Inbound Leads: To Pre-qualify, or Not To Pre-qualify? 15 Expert Views, Part 1:

Posted by Dan McDade

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on Aug 12, 2014 9:49:00 AM

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Qualified_245Is it necessary to pre-qualify inbound leads? That’s the overarching question I recently presented to a panel of industry experts. Over the course of this three part series, you’ll hear from 15 leading voices in the world of B2B sales, marketing and lead generation, as they share their insight in response to the following questions:

  • Are companies wise to invest money and time to pre-qualify inbound leads from marketing automation systems that have been assigned a “perfect” lead score?
  • Should CMOs feel confident that these leads from marketing automation are ready for sales to close?
  • Without additional qualification measures (such as tele-qualifying), will these leads inevitably clog and choke the sales pipeline?

In the first of this three part series, we’ll hear from author and consultant Ardath Albee; entrepreneur Kyle Porter; author and consultant Joanne Black; and consultant and speaker Dave Brock.     

PART 1  Read PART 2 Here
PART 3
(coming 8/26/14) 
Ardath Albee Craig Rosenberg Chad Burmeister
Kyle Porter Carlos Hidalgo Ruth Stevens
Joanne Black James Obermayer Chris Tratar
Dave Brock Ginger Conlon Chris Snell
  Dave Stein Jamie Turner
  Matt Heinz  

Now, to the experts:

Ardath Albee – Author of eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale:

Pre-qualifying leads that have reached a score threshold in marketing automation is essential. However, scoring schemas are still evolving. As such they are not the true definition of lead quality, but rather activity and frequency and perhaps, interest. A lead isn’t qualified based on demographics and firmographics alone. The benefit of marketing automation is that you’ll know exactly who in your database is active and what content they’ve interacted with. This provides a perfect opportunity for inside sales to have a relevant conversation with a prospect to gauge how close the scoring schema is and find ways to improve it. If the prospect won’t talk to inside sales, that should give you a clue as to whether or not they’ll be willing to speak with direct/field sale.

But, what I really want to get from inside sales qualifying calls as a marketer is a sense of whether the content and experience the prospect is having with the company is relevant and valuable. Lead nurturing programs and content are a best guess — even with personas driving the storyline. Until prospects are interacting with the content, marketers don’t know if they’ve hit the mark. Person-to-person insights are highly valuable, both for deciding whether a prospect is worthy of pursuit and gleaning insights for continuous improvement of content and marketing programs.

Ardath does a great job of describing the state of scoring (or what she refers to as scoring schemas). Her recommendation about leveraging the market intelligence that comes from inside sales is absolutely right on target.

Kyle Porter – B2B Sales Intelligence:

There is no such thing as a "marketing automation lead." Leads should be qualified to a varying degree based on lead volume and specific solution.

Are companies wise to invest money and time to pre-qualify inbound leads from marketing automation systems that have been assigned a perfect lead score? It depends on volume. If above 250/month, yes—if only to set-up qualified appointments and demos with a closer. Lead qualification is not the best use of account executives’ time because the leads need quick and frequent response, as well as qualification tactics that need to be honed in by professionals focused on this core function.

Kyle does not believe that marketing automation produces leads. I tend to agree.

Joanne Black – Author of No More Cold Calling and Pick Up the Damn Phone!:

In my experience, most leads generated from a company’s marketing automation system are not ready for sales. Even if the lead scores a perfect 10 and marketing considers it qualified, it still needs vetting by the sales person – Just because someone downloads a white paper, attends a webinar and signs up for your newsletter does not mean he/she is a qualified lead or even a prospective buyer – He/she may be a competitor, a student, or someone (like me) looking to educate themselves on a particular topic.

To generate quality leads, marketing and sales need to be clear on a common definition of qualified lead and this agreement must be reinforced from the top down.

Joanne is someone with whom I enjoy a verbal spar from time-to-time—particularly on some of the topics in her book, No More Cold Calling. That being said, we share a mutual respect each other's opinions, and she no doubt adds a great deal of value to every conversation.

Dave Brock – Learn how to Transform Your Organization:

What the CMO thinks is irrelevant! His “customer” is sales, so what they think about the quality of inbound leads is most meaningful. Sales and marketing must work together to define what a qualified sales ready lead is. Pre-qualifying something that has been deemed as sales ready seems to add waste to the process. If it’s sales ready, then why do we need to take an additional step before passing them to sales? We are adding time (aging the lead), and cost.

If leads are clogging/choking the pipeline because they are bad quality, then there is an issue on agreement with what a sales ready lead is, or there is a problem with what is being done to assure they are sales ready. If they are high quality and sales ready, and aren’t being addressed by sales (clogging the pipeline), then it is more likely to be a resourcing issue—that impacts the entire pipeline, not the top end. In this case, pre-qualifying only addresses a part of the real problem, but not the whole problem.

I do believe high quality lead scoring and possibly some level of tele-qualifying might be required to maintain the quality and produce quality sales ready leads.

David is certainly no shrinking violet. His passion (and perhaps some impatience) comes through, as evidenced in his response.

Dave, I hear what you’re saying. But if I may interject, the problem as I see it is there is still no way a marketing automation solution can accurately determine whether (or not) a lead is actually “sales ready.”

It's evident that no one in this group recommends an “all in” strategy when it comes to lead scoring. A balanced, or “allbound,” approach is the way to go; it's what I deem to be appropriate as well.

In part two of this series, we'll take a look at some of the input from: The Funnelholic's Craig Rosenberg; Annuitas Group’s Carlos Hidalgo; Sales Lead Management Association’s Jim Obermayer; DM News’ Ginger Conlon; Competitive Sales Strategist and Consultant, Dave Stein; and agency founder Matt Heinz.

By Dan McDade


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Topics: Lead Qualification


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