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Part II: Do your Sales Leads Work as Hard as You Do?

In Part I of "Do Your Sales Leads Work as Hard as You Do", we looked at databases and the importance of responding to sales leads in a timely manner.  Part II covers the qualification, lead qualification and lead scoring.


Part II - And now for the conclusion of the article ...  

Qualify, Qualify, Qualify!

An inquiry is an expression of interest, whereas a lead is an expression of interest that is qualified to purchase the product or service and has an identified timeframe to make a buying decision with an established budget.



Attempt to qualify each inquiry before it is sent to the sales organization. The time and effort spent up front qualifying these leads can result in gigantic payoffs down the line in the form of increased sales productivity. Many companies argue that inquiry qualification is one of the tasks they pay their salespeople to accomplish. This is a shortsighted approach. Let's see why:

 

  1. Sales reps are paid to sell. Typically, they are paid quite well to sell. When your sales reps are spending more time selling to qualified prospects and less time qualifying inquiries, everyone is a winner.
  2. Inquiry qualification can be handled quite well by a lower cost resource, usually a trained telemarketer.
When push comes to shove, the vast majority of sales reps would rather have a root canal than pick up the phone and qualify inquiries. (See above for real-world research.)

A well-designed inquiry qualification program will increase sales results and sales productivity. This process can also assist a company to determine accurately which programs are working the best to create sales.

Components of an Inquiry Qualification Program

Elements of a well-constructed inquiry qualification program are as follows:
  1. Define a consistent set of criteria, with significant input from sales, which help identify who is an ideal prospect. Typically, these will be what kind of company (end-user, reseller, distributor, government, etc.), what industry, an indication of either the company's size or the size of a potential deal, what budget has been established, what is the anticipated decision timeframe and any other items a company needs to identify the companies with whom they should be spending time.
  2. Once these criteria have been agreed upon by s start using them whenever the company has contact with a potential buyer—at a trade show, when they come to the Web site and request information, on business reply cards, etc. This will help prioritize which companies to pursue and the follow-up timeframe, as well as become an excellent source of marketing profile information that can be used to identify companies for future sales and marketing programs.
  3. Start classifying all inquiries and qualified leads with a standard format. It is important that the Lead Quality code contain at least two characters: one relating to a decision timeframe and the other relating to either the company or potential deal size.

This Lead Quality Scoring format will accomplish several important objectives:

  • Decisions can be made regarding which leads should be forwarded to sales. For instance, should accounts looking to make a decision 13 months from now be sent to sales? Should they be put into an e-mail nurturing process that sends out regular communications and invites them to call or visit the company's Web site when they are ready to start evaluating solutions?
  • As qualified leads are sent to sales, they will have a better way to prioritize their follow-up activities. 
  • Decisions can be made regarding the most cost-effective way to fulfill these inquiries. 
  • It is possible to track the number of inquiries from a marketing program plus the number of qualified leads, as well as the timeframe and size of these leads.

As more information is tracked over time, the marketing department can evaluate which activities are generating the best leads and which activities need to be expanded, modified or eliminated.

By incorporating these elements into a comprehensive sales lead management program, companies will experience increased sales results and sales productivity. Their overall cost of sales will decline and the sales cycle will be shortened.

Mark Friedman
© 2011

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