How to make your inbound lead qualification process fail-proof?

It is very rightly said that a business without qualified leads is just like a car without fuel; regardless of what kind of engine it has, it’s not going to move ahead. Especially, inbound marketing is proved to be an effective method of lead generation, where a lot of time is spent creating and promoting resources for consumers. Below 30% of inbound leads are sales-ready. The majority of the inbound leads you receive must be further educated by sending newsletters or emails instead of using sales mechanisms of making cold calls.

 

47% of potential customers read at least three to five pieces of content published by a business before starting a conversation with their sales rep – Hubspot

 

But do you have a tried and tested inbound lead qualification process?

 

This is the pain point of every modern organization.

 

The bitter truth about inbound lead generation

 

In inbound marketing, when you get a lead, you have no idea about who they are. All you know is that they were interested in acquiring the free report.

 

Things you would like to know are:

 

  • Whether they actually need your products or services.
  • Whether they can afford you.
  • Whether an individual responder is a decision-maker or an influencer in the buying decision.
  • Whether they are located in your service area.

 

There may be other more particular qualifying criteria such as “Whether they have a particular software program installed” or “whether they are responsible for purchasing a particular product category”.

 

Some of the best approaches to close leads in our inbound lead qualification include:

 

  1. Following up your leads via an email that gives them information about your offer as a business and drives them to a micro-conversion, which helps you in understanding their pressing needs.

 

  1. Concentrate on impelling them to reply to your email, request a demo or contact you on the phone. This is because having a two-way discussion is the best way to understand how ready a lead is to convert.

 

  1. Make use of cloud telephony, integrated with a CRM to focus on following up your qualified leads promptly. This will help your sales team stay on track and keep a record of all the conversations they have had with consumers, that allows them to nurture the leads into customers.

 

In addition to inbound lead qualification by proactively contacting people that suits your right prospect profile, you can over and over again benefit from using their extra cycle time to enhance the quality of your prospecting database.

 

The final say

 

No doubt, that an effective inbound lead generation campaign is one that converts leads into sales, visitors into customers, without a lengthened sales cycle – that’s where inbound lead qualification also comes into play.

How to Improve Inbound Lead Qualification in 2018

The world of marketing can be compared to the world of sports, where teams must take a general approach to winning the game that includes knowledge, practice and sound execution of fundamentals, as well as constantly creating new strategies to beat your competitors and win over the crowd. The goal of optimizing your company’s approach to qualifying inbound leads falls easily into this sports metaphor. To improve inbound lead qualification in 2018, you will have to rely on some tried and true tactics and processes, while taking advantage of new tech-driven tools to increase lead quality.

 

Let’s take a look at some of the ways your organization can rally in 2018 and blow the doors off your sales goals in the coming year…

Change Starts From Within..

 

Is your organization set up to qualify inbound leads, or quickly determine where to pass the lead while it’s hot – or not? Every company needs that one person who is concentrated on inbound lead qualification. We know, everyone is busy and wearing a lot of hats. But it’s always a good time to step back and make sure everyone is working efficiently in their roles. You need to have someone on your team who’s assigned to be the gatekeeper for new inbound sales leads. When you have someone dedicated as the point person for inbound lead qualification, this gives you a consistent way of analyzing the initial information from inbound sales inquiries, whether an email address, questionnaire, or data from one of your CRM or SEO tools. This person can also help streamline communication between all teams involved.

 

Don’t Overlook Email
Email still remains one of the most effective marketing tools that businesses have. Much of your lead generation activity should be focused on capturing email addresses – whether it’s inviting website visitors to sign up for a free downloadable white paper or eBook, or asking social media followers to sign up for your email newsletter, or creating an email questionnaire for new prospects to fill out when they visit your site for the first time.

 

But once you’ve got those email addresses, don’t drop the ball. Prospects who opt in to receiving emails from you are more likely to respond via email – so make sure that those precious inbound email inquiries don’t fall through the cracks. Have a consistent system in place to sort and reply to emails. Make it easy for customers to reply to your email newsletter. Make sure a real person is reading and responding to email inquiries within 24 hours – even if it’s a short preliminary message to set up a future phone call.

 

Especially in the current climate on social media, where platforms like Facebook are making it harder for companies to reach their audiences without paying for ads, any relationships you have with customers via email are more valuable than ever. So don’t let your email communication fall through the cracks.

 

Embrace Big Data and AI Tools

Phrases like “AI” and “Big Data” can sound unfamiliar to small business owners who might not consider themselves tech-savvy – or it might sound like something that only big companies can afford. But artificial intelligence is already integrated in so many ways in our marketing tools and platforms, such as Salesforce and others. In fact, you probably already use AI tools but aren’t even aware of it. AI and Big Data will continue to integrate and improve business performance, customer engagement, productivity, profits, and efficiency. Don’t be afraid to try new things and experiment with the latest tools and technologies to manage your customer relationships and handle your inbound lead qualification – AI cannot replace that essential human element, but it can help you save time and make your job easier.

