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Chuck Schaeffer Lead Distribution Best Practices

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Lead Transfer Best Practices to Decrease Lead Leakage and Increase Top Line Revenues

In my prior blog post I shared my lead scoring framework. Just as accurate lead scoring is a prerequisite to delivering sales-ready leads to the sales force, sales transfer and follow-through is the process that both gets sales-ready leads to the sales person and validates whether the lead scoring is working or not. However, the sales lead transfer process creates a blind spot, requires sales and marketing alignment to work and as most CMOs and marketing automation consultants will attest represents the single greatest breakdown point in the lead generation process.

The mechanics of assigning leads pursuant to a lead score to sales people are simple. However, lead assignment in the absence of accompanying processes does little to ensure that leads are followed through or combat the perennial problem of lead leakage. The biggest surprise for most business development leaders when defining the optimal lead transfer procedure is understanding the prerequisites which must be in place long before leads and forwarded from marketing to sales. Consider these best practices when designing your lead distribution process.

Lead Distribution Best Practices

  1. Align Sales and Marketing. While many companies talk about sales and marketing alignment, fewer actually integrate their sales and marketing planning and implement the disciplined processes needed to deliver predictable results. I personally recommend starting with shared objectives. Nothing unites colleagues and encourages cooperation like shared financial incentives. If sales is held accountable to revenues, but marketing hides behind activity and vanity metrics, you won’t achieve true sales and marketing alignment. If you expect to get sales and marketing contributing to the same revenue-based performance objectives, you’re best advised to align their compensation plans and incentives. I personally favor measuring marketing performance based on four factors, being the volume and growth of MQLs, the volume and growth of SALs, marketing’s contribution to the sales forecast and marketing’s contribution to closed/won business.

  2. Dedicate Resourcing. According to an Aberdeen Group report titled, Crossing the Chasm: with Automated Lead Management, top performing companies were 50% more likely than lower performing counterparts to have a lead administrator communicate between sales and marketing for pipeline, forecast and closure data. The report goes on to state that companies without the assigned staff to mine marketing program results "are paying for it with dramatically lower results from their marketing programs." This resource should facilitate sales and marketing lead management responsibilities, monitor those responsibilities, identify non-conformance and implement remediation actions for variances. This role should also constantly be on the lookout for operational disconnects.

  3. Define Lead Stages. Defining a sales-ready lead is a key step in the lead scoring process. The lead distribution process must also consider definitions for each of the revenue cycle stages that will be tracked and measured once the lead is distributed to sales. While the names of revenue stages vary, common terms and definitions will include MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead), SAL (Sales Accepted Lead) and SQL (Sales Qualified Lead).

  4. Define Lead Routing. Common lead routing techniques include i) random assignment, ii) round robin assignment, iii) assignment by territory, product or salesperson and iv) queuing leads for a first come, first serve distribution.

  5. Define Lead Response Timing & Persistency. Hot leads get cold fast so when a lead is ready to talk with a sales person, it’s pretty important to be one of the first sales people to engage. This can be very impactful, as evidenced by an MIT Lead Response Management research study which illustrated that a delay from 5 minutes to 10 minutes in reaching out to an online lead response decreases the probability of actually contacting the lead by 400 percent. Waiting 30 minutes before following up with the lead decreases your chances by 21 times. Similar research by InsideSales.com found that a sales person is 100x more likely to make contact with a new lead, and 21x more likely to advance that lead into the sales pipeline, if live contact is made within the first five minutes of a lead being submitted. With hot leads, time is of the essence. Another lead response study by InsideSales.com revealed that persistency pays off. The research found that most sales people make two or fewer attempts to contact a new lead before giving up. However, those sales people that made two or more attempts via email or calls fell into the 75th percentile of success.

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It is the hand-off process between marketing and sales where many revenue opportunities are lost and prospects' perceptions of the organization are damaged."

—Michael Gerard, Research VP, IDC

 


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