Today’s B2B marketing success revolves around the new spirit of collaboration between marketing and sales, and nowhere is this more important than the point where the sales cycle begins – defining the perfect sales lead.
There are myriads of technology choices and philosophies on how to generate, nurture and manage leads. However, any or all of these might end up futile if marketing and sales don’t agree on what defines a qualified lead prior to investing in lead generation activities.
Check out the following 4 tips for defining the perfect sales lead.
1. Get sales and marketing on board at the start.
Trying to get two teams to agree on the definition of the perfect lead can be difficult, but is essential.
Whether you are well underway in lead generation efforts or just getting going, if you haven’t brought the teams together to discuss and define a sales lead, you should definitely set the foundation here. Once there is a working definition that both teams are comfortable with, the conversation can quickly change to ‘how do we get more, working together’ as opposed to ‘the leads we are getting aren’t qualified’.
Ensuring everyone has a hand in the definition makes everyone more accountable, both now and in the future. Be sure you meet regularly to clarify and fine-tune your lead definition as it may change over time due to, for example, economic and/or product line changes. And finally, don’t forget to put your lead definition in writing, and be sure that upper management is on board.
2. Ask as many questions as possible.
Cover all your bases by considering the following:
- Which leads have converted quickly in the past?
- What do we know about previous leads that did not convert?
- What are the characteristics of current customers that we want more of, e.g. company size, location, industry?
- What kind of influence do particular leads have in the buying cycle (i.e. an end user, a buyer or influencer)?
- What is the current length of the buying cycle and how can we shorten it?
3. Anticipate problems your audience is trying to solve.
You need to understand your leads’ unique set of challenges. Knowing these will enable you to intercept them as they research solutions to their challenges.
Prospects will generally fit into 3 buying stages:
New information seekers: These make up the vast pool of anonymous individuals within your lead universe. They’ve just begun the research process.
Continuing education: These prospects have separated themselves from the pack by continuing their quest for further education on your industry or product.
Opportunity knocks: These buyers are ready to pull the trigger and are looking for reassurance that they are making the right decision.
4. Don’t stop testing.
Lead generation and lead qualification are dynamic processes. Even though you have a fixed, mutually-agreed-upon definition, be prepared to revisit it at regular intervals. Industry changes affect your potential buyers. If the economy is suffering, most likely your prospects’ buying power is too.
Stay current on the known leads in your database and watch how they perform. New developments within companies that used to be your ideal leads may take them off the top of the list (i.e., department downsizing, internal budget cuts and management changes).
The B2B marketplace, with its many diverse niche verticals, rewards marketers that know how to target well. Finding the right channels and the right messaging is essential.
And having a viable lead definition makes sales more effective, strengthens marketing’s credibility, and ultimately generates revenue growth.