When a tree falls in a forest and there is no one around to hear it...
Marketing can generate hundreds or thousands of leads through brilliant inbound marketing content, catchy banners, enticing emails, and stellar social media strategies, but if no one ever follows up with these leads, should they really be called leads? And what purpose do they serve?
Before you throw in the online lead generation towel, first reflect on the roadblocks that might be keeping Sales from following up on these leads. Once you understand the real challenges, you can then find ways to improve Marketing and Sales alignment for better follow-up.
1. The Quantity/Quality Problem
Have you taken the time to ask Sales what happens when they do follow up with your online leads? It is possible that the overall quality is so low and the quantity so high that finding the sale has become the proverbial needle in a haystack? You won’t know unless you ask, and you must be open to honest feedback.
If this turns out to be the case, try adding more qualification steps to your lead generation program. If you are using a lead generation form, mark more fields as required. Ask more questions that will allow Sales to sort through the leads that aren’t worth calling and cherry pick those that are the right fit. You can start the process by asking Sales, “What do you wish you knew about these leads?”
2. The Person/Power Problem
Depending on the structure and size of your company, the Sales team may wear many hats. Perhaps you are the sales team. Not everyone is cut out to cold call, and lead qualification can be an intimidating venture. Perhaps your Sales team is tiny, and qualification is simply not a cost effective use of their time. In either case, consider hiring a local college student to do some lead qualification for you. Try someone who has worked for his or her institution’s telephone fundraising program; they know how to follow a script and are used to hearing “no.” Many of these students are hoping for a career in Sales, and cold calling your leads will make a great addition to their résumé.
3. The Mushy Metrics Problem
Metrics are valuable both for qualifying leads and for evaluating the success of your Marketing and Sales efforts. But poorly defined metrics can create more barriers to Sales follow-up.
- Lead qualification. If the criteria used to qualify a lead are not clear enough to guide prioritization for the Sales team, then the long list of web-generated leads can seem daunting. Revamp your qualification process to include a multi-tiered ranking system. Your lead scoring system can be based on demographics, behaviors, and responses to questions on your lead gen form. A marketing automation platform such as HubSpot will let you set up a lead scoring system that assigns points to leads based on these criteria. For example, you can choose to give points to someone who has downloaded more than one piece of content, or you might allocate points based on the lead’s location or job title.
- Sales and Marketing performance. The quantity and quality expectations for web-generated leads should be established up front and incorporated into performance metrics for the Marketing staff. The follow-up required by Sales is equally important from a performance metric standpoint. If the two are not in alignment, there is bound to be internal frustration. Look for solutions that promise the best ROI for the company. If new metrics are put in place, be sure to establish a means of clear communication early on to ensure that Marketing and Sales teams are both receiving the support that they need in order to achieve the desired outcome.
For help identifying Sales and Marketing metrics that matter, read this post or download our KPI Worksheet.
4. The Perception Problem
Like the tree in the forest, the lead really is a lead even if no follow-up occurs at the time of conversion. Remember, you’ve already engaged a prospect and collected data. This is an opportunity to nurture your lead through additional touch points that will bring that lead further down the sales funnel. HubSpot and other inbound platforms let you create an automated lead follow-up program to provide regular, relevant content that keeps prospects engaged.
Download our tip sheet to learn 8 ways your Sales team can improve lead follow-up.