Now that you've got inbound sales leads, what are you going to do with them?
Many companies get plenty of inbound sales leads from search engine marketing, PPC ads, and other sources, only to discover that their sales people are getting overwhelmed with too many bad leads. As a result, the bad leads are making them waste time and miss opportunities to find and pursue the good leads.
But the truth is, many of these bad sales leads don’t have to happen. The problem is that too many companies are not doing any pre-qualifying to make sure the leads are a good fit. For example, according to stats cited by HubSpot, 61% of B2B organizations send all of their leads on to the sales team without making any effort to verify valid business leads – but only 27% of these sales leads are actually qualified.
To avoid this predicament at your company, here are a few key strategies for how B2B sales organizations can best utilize their inbound sales leads:
Create a Sales Funnel
Sales leads are great, but they’re not the end-all be-all of making sales – getting an inbound sales inquiry is just the start of a longer and more complex process of building a relationship with that prospect and guiding them toward the final sale. Every sales organization needs to have a process in place for working with sales leads. Whether you call it a sales cycle or sales funnel, the principle is the same: you need to identify the key steps and actions that take a sales lead from “first phone call” to “final decision to close the sale.” Different companies and industry sectors might have additional steps in their sales funnel, depending on what works for you and your customers. But a simple sales funnel might look like the following:
- Initial inquiry from the prospect
- Follow-up phone call by sales person
- Schedule initial sales presentation
- Send sales literature
- Deliver online or in-person sales presentation
- Check for buy-in with key stakeholders
- Develop ROI projections – show the buyer the positive impact on their organization if they buy your solution
- Discuss implementation – what’s involved after the sale with putting the solution into action at the buyer’s organization
- Answer final questions from buyer
- Ask for sale – close the deal
By developing a good understanding of your sales funnel, you can create a strong, easily repeatable method to sort and nurture sales leads and keep building relationships by following up with prospects at each stage of the buyer’s decision-making process.
Ask Lead Qualifying Questions Upfront
Once your sales funnel is mapped out and in place, it’s important to start sorting out the good leads from the bad. This needs to happen early on in the process, starting from the first point of contact with a new prospect – whether it’s a phone call or email contact. Designate someone at your organization to be the “call screener” or “pre-qualifying questions” person. Ask good lead qualifying questions before you ever send the new sales lead to the sales team. For example, you should have a set of basic questions for every new prospect, such as:
- “What made you want to call us today?”
- “What business challenges are you facing with your current solution or vendor?”
- “What is your estimated timeline for making a decision?”
- “What are some other companies that you’re looking at right now?”
These questions are all open-ended (not “yes or no”), so you can get the prospect to talk and elaborate about their plans and intentions. This is a great way to figure out which buyers are really well-informed and “serious” and which ones are just doing preliminary research. You can also get a sense for the buyer’s current level of “pain” that they’re experiencing from their current vendor or solution that isn’t meeting their needs, and figure out how highly motivated (or not) they may be to make a purchase decision.
Sort and Rank Your Sales Leads
After qualifying your new sales leads with an upfront conversation, you need to sort and rank your sales leads according to their level of priority. For example, you can do something simple like ranking them “A,” “B,” or “C” leads – with the “A” leads being the most motivated, most eager to buy, and the “C” leads being the lower-probability sales leads that will require more time and longer-term lead nurturing.
Some bad sales leads are inevitable, but they don’t have to be a problem for organizations that are well prepared. If you take a smart approach to pre-qualifying, sorting and ranking sales leads, and working through an organized sales funnel process, you’ll be more likely to find a higher percentage of “good” sales leads and convert a higher percentage of sales opportunities.
Gregg Schwartz is the vice president of sales and marketing at Strategic Sales & Marketing, a lead-generation firm based in Connecticut.