Lead Qualification Best Practices: Sniff: “Inspect What You Expect”



Every lead a Marketo Sales Development Representative calls into goes through an initial prospecting process, called “the sniff test”. This process happens before an initial call and helps our Sales Development Representatives prepare for a relevant conversation with a lead. It’s a combination of checking web resources, Salesforce.com information, Marketo Sales Insight, and account background to better understand:

  • Who is your prospect?
  • Why are you calling?

There’s often a tendency to just “smile and dial”, but more often than not, mindlessly dialing yields poor results. It’s a numbers game, so if you’re given a list of 100 names, you’re bound to connect with a few. But do you have something relevant to say if you catch your prospect live?

Here at Marketo, we believe taking a few extra few minutes to “sniff out a sales lead” helps facilitate a more relevant conversation. It’s common for prospects to question why you’re calling them, so why not take that extra moment to do your research and give context to your intentions. Often this call can be first impression a prospect has with your organization, so being prepared makes all the difference.

Recently, when I was working my new sales qualified leads, all senses of logic ran out the door. I blindly called into a hot lead without looking at the Sales Insight tab (someone whom was actively visiting the website, downloading key white papers, visiting the pricing page, etc.). Now instead of taking the time to really “inspect what I was expecting”, I jumped the gun and assumed this lead could be a new opportunity. I had to call it right away!

But, boy was I wrong. Although no one was seriously harmed, it was unnecessary to call into this lead, since he was part of an active opportunity and told me so! I could have prevented this situation if I had remembered to first sniff out the lead. All the information I needed was already within Salesforce.com. Lesson learned; even though due diligence takes time, at the end of the day that extra step is worth all the effort.

With leads flying from one territory to the next, even from one lead owner to the next – it is understandable that this process can be laborious. And while certain triggers (whether that’s a lead score, the content clicked on, or a title) affect your sense of urgency, it more often that not, also impacts how intelligently you react.

To help quell my own eagerness and ensure I’m consistently “inspecting what I expect”, I try to follow these practices of “the sniff test”:

1. Confirm Headquarters.

If your SDR and Account Executive teams are divided geographically, make sure everyone uses a “single source of truth” to confirm company headquarters. This can be a simple Google search result, LinkedIn information or possibly another tool like Hoovers. Whatever your source is to confirm headquarters, use it consistently!

2. Research the website.

You’ll be surprised how often this step gets forgotten. Your reps shouldn’t spend a considerable amount of time researching, however knowing a few key aspects about the company can help to understand their business and where your company can potentially add value. Take a few minutes and jot down your talking points.

3. Check your CRM.

Double check the account history. See who else may have previously engaged with the organization. Try to establish awareness, just in case the company has had positive (or potentially negative) history. Through Marketo Sales Insight, you can also track previous behavior to see if your lead has downloaded any interesting whitepapers or attended a webinar.

4. Leverage LinkedIn.

Determine if there are any team members whom have common connections. What is your lead interested in? What are their skills and specialties?

5. Be prepared.

Write down a few notes and key questions. If you get stuck on a call, use these notes to keep the conversation going.

At the end of the day, taking those extra steps to scope out your leads will benefit your potential to gather relevant information and have a meaningful conversation. Being able to distinguish the company you’re calling into, the intention for your call, and who you’re reaching out to, are all contributors to laying the right foundation to nurture a fledgling opportunity.

Want to learn more about sales qualification? Download our Definitive Guide to Sales Lead Qualification.