 

Find the Right Consultants to Help With Your Inbound Lead Qualification
As experts in B2B lead generation, we provide consulting to companies of all shapes and sizes, with a wide variety of needs. Sometimes, a company simply doesn’t have the internal resources to develop their own process for optimizing their approach to inbound lead qualification. Don’t be afraid to recognize areas where you could use outside help to boost your business. Sometimes it’s a small fix – companies often need just a bit of extra help to optimize their current inbound lead qualification processes. With the right package of training, consulting or process improvement, Strategic Sales and Marketing can help take inbound lead qualification off of your worry list.

 

These are just some of the ways your company will need to stay on top of its inbound lead qualification game this year. Do you have additional insight or questions you want to ask us? Feel free to contact us with your questions about improving your lead gen process in 2018.

Do “Warm” Inbound Sales Leads Really Exist?

Many B2B sales teams make the mistake of overestimating the readiness of their inbound sales leads. But the reality is, just because someone fills out an inquiry form on your website or calls your 800 number doesn’t mean they are immediately going to be ready to buy. Inbound sales leads still need to be pre-qualified, just  any other sales opportunity. Even though the customer made the first move by contacting you, someone at your company still needs to do the work of asking upfront qualifying questions to find out whether or not the prospect is a good fit.

 

Don’t assume that every inbound sales lead is really a “good” lead – because if you just pass on all of your leads to the sales team without any pre-qualifying work, you’re going to overwhelm your sales people with too many poor quality  leads – resulting in fewer sales overall. Or if you assume that every inbound sales lead is ready to buy, you run the risk of driving away the customer by switching to quickly to “sales mode” – instead of nurturing the lead and building trust.

 

The Truth About Inbound Lead Generation

By warning not to overestimate the “warmth” level of inbound sales leads, we’re not trying to say that inbound lead generation isn’t a good marketing tactic. The truth is, inbound lead generation is a great way to get sales leads.  Anything you can do to create content on your website or on third-party websites or on social media to help build an audience and attract traffic and inquiries back to your company is a good thing.

 

However, now that you’ve got all of these new sales leads, you still need to remember to do the legwork of qualifying leads, ranking and prioritizing leads, and figuring out which leads are really the best fit for what you sell. Just because the leads came from inbound marketing doesn’t mean that you can ignore the rest of the upfront work of qualifying the leads and building relationships before the sale.

 

Combining Inbound Lead Generation with Outbound Follow-up

A lot of companies are now offering automated lead qualification solutions, such as auto-reply emails or software. While these solutions can offer some value, there is still no substitute for getting on the phone and calling your sales leads to ask the early stage lead qualifying questions. People still respond favorably to the human touch of a real person on the phone – especially when they have made the first step of filling out an inquiry form or clicking an ad or sending an email. Making a follow-up phone call to your inbound sales leads is a good way to show them that you have received their message and noticed their interest, and that you are now ready to take the conversation to the next stage.

Another reason why it’s important to make follow-up phone calls to your inbound leads (rather than relying solely on email or automated methods) is that prospects often need some encouragement or a gentle “nudge” to fully enter into the sales process. It’s all too easy to ignore a follow-up email. Getting a phone call from a real person is a good way to clearly ask the prospect to commit to the next step of working toward a sale.

 

How to Rank Your Inbound Sales Leads

Not all sales leads are equally likely or equally ready to buy. When you first receive a new inbound lead, whether it’s an email or phone call or response to a Pay Per Click ad, you need to conduct an initial phone conversation with the prospect to figure out where they rank on the priority scale. Create a simple lead ranking scale of “1, 2, 3” or “A, B, C” to identify the highest priority and lowest priority leads.

Asking the right lead qualifying questions will help you to qualify your inbound sales leads. It’s good to ask open-ended questions (rather than Yes or No questions) to elicit information and get the prospect to open up a bit – try to keep the prospect talking so you can learn more about them and clarify their needs.

For example, you could ask questions such as:

  • “Why did you decide to contact us?”
  • “What sort of timeframe do you have in mind to make a purchase?”
  • “What issues are you having with your current solution?”
  • “What other solution providers/vendors are you looking at?”
  • “How do you see this solution fitting into your overall business operations?”

All of these questions will help you clarify which leads are truly “warm” and which ones are not really a good fit or not really serious. Depending on what the prospects say, you can rank them as higher or lower priority in terms of urgency and “pain issues” (the level of problems that they’re having which motivate them to buy).

Then, once you have your leads ranked and prioritized, you can focus on the most urgent sales leads that seem most likely to convert, while discarding the leads that are not serious buyers, and most importantly, saving the promising “long-range” leads for further databasing, lead nurturing and follow-up.

 

It would be excessive to say that warm inbound sales leads are a “myth,” but it’s important to remember that not all inbound sales leads are truly “warm.” Just because a prospect decides to contact your company, that doesn’t mean that they are truly ready to buy – and even the most promising inbound sales leads still require some careful handling, follow-up and relationship building before they’re completely ready to talk about making a purchase.

 

With the right lead qualifying and lead nurturing processes in place – combining the best of inbound lead generation companies and outbound follow-up – your company can improve your efficiency in sorting out the best sales leads from the rest, leading to a well-stocked sales pipeline and better sales results.

How to Stop Wasting Time on Unqualified Sales Leads

Too many B2B companies are squandering valuable time by talking to unqualified sales leads. It sounds hard to believe, but it’s true: according to stats cited by HubSpot, only 56% of B2B sales organizations do not make any effort to verify valid sales leads before passing the leads on to the sales team. As a result, sales reps are being burdened with too many bad sales leads that could have been avoided with a simple process to pre-qualify leads prior to starting the sales follow up process.

 

The cost of unqualified sales leads is bigger than merely wasting time – you’re also missing out on better sales opportunities. By spending time chasing after bad sales leads, you are missing out on the chance to talk to prospects who are much more likely to buy. Better sales results are not always achieved by improving your conversion rates – bigger sales often happen when you improve your upfront processes to better qualify the sales leads that are coming in to your organization in the first place.

 

Asking the Right Questions for Lead Qualification

 

The key to effective lead qualification is to ask the right questions. Don’t ask “yes or no” questions – instead, look for ways to further open up the conversation and draw out more information from the prospects so you can learn more about them. The goal of asking lead qualifying questions is to probe for “pain” points – problems and issues and frustrations that the prospect is having with their current solution. By asking questions in a smart, subtle way, you can uncover previously unstated pain and figure out which leads are really the highest priority. This makes it easier to rank your sales leads – even if it’s just a simple scale of “1, 2, 3” – to sort and follow up with the best short-term sales leads while saving your long-range leads for further nurturing.

 

Here are a few examples of good lead qualifying questions to help open up a dialogue and draw out valuable information from your prospects:

  • “How are you using your current solution?”
  • “What’s your overall situation with your current vendor? How satisfied are you with their performance?”
  • “How does this solution fit into your overall business operations?”
  • “What you are the biggest business challenges that you’re dealing with right now?”
  • “How soon do you think you might be ready to make a decision?”
  • “Who else at your organization needs to be involved with approving budget or giving input on the purchase process?”

 

All of these questions are good ways to create a fuller picture of the prospect’s overall business operations, and see how your solution fits into their organization. You will also get a sense of “pain” issues such as dissatisfaction with a current vendor, inefficiencies or productivity problems caused by the current solution, and the prospect’s overall timeframe for making a decision. Using this information, you can make a well-informed estimate of which sales leads are truly “warm” and which ones require more time, attention, and nurturing before they’re ready to buy.

 

Sales Lead Follow-up: Ask them to Commit

 

Qualifying sales leads is an ongoing process. That first phone call to qualify your leads is important, but you also need to keep evaluating and perhaps re-ranking your sales leads as you acquire more information throughout the sales process.

 

After your initial lead qualifying conversation, if you have a prospect who seems like a good fit and who seems like they’re receptive to buying, you need to start them into your organized, methodical sales process or “sales funnel” of working through a series of steps. At each step of the sales process, you need to clearly ask the prospect to commit to agreeing to the next step of the process.

 

For example, your first step might be “Phone call to thank them for their inquiry, and ask them to agree to have an online demo or web presentation.” Your next step might be, “Ask the prospect to agree to provide information to help create an ROI calculation to show how much money your solution can save them.” Every step gets you closer to making a sale – but you might need to adapt your approach along the way in case a prospect objects or hesitates. Sometimes good leads go stagnant; sometimes buyers get cold feet. Keep adjusting, re-ranking your leads as needed, and keep building relationships and working through your sales process with disciplined focus, regardless of the status of any particular lead.

 

How to Get Rid of Unqualified Leads

 

One of the best ways to stop wasting time on unqualified leads is to stop allowing unqualified leads into your pipeline in the first place. Unfortunately, too many B2B organizations are not doing any meaningful work to qualify their sales leads prior to passing the leads on to the Sales team. For example, according to stats cited by HubSpot, 61% of B2B marketers send all of their leads directly to Sales, but only 27% of those leads are actually qualified.

 

Lots of B2B companies have only a very basic, inadequate process for accepting and handling inbound sales leads. Maybe you have an administrative assistant who answers phones and forwards calls to the Sales people, maybe you have an auto-response email that automatically goes out to all of your inbound inquiries. Either way, if you don’t have some kind of early stage lead qualifying process set up, you are missing out on opportunities.

 

Just as your decision makers have “gatekeepers” who work to stem the flow of information and control who gets on these busy people’s schedules, your company also needs to have a “gatekeeper” to prevent bad sales leads from getting through to your sales team. Your sales people’s time and attention are just as valuable as your decision makers – anything you can do to free up your sales people’s time from talking to the wrong sales leads, and keep them focused on the right sales leads, is going to pay big dividends for your company.