Is Lead Flow to the Reps Too Slow or Gridlocked?

Posted by James Obermayer on Jun 15, 2017 12:04:49 PM

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Some companies have several inside departments to take in, qualify, nurture, and filter sales leads to such a finite extent that few leads go to anyone. If the raw lead count is high but there is a mere trickle going to the salespeople, you have a substantial problem. You are:

  • Delaying talking to buyers and reducing your chances of making the sale by 50%, because salespeople, on average, aren’t getting the leads until weeks after they’re created.
  • Filtering out real buyers.
  • Paying nurturing and qualification departments that drain budget and add little value.
  • Driving your salespeople to create their own leads, sucking away productive selling time.
  • Starving the pipeline of new prospects.
  • Substantially reducing current and future revenue.

A 100% True Story

I was hired by a high tech company in San Jose to find sales leakage because of a substantial sales slump. One finding stood out: 85% to 90% of all inquiries and leads were in a qualification and nurture process that was out of control. The lead generation team was doing its job, but the rules for a qualified lead were so onerous that very little was going to the salespeople. 

The sales department was not making its numbers and everyone was frustrated. It turns out there were several stages of qualification, from two different inside telemarketing departments. 

The qualification department called every inquiry and filtered out those that were not immediate buyers and passed the inquiries to the nurture department. Their favorite script was: Are you ready to buy yet?

It took weeks to get through to inquirers; there were eight attempts before inquirers were declared dead. All inquiries (even hot leads) were then passed along to the nurture department. 

The rules required that each inquiry needed a time frame for purchase, a decision maker, and a budget. Those inquiries with immediate need were passed along to Sales.  Those that were not ready to buy within the following 60 days were kept in the nurture process. 

The nurture department didn’t let anything progress to Sales that wasn’t 100% qualified to buy; a small trickle of leads went to Sales. From my estimate 85% to 90% of the buyers were filtered out. The department manager said something like: “We only give our salespeople 100% qualified leads that will buy.” The issue is that the inside telequalification department wasn’t aware of the Universal Buyers Law.  

Universal Buyers Law: I will lie until I am ready to buy!

         “Prospects have a common trait; they lie. They say they aren’t going to buy right away, they have no budget and they are not the decision maker. They are lying.”  

In all, there were about 40 inside people in two departments working on the qualification and nurture process. This cost the company $1.2 million in salary and benefits. A consultant once taught me that any good trait taken to an extreme can become a negative. When I reported on the log jam, I thought the sales manager was going to have a heart attack on the spot. What started off with the good intentions of not wasting a salesperson’s time on unqualified leads resulted in huge negative consequences.

The End Result

Two departments were consolidated into one smaller department. Twenty percent of the savings obtained from cutting the two departments went to an outside qualification service tied into the CRM system. Lead flow jumped by 300% to 400% in four weeks. 

  • ‘Immediate-need’ leads were hot transferred by telephone to a rep.
  • Appointments were created 5% to 10% of the time (one week in advance for the representative).
  • Qualification criteria were loosened.
  • Long-term buyers (over six months) were placed in a nurture cycle.
  • The pipeline jumped in value by 50%.
  • Revenue increased substantially in three to four months.

“The company broke the logjam of do-gooders, all trying to justify their jobs with archaic, well-intentioned but stupid rules that prevented getting leads to the field and into the hands of someone who could sell.”

What to Do If This Sounds Like You

Check the inquiry backlog at each step of the qualification process. Is there a log jam effecting revenue and pipeline growth? Are the qualification rules too strict? 

Qualification should be fast. Nurturing should be consistent and just as brutal; when someone says they have no need and aren’t going to buy, kill the lead and move on. Twenty-six percent of all leads are competitors, students, and prisoners. When someone has an immediate need, the lead should go to Sales within minutes. Hot transfers should be made from the telemarketing department (or company) to the reps. Appointments can be scheduled a week out and the reps can change the date as needed. 

If you don’t want the head count to do this inside your company, go to an outside service. They are faster, more productive (therefore cheaper), accept rejection and know how to qualify even those who lie.

For the example company and sales manager above, the pipeline surged, sales surged and a big sigh of relief was heard from the C-Suite. 

Doