Inbound Leads: To Pre-qualify, or Not To Pre-qualify? 15 Expert Views, Part 2:

Posted by Dan McDade

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on Aug 19, 2014 9:17:00 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 part of the series, we heard from author and consultant Ardath Albee; entrepreneur Kyle Porter; author and consultant Joanne Black; and consultant and speaker Dave Brock.

Here, in the second of this three part series, we will hear from The Funnelholic’s Craig Rosenberg; Annuitas Group’s Carlos Hidalgo; Sales Lead Management Association’s Jim Obermayer; Direct Marketing News’ Ginger Conlon; consultant and trainer Dave Stein; and agency founder Matt Heinz.

Read PART 1 Here PART 2 
(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:

Craig Rosenberg – 7 Steps to Put Your Lead Nurturing on Steroids

I believe that 100% of leads should flow through a sales development engine. For many clients, I have agreed to one exception — if they have an "I want to hear from sales" form. I still would prefer those go through sales development, but if I have to give on anything, I will give there. The bottom line is sales development is the key to conversion. Sales will not and does not have the time to produce the level of effort necessary to connect with and convert leads, even those that marketing automation deems "sales ready." They also don't have the "threshold for pain" that is required to put multiple calls and emails into a lead and have it turn into nothing. A good conversion rate is 30%. That means 7 out of those 10 leads won't work out. Sales people don't react well to that. And the 30% that do convert require calls, emails, qualification, etc.

The other thing is that content consumption is a clue, but does not qualify leads. That is the pre-dominant use case for marketing automation. As a matter of fact, some clients have learned that the more they download, the WORSE the lead is.

Send leads to sales development or your conversion rates will suffer.

I always like to hear what Craig has to say. (For the record, I’m not saying that just because I tend to agree with him on most things.) He’s truly one of the most entertaining and informed writers on the planet. If you haven’t read his blog, The Funnelholic, stop everything and sign up right now.

Carlos Hidalgo – Everything About Marketing Automation and More!

No matter how automated we become, there is a human element in marketing that can never be automated. Marketing automation is great for providing 2 dimensions in the buyer journey:

1. Behavioral
2. Demographic

But there’s a critical third dimension — a personal interaction that signifies when a buyer is ready to pull the lever and can only be garnered by a human talking to another human over the phone. Market conditions are changing all the time so to think a bevy of “sales-ready” leads with a lead score of 10 are ready for a high paid sales person to close is foolish. The lead is further along than it would have been without automation, but the a lead score of 10 does not signify a sale is ready to be made as many organizations score on the type of asset and have not built scoring based on the buyer’s place in the buying process.

Of course there are exceptions. If a person states “have sales call me” or “contact me" that is a good indicator they are ready to purchase. But as a rule, there is still a good bit of work to do to determine if the buyer is ready. Perhaps the questions should be is the lead buyer-ready, not sales-ready.

Carlos Hidalgo’s thought process is extremely organized and accurate—particularly in his break-down of how to handle leads.

Jim Obermayer – Sin, Suffer and Repent

The role of the marketing manager is to find the most qualified buyers. If lead gen is done properly the inquirer will self-qualify. The decision to send raw inquiries, qualified and unqualified to the sales channel is 1990’s thinking. It is usually on the shoulders of marketing management with the approval of sales management and it is the easy way out. “It’s their job to sort them out,” management will say. Wrong.

If you send everything to the sales channel it is expensive and time consuming. Nothing like giving your highest compensated people grunt work to do.

Jim is one of our most popular blog guests—and no wonder. The content of his writing is highly informative, while also down to earth and tangible. He always has a way of packing a verbal punch with his words.

Ginger Conlon – “The One-to-One Future is Now”

Should marketers prequalify inbound leads with a perfect lead score before passing them to sales? The answer is: It depends. If marketing and sales have agreed on what it means for a lead to have a perfect score and have conducted testing to ensure that inbound leads with a perfect score are indeed sales ready, then pass them along. But don't "set it and forget it." It's important to revisit lead qualification and scoring on a regular basis.

If the marketing and sales teams differ in terms of their definitions of lead quality and score, then it's worth the effort to further qualify inbound leads with a "perfect score." Not doing so is sure to result in a pipeline that has a mix of warm and hot leads, which will frustrate salespeople and marketers alike.
Back in May I met with Ginger at the SiriusDecisions Summit where we had the opportunity to talk about lead scoring validation and calibration. I find her points here excellent. Without a common understanding of lead score and quality, you end up with a bunch of frustrated salespeople and marketers alike.

Dave Stein – Learn about Dave!

We invest in Marketing Automation Solutions to do just that—automate a key marketing function.

I come out of the software industry. We would never ask a customer to trust any output from any of our solutions without “running parallel”—manual and the new software, or the old software and the new software. The parallel tests would confirm that the systems were working as designed and as planned. If there were discrepancies, we’d discover those before the “cut over” to the new system.

This is a practical and necessary approach for Marketing Automation systems as well. See what conclusions are drawn by the software. Compare those against what Marketing and Sales together agree constitute a qualified lead. (If Marketing and Sales haven’t reached that point, then all a Marketing Automation system will do is automate the chaos that already exists.)

Once a pre-determined number of leads have been processed and validated, it should be time to trust the system.

Though I am not sure I agree that it is actually possible to “automate a key marketing function,” I do agree that most companies, unfortunately, find themselves simply automating “the chaos that already exists.”

Matt Heinz – Matt on Marketing

I think the top and bottom of the lead scoring matrix is typically clear-cut. The very best leads should probably go straight to sales. The worst leads clearly need more nurturing.

I believe the biggest source of increased ROI from lead management is in the middle — where there’s more gray area and ambiguity around whether the leads should or should not go to sales. Resolving and optimizing around this requires tight integration between sales and marketing, plus really good metrics that tell you exactly which of those leads are moving through and which are getting stuck, such that you can continue to refine the scoring and improve efficiency of the sales team against the most “needy” leads.

According to SiriusDecisions, only 40 percent of salespeople agree that their company’s current lead scoring system is effective. That tells me most of the time sales is still getting leads that aren’t ready to buy, or at least aren’t sales-ready. But I think the problem is far more than honing the lead scoring system in many of those cases. It’s probably deeper than that — competing definitions of what a good lead and qualified opportunity are, for one. And unfortunately, messy lead scoring methodologies also typically lead to salespeople missing or ignoring the good leads that are hidden in the stack somewhere.

While I certainly value your insight, Matt, with all due respect, I must disagree with your statement that “the very best leads go straight to sales.” High scoring leads (if that is how you are determining qualified leads) do not always translate into the best opportunities—in fact, it’s sometimes quite the opposite.

In the third and final part of this series, we’ll hear from Connect & Sell’s Chad Burmeister; consultant and professor Ruth Stevens; sales guru Chris Tratar;’s Chris Snell; and cleaning up will be 60-Second Marketer’s founder and CEO, Jamie Turner.

By Dan McDade

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Topics: Lead Qualification, Inbound Marketing, Lead Management

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