Is 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 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?
We started the first series hearing from author and consultant Ardath Albee; entrepreneur Kyle Porter; author and consultant Joanne Black; and consultant and speaker Dave Brock.
In the second part of the series, we heard 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.
We are now at the third and final part of this series, where we will hear from Connect & Sell’s Chad Burmeister; consultant and professor Ruth Stevens; sales guru Chris Tratar; Care.com’s Chris Snell; and finally, cleaning up is 60-Second Marketer’s founder and CEO, Jamie Turner.
|Read PART 1 Here||Read PART 2 Here
|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|
Now, to the experts:
Chad Burmeister – “Leads that come from online marketing may not be all that good.”
It depends on several factors. If a company has a way to classify leads into buckets such as “A”, “B”, “C” leads, then the A leads (AKA, the "website contact me now" leads) can be transferred directly to sales. The B & C leads (the bulk of the leads) should be pre-qualified by a Lead Qual team.
Some highly tuned sales teams such as WebEx, Act-On (ex-leaders from WebEx), and other world class companies that have identified “A Leads” can absolutely pass them to sales. Caveat – the speed of follow-up and a sufficient number of touches (including the utilization of Advanced Sales Acceleration from Connect & Sell) are required to efficiently and effectively work leads.
Chad knows how to sell! I don’t actually believe any leads (including what he refers to as the “A” leads from marketing automation) should be sent directly to sales without pre-qualification. Chad does make the point, however, that certain organizations can put a higher degree of trust in scoring, and offers some insight into how the process should work, as well.
Ruth Stevens – Author of Maximizing Lead Generation
It all comes down to math. If the so-called qualified leads turn out not to close at the desired rate, or produce the desired ROI, then setting up additional qualification processes should be tested. But that approach does not factor in the potential fallout of asking sales counterparts to participate in such an experiment. If marketing leadership has concerns about wasting the time and good will of the sales team, then I’d suggest a pre-test of these auto-qualified leads, using a separate group to test their validity.
Ruth is, as usual, looking at outcomes and the bottom of the funnel—not just the top. I also like that Ruth is consistently a fan of testing. Testing is one of the most effective, efficient things marketers can do; unfortunately, it is largely ignored in most companies, including the biggest of companies.
Chris Tratar – Why Sales Enablement is NOT Content Management
When it comes to pre-qualifying leads, you should always hand sales leads that are as qualified as possible because your sales reps need to be as efficient and effective as possible. More qualified leads also ensure that less pipeline will fall out. The key to passing any lead from marketing to sales is to ensure that your sales team gets the right coaching, materials and enablement at the right time to have the next successful conversation.
Chris Tratar takes the process beyond lead generation. His recommendation about the sales team getting the right coaching, materials, and enablement at the right time is really great advice and very additive to this conversation:
Chris Snell – On PowerViews Video Blog
I believe that there always has been, and always will be, room for tele-qualification on any lead. I don't think we've reached SkyNet levels yet, where the machines are completely doing our jobs. I think all of the inbound tools that marketers and sellers have to use at their disposal are fantastic, and they have certainly changed the selling landscape. However, although inbound leads from marketing automation tools are great, I do not think that there is a substitute for actual conversations.
In his role, Chris Snell has a unique bird's eye view on inside sales and makes valuable points from that perspective.
Finally, my clean-up man, Jamie Turner, who has written books on this and other related subjects, provides the three stages (Flood, Science and Art) companies go through as they grow more sophisticated in using marketing automation. I think you will find his insight very helpful:
I’ve found that there are three different stages companies go through when it comes to marketing automation.
The first is the Flood Stage where companies flood their database with too much information too quickly. This, of course, generates less-than-stellar results. I’d guess about 50% of the companies stop at this stage because they think that’s all there is to marketing automation.
The second stage is the Science Stage. That’s when companies realize that they can use statistics to optimize and improve their results. About 40% of the companies that use marketing automation get stuck in the Science Stage. It’s not a bad place to get stuck because the results are satisfactory, but it’s not ideal.
The final stage is the Art Stage. I call it that because there’s an art to pre-qualifying a sales ready lead. Only about 10% of the companies that start out in marketing automation get this far, but it’s where the gold is. When someone pre-qualifies a lead before sending it along to the sales team, they can 1) keep the sales team engaged and motivated, and 2) improve the ROI of their campaigns.
The bottom line? Don’t get stuck in the Flood or the Science stages. Keep going until you get to the Art stage. That’s where you’ll generate the best results.
To recap, here's a compilation of excerpts from each of the 15 experts, across the entire three-part series:
- “Prequalifying leads that have reached a scoring threshold in marketing automation is critical” (Ardath Albee).
- “There is no such thing as a ‘marketing automation lead’” (Kyle Porter).
- “… most leads generated from a company’s marketing automation system are not ready for sales” (Joanne Black).
- “…high quality lead scoring and possibly some level of tele-qualifying might be required to produce quality sales ready leads” (Dave Brock).
- “Do not ‘set and forget’ marketing automation scoring” (Ginger Conlon).
- “We would never ask a customer to trust any output from any of our solutions without ‘running parallel’” (Dave Stein).
- “… unfortunately, messy lead scoring methodologies also typically lead to salespeople missing or ignoring the good leads that are hidden in the stack somewhere” (Matt Heinz).
- “I believe that 100% of leads should flow through a sales development engine” (The Funnelholic – Craig Rosenberg).
- “… 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” (Carlos Hidalgo).
- “Everyone in the organization, especially marketing, must understand the difference between a sales lead and an inquiry” (from Jim Obermayer’s new book, Managing Sales Leads).
- “Caveat: the speed of follow-up and a sufficient number of touches are required to efficiently and effectively work leads (Chad Burmeister).
- “If so-called qualified leads turn out not to close at the desired rate then additional qualification should be tested (Ruth Stevens).
- “The key to passing any lead from marketing to sales is to ensure that the sales team gets the right coaching, materials and enablement at the right time” (Chris Tratar).
- “I believe there always has been, and always will be, room for tele-qualification on any lead” (Chris Snell).
- “The Art Stage. Only about 10% of the companies that start out in marketing automation get this far… but it’s where the gold is (Jamie Turner).
There you have it, folks. If you’ve been with us the whole way, you’ve heard the viewpoints of fifteen of the finest in B2B sales, marketing and lead generation. How have their views influenced yours?
By Dan McDade