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Effective Lead Management: Learn How to Convert Marketing Leads into Sales Pipeline
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Event Details
Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Effective Lead Management: Learn How to Convert Marketing Leads into Sales PipelineView the presentation1h 1m 26s (71.6 MB)

According to research conducted by InTouch, Marketers’ top challenges include converting leads to pipeline revenue, closing the loop on every lead and deciding which names are valuable

Many of these problems stem from perception and communication issues between Marketing and Sales. Getting both departments on the same page is the foundation of a well-optimized lead generation process. The solution involves more than just generating more high quality leads. Marketing and Sales need to use qualification and nurturing to optimize the leads already in the pipeline.
During this Webinar, Carroll outlined his ‘playbook’ for effective lead management and showed how the guidelines helped a partner optimize the lead generation process to produce major ROI gains.

Case Study 

Partner Company Overview: This organization handles the simplification of IT management of desktops and servers, and offers real-time change management capabilities. With $80 million in annual revenue and a team of 21 salespeople and 10 marketers, this company had a solid foundation but faced several lead management issues.

Before Lead Nurturing: The amount of leads was growing rapidly, but conversions to sales were not increasing at a similar pace. Marketing felt that the leads passed on to Sales disappeared into a “black hole,” and the Salespeople often provided little or no feedback on leads. Ultimately, we discovered the lead-to-sale pipeline conversation rate was less than two percent, and the organization was unable to consistently measure ROI.

After Lead Nurturing: Here’s an example of the huge impact an optimized lead generation efforts can have on an organization’s ROI. By re-engaging and nurturing early-stage leads as well as those not touched by sales, InTouch helped this organization add 4.9 million to the sales pipeline in just 8 months without a budget reallocation or increase. A majority of the early stage leads were actively nurtured, and they were able to grow sales ready leads by 375%. Overall: this organization achieved a 200% increase in the number of opportunities in their sales pipeline.
InTouch used the lead management playbook as a tool to identify, evaluate and address the underlying issues which included:

  • Marketing’s effectiveness was being hampered by a lack of consensus on a universal definition of a qualified lead.
  • Promising leads were disappearing because they weren’t qualified and prioritized, while early stage leads weren’t being nurtured into viable sales opportunities.
  • The lack of consensus and follow through meant that the sales team didn’t pursue the majority of leads.
  • Because there was no clear hand-off process or accountability connecting the Sales and Marketing teams, communication between the two had deteriorated.

Here’s what Closed Loop Lead Management should look like:

Lead Management Playbook: Five Keys Steps

The steps outlined in this playbook are actions InTouch took to rectify the partner’s issues. The five steps are the foundation of Carroll’s closed-loop lead management system:

  1. Refine universal lead definition of “sales ready”
  2. Qualify leads based on universal lead definition
  3. Nurture early leads until “sales ready”
  4. Define hand-off process from Marketing to Sales
  5. Close the loop via Sales and Marketing “huddle”

To understand the process of moving from effective thinking about leads to effective implementation, let’s examine the essential elements of each step.

Step One: Refine the Universal Lead Definition of “Sales Ready”

Organizations trying to measure lead generation without a universal lead definition (ULD), simply are not capitalizing on all their opportunities.  A universal lead definition can be a valuable aid to clarify the qualification status of new leads. Higher standards on qualifying inquiries to actual leads positively impacts conversion with lead to pipeline and lead to sale.
This survey shows  the difference a ULD can make in the lead management process:

Marketers need to combat poor lead management at the beginning of the cycle by focusing on increased communication between Sales and Marketing to:

  • Jointly establish the definition of a qualified lead, and
  • Clarify accountability and the process for nurturing qualified leads.

So, what is a lead anyway? At the beginning of the lead definition process, organizations should allocate time for Marketing and Sales to develop a consensus vision of what, exactly, defines a qualified lead for that organization. Once that definition is established, leads can be qualified and prioritized according to their readiness for the sales team.

While the definition of a “sales ready” lead will vary by organization, having a ULD will:

  • Develop the profile of the ideal customer to pinpoint qualified leads, and
  • Help identify the best possible opportunities rather than those that are fastest to close.

It doesn’t matter how leads are labeled, so long as the names have a clear significance that galvanizes the team.

The following model shows how leads develop over time. InTouch’s goal was to give Level 3 or higher to the Sales team because they fit the definition of sales-ready. Level 2 leads were nurtured.

Suggested Spectrum of Lead Definition:

Source: SiriusDecisions Lead Spectrum 2006 Lead Metrics Study (used with permission)

How to get there:

In the case of this partner, InTouch worked with the Sales and Marketing teams to develop a ULD based on criteria such as:

  • Spoke with a decision maker
  • Meets our ideal customer profile
  • Clear business need for what we sell
  • Plans to evaluate in three months or less
  • Purchase decision in six months or less
  • Ready to speak with sales rep within two weeks
  • Gathered information fits our target profile
    • More than 1,000 desktop systems
    • Current solution in place and satisfaction
    • Number of mobile users, company size, number of locations
  • Allow leads to be scored and prioritized
  • Define the degree of sales readiness
    Require buy in from sales and marketing

Leads that fit these criteria were considered “sales ready” leads, while those that did not were held back for additional nurturing. 

Step 1 Resources:
Five steps to help create your universal lead definition
Lead Generation Check list – Part 4: Clear and Universal Lead Definition

Step Two: Qualify Lead with Universal Lead Definition

Once an ULD has been developed, it’s crucial to make that language and those concepts central to the lead qualification process.
Leads qualified against a ULD have a higher lead-to-opportunity conversion rate.  That is, they are more likely to be considered true sales opportunities than leads based solely on an inquiry or form submission. In this Case Study, before lead qualification or ULD there was only a 4% opportunity rate. After implementing lead qualification using a ULD, the opportunity jumped to 12%.  That’s a 200% higher lead-to-opportunity conversion rate.

How to get there

Let the “less is more” theory become a rule. It’s necessary to consolidate and centralize inquiry information. Clumsy or redundant touches can undercut Sales and affect brand image.

Qualification using a ULD allows organizations to:

  • Pick up the phone and qualify prospective leads.
  • Determine a clear hand-off procedure for each lead
  • Measure sales pursuit on every lead

Step 2 Resources:
8 Tips for generating high quality leads that sales people love
On Lead Qualification: Steps to Convert Inquiries into Viable Sales Leads

Step Three: Nurture Early Stage Leads

While most Salespeople need to focus on qualified leads, Marketers and Sales should also broaden their lead management process to incorporate the nurturing of early-stage leads. Organizations deemed “best-in-class” see double the bid-win ration on nurtured leads compared to peers. In fact, nurtured leads deliver 47% higher average order values than non-nurtured leads.

Once InTouch began holding back leads for this partner and started nurturing them with relevant communication and multiple touches (3+ touches), the lead volume jumped to 76. That’s 375% in just 8 months!
How to get there

Lead nurturing is the creation of a relevant, consistent dialog with viable potential customers, regardless of their timing to buy. Our strategy for achieving this included satisfying the following:

  • Who do we nurture (Level 2)
  • Filter and organize content
  • Message Development
  • Define tactics for execution
  • Execution schedule set (monthly)

Remember to nurture organizations, not just people. Particularly with B2B, selling happens at a corporate level and a business unit level in addition to an individual’s level. The idea of “relationships” needs to be backed up with the sharing of intelligent information.

For this client, we were able to create a multi-track lead nurturing program. We nurtured the CIO, Director of IT and the IT Manager. Based on their roles, we sent content that was specific to their needs. Besides nurturing, we were also able to track touchpoints of companies. We were able to break down and show which companies had 1 contact identified, which had 2 and so on. We were also able to show if their roles and functions were identified as well.

Because adhering to a ULD encourages consolidating information about your leads, companies can approach relationship building with a lower risk of redundant touches (email, phone, etc.) that would undercut sales and the company’s brand image.

With that in mind, using a “multi-modal” approach to nurturing is essential to organizing and filtering the content of your interactions. The content InTouch built for this organization was educational and informative. Here’s an illustration that shows the many channels used for lead nurturing:

Lead nurturing can be just about anything that gives your prospect valuable information. Here’s an example of a lead nurturing email. Content can also include a link to a video or whitepaper.

Here’s a sample of an email that links prospects to an article. This blog contains high-value content with educational intent. Content like this helps to set up this organization as a thought leader in its industry.

Step 3 Resources:
Resource: “What IS and ISN’T Lead Nurturing”
Lead Nurturing - Ripening the Right Bananas 
"Thought leadership for Lead Nurturing" (content strategy)

Step Four: Define Hand-off from Marketing to Sales

Lead-to-opportunity conversion rate is one of the most important metrics.  It helps you understand how well Sales team accepts and pursues leads, and ultimately shows if leads are truly helping the Sales force sell – and how much of a positive contribution Marketing makes to the pipeline.

How to get there:

An effective hand-off from marketing to sales is more than simply passing along a lead. It actually answers three questions:

  • Is the lead sales ready?
    • Do they fit your Universal Lead Definition
    • Must confirm “do you want to speak with a sales rep?”
    • Provide qualification information for each lead
  • The hand-off: agree on a process
    • Like a relay race…don’t drop the baton
    • Who owns the lead now?
    • No more one-and-done
  • Require a time-limit on a turnaround once leads are distributed

    Here’s an example of a lead tracking sheet:


    Step 4 Resources:
    Lead Generation Checklist - Part 2: Sales and Marketing – One Team

    Step Five: Close the Loop with Sales

    A football team would never think of skipping the huddle between plays. Sales and Marketing should view their work together in the same way. If Marketing wants to see what’s happening with their leads, it’s important to get live feedback on leads from Salespeople. It yields better lead refinement.

    How to get there:

    1. Create a process for joint Marketing and Sales “huddles.” These teams need to meet at least once a month to gauge the progress. For this partner, InTouch started a weekly huddle to get the system rolling, and then shifted to biweekly as the system took root.
    2. Structure meetings around questions such as :
      • Have you been satisfied with the quantity of leads that has been generated?
      • Is there anything unique about the leads that went into the sales pipeline or were closed?
      • Do database notes contain enough information to prepare for the next steps?
      • What other questions would help us better prepare for the next action
    3. Know the status of the leads currently in the sales process.  Which leads have been incorrectly qualified and need further follow-up? Which leads need to be handed back to Marketing for additional nurturing?
    4. Review what’s working with the current process and consider what needs to be improved. What wins can be celebrated with both teams?

    Feedback huddles can meet with resistance from team members and can be a challenge to organize or facilitate. The reward for this extra effort, however, is more than worth the improvements in all aspects of the Sales and Marketing partnership, as well as greater results.

    For this partner, 75% of the leads became active contracts and their proposal to contract percentage (aka closing rate) was almost 39% of all proposals.

    Take a look at the Tracking and Reporting Chart for InTouch’s partner:

    Step 5 Resources: 
    "Collaboration Huddles and 35 Other Ways to Improve Teamwork"
    “Closed Loop Feedback: The Missing Lead Generation Huddle”

    Now let’s pull it all together to see the ROI Impact of the Playbook:

    After working with our partner to implement the five strategies outlined above, in only eight months’ time, the results were remarkable.

    Based on the partner’s average figures:

    • Average sale: $100,000
    • Cost per opportunity: $4,611
    • Cost per sales ready lead: $665

    Plus the improvements from the playbook approach:

    • 375% growth in sales ready leads
    • 200% growth in lead-to-sale pipeline rate

    The end result was:

    $4.9 million in additional sales pipeline growth in 8 months

    Having a clear ULD is one of the most critical factors for tracking ROI. Simply put, if you are not using a ULD, you are using skewed numbers.

    Remember, cost-per-opportunity is a more valuable ROI indicator than cost-per-lead because it tracks viable sales opportunities – not just leads that drive more activity.

    If organizations are just measuring CPL and not CPO, they won’t know if leads are actually helping sales sell more. The key is to have consistent, meaningful, relevant dialog – regardless of prospects’ timing to buy. When that opportunity comes, they’ll view organizations that maintain this approach as trusted resources.

    Other Free Resources:
    B2B Lead Generation Roundtable on LinkedIn

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