to sales-ready leads, handing them off to sales only when they are absolutely ready for that conversation.
Remember, quality data is the fuel for generating sales-ready leads. What is the easiest way to rest easy knowing your data is clean and enriched? ReachForce, of course.