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The answer from sales teams is, unfortunately, “often”. Definition of what a lead looks like is an important step in properly joining up sales and marketing activities. The purpose of marketing is to keep the sales funnel topped up with appropriate prospects for the sales teams to convert. Everyone accepts that not every lead will turn into a new customer, but expectations can vary widely and for the sake of team cohesion, as well as efficiency, it’s important that everyone knows where marketing’s role ends and the sales function takes over.
Sales leads are often qualified on the BANT scale – rating a prospect on the availability of budget, decision making authority, perception of need and immediacy of purchase timeframe – which requires human-to-human conversation to take place. Out-sourced telemarketing functions will often use a BANT score to qualify their sales appointments or leads for hand over to the client. Internal telesales teams usually use a similar metric before passing prospects over to the field based sales function. There’s not a lot of room for subjectivity in BANT scoring – it’s a fairly prescriptive model.
Marketing qualified leads are typically measured on a points scoring system based on email opens and clicks, social media engagement, website visits, event registrations and so on. Inbound leads may be scored higher than outbound ones because the prospect has self qualified by making a proactive engagement, showing they are already established on the buying journey. These qualifiers require the marketer to estimate which stage of the buying journey the prospect is at based on the content they engage with and the frequency of that engagement. It’s scientific, but in a very loose way.
If the definition of a lead for a particular business is not tight enough, sales could spend too much time on qualifying prospects and not enough time on closing deals. Conversely, if a lead gets too warm before sales engagement, there’s a real risk of a competitor getting in there first.
So, what we want to get to is the right blend of scoring metrics for the marketing qualification stage to maximise the rate of lead conversion to sales qualified opportunities. 50 leads a month with a 25% conversion is better than 100 leads a month with a 10% conversion, both in actual numbers and also sales efficiency. An important behavioural benefit of improving lead qualification at the marketing stage is that sales people will come to approach leads in a more positive and purposeful manner than they may otherwise do.
What if we were able to get more information at the marketing stage to help define that the lead really is a lead? To what extent could additional information improve the conversion rate by influencing the sales approach?