The talented folks at Kuno Creative recently published an excellent article: Creating Lead Hand-Off Plans for Better Marketing and Sales Alignment.
This article highlighted the importance of alignment of marketing and sales to the success of lead generation programs. It focused on the interface between the two departments, specifically what happens when leads make the leap from ‘marketing qualified’ to ‘sales qualified.’ To summarize Dan Stasiewski: Sales and marketing need an agreed upon process for handing prospects from Hubspot to Salesforce.com (and sometimes back again).
According to the author, that process includes five primary steps:
- Step 1: Clarify Goals
- Step 2: Define Lead Stages Together
- Step 3: Create Lead Scoring Criteria
- Step 4: Develop Notification Process
- Step 5: Prepare Processes for Returning Leads to Marketing
After reading the article, I left a comment suggesting an additional step was missing between numbers four and five.
To expand on this comment, let me present Step 4.5.
Establish a Formal Lead Pursuit Process
Lead Pursuit refers to the process a sales organization follows as they attempt to convert a lead into the first conversation. When a lead gets handed to sales, there exists an expectation that the lead will be pursued aggressively and diligently. Unfortunately, the specific approach to Lead Pursuit is rarely formalized, consistent, or transparent in sales and marketing management.
Not surprisingly, this often represents a barrier to sales and marketing relationship effectiveness. It also represents a missed opportunity for process optimization at what may be the most critical point in the entire selling process.
The elements of an effective lead pursuit process include:
1) Persistence Criteria
Even well nurtured Sales Qualified Leads require persistence, which I define as the quantity of contact attempts across all channels (phone, email, etc). It shouldn’t surprise anyone that leads approached with a single call and voicemail do not perform as well as when multiple attempts are applied over several days.
2) Communication Medium and Sequencing
Medium relates to how sales resources intend to follow up on leads. Sales organizations tend to vary widely in their preferred contact medium and this variability increases at the individual salesperson level. More often than not, salespeople gravitate towards an email-centric approach, which reduces the overall effectiveness of the program.
One of the things I’ve studied extensively is the impact of multi-channel prospecting on conversion effectiveness. For any prospecting environment, the overall volume, timing, frequency, and sequencing of lead pursuit efforts can be ‘dialed-in’ and has the ability to dramatically impact results.
Here is an example of a detailed pursuit ‘map’
Messaging includes the language (call scripts, emails, voicemails, etc.) used to respond to a lead. I’ve already written about the importance of using standardized email templates. Recently I reviewed an application called Tout App that helps sales teams standardize and assess the effectiveness of emails.
A focus on ongoing standardization and optimization of the words we use applies equally to voicemails and even the talking points presented during a live-connect. I’ve personally witnessed highly qualified leads walk away due to a sales resource ad-libbing their pursuit process dialogue.
4) Timing and SLAs (Service Level Agreements)
Timing of Lead Pursuit refers to the duration of effort as well as how soon that lead gets ‘picked up.’ Once again, there is no right or wrong answer in terms of what sales should be doing. The approach used, however, must be clear and consistent.
By way of example, a lead-nurturing program that includes a high degree of nurturing and delivers prospects ‘ready-to-buy’ might need a response within hours. Less qualified leads suggest a larger window for follow up (perhaps days) allowing balance between lead pursuit and other activities.
Most importantly, pursuit timing must defined and transparent as far as marketing is concerned. Nothing frustrates a marketing team more than to receive feedback that their leads are not performing only to learn they are not receiving timely attention.
Putting It All Together
Effective selling requires that sales and marketing read from the same playbook from the first time a visitor hits the website through to closing the deal. That said, it all comes down to what happens when sales gets hold of a lead marketing has worked to acquire and nurture.
A well designed, formal, and consistently executed Lead Pursuit process represents the single greatest success factor in sales and marketing management. Just as marketing must be held accountable for every dollar spent on lead acquisition and nurturing; sales must be transparent in their handling of that lead as well as accountable for their efforts so that the organization as a whole can continue to invest in the top of the funnel.
By Townsend Wardlaw