Good news! Someone downloaded the eBook your team worked hard on creating. Or maybe they just went right to your contact us form and said they wanted to talk. Or they could have just placed a call asking to speak with someone about your services.
Everything checks out. They’re in. They are the right type of company and the right persona...definitely someone you’d like to be doing business with.
What happens next?
If you’re like most companies, you pass that “lead” immediately to one of your salespeople. On the surface, that decision makes sense. However, it may shock you to learn that one of the most damaging mistakes you can make to your sales growth efforts is turning leads directly over to salespeople.
Why Turning Leads Over to Sales People Is A Mistake
Those that know me know I’m a big fan of data, so let me share some data (from SiriusDecisions) that highlights just how big of a problem this is causing:
- 98% of marketing qualified leads never result in closed business.
- 64% of field sales people’s time is wasted on administrative tasks surrounding demand generation.
- 54% of sales reps don’t make quota.
There are a number of reasons that this action is a mistake. The core for all of them is that just because a lead has inquired doesn’t mean they’re sales qualified, and managing those leads is crucial to to turning leads into sustainable revenue.
Let’s review the biggest reasons you should not turn leads directly over to your new sales team:
Lack of Synchronicity
In today’s Zero Moment of Truth world, the mindset of a lead when they initially connect with you is very different and exhibits far more variance that those initial interactions had 10 years ago. Today, leads could be anywhere from the very beginning of their journey to near the end, whereas in the past that contact represented the beginning of the journey for both the prospect and for the salesperson.
Leads Must Ripen
To understand this next problem, stop reading this blog and write down your specific definition of the word lead.
Here’s our definition: A lead is an individual who has completed a qualifying form providing something more than an email address, or who has engaged offline indicating an openness to engage.
The problem with that definition is that it’s extraordinarily broad, and the truth is that only a small percentage of those leads are ever going to actually buy from you. The word “lead” is a fuzzy word that means something different virtually every time it’s used.
The reality is that a lead is merely the raw material for creating customers and revenue. That lead must ripen before it is harvested. For those that prefer a hunter’s analogy, a lead is the infant stage of the food you seek.
Leads must ripen and mature. As I regularly advise salespeople, the best way to shorten the sales cycle is to slow down the sales process. When I look back over my business and sales career, one of the most expensive mistakes I’ve ever made is reacting to the excitement and enthusiasm of a lead initially. That excitement led me to skip steps and jump to the end because it seemed clear that the prospect already understood the need and value of what we were discussing. Of course, I would later find out they didn’t and a great opportunity ended up in the lost column.
The Three Sale Mindset
To make matters really simple, there are three questions that a prospect must be able to answer clearly to say yes to whatever your proposal is:
- Why should I change?
- Why should I change now?
- Why should I change with you?
I’ve written about this fully in a previous post, but it’s important to understand that when you’re making a sale, you’re not making one sale, you’re really making three. Salespeople naturally skip to the third sale - why we’re the best choice.
An effective lead management and lead response process ensures that all three questions are fully addressed, and only turns opportunities to sales when the alignment is there.
Salespeople Should Spend Their Time Selling
This brings us to the last major reason. When you turn leads directly over to salespeople, they end up spending a significant time doing things other than selling.
For example, they’ve got to expend significant effort making contact with the lead. Once they’ve made contact, they must go through all of the exercises to properly qualify and synchronize. This not only represents non-selling time, but it also represents tasks outside of a salesperson’s core focus.
Here’s something interesting I’ve learned about salespeople...they like to sell. They naturally jump to the end of the process.
Now you can invest significant resources into teaching, training and reinforcing new skills for your salespeople to avoid that tendency (which I should note will enable you to mitigate - not eliminate - the problem), or you can build your process to avoid the problem entirely.
I’m a big fan of the latter option for two reasons:
- Salespeople are only really working when they are talking with sales qualified prospects, so anything that can be eliminated enables them to spend more time on the real reason they're there.
- Build the process this way is far more efficient and allows me to allocate costs more appropriately, thus reducing sales costs while accelerating growth.
What Should You Do With Leads?
You must build an effective lead management and response process. Rather than turning leads over to your new sales team, you should have a documented process that assesses the lead and turns them over to a team dedicated to managing initial lead response.
At Imagine, we call that team the sales development team. Whenever an inquiry occurs, the process triggers a very quick assessment to ensure minimal fit (does this look like someone we would work with?). Every lead that passes that test then goes into a process that ensures we follow up with them to create the alignment and synchronicity I referred to earlier in this post.
The sales development rep is then tasked with managing the initial response, and determining where the lead really is on their journey, to apply to right actions (all based upon our service level agreement), to ensure the lead is properly educated and qualified. When those criteria are clearly met, the lead is seamlessly handed over to the appropriate salesperson to take the lead the rest of the way.
By building the proper systems, we’re able to quickly consummate sales with those inquiries that truly are “ready to buy,” and to properly handle those that are not. The net result is far greater sales capacity, shorter sales cycle times and happier new customers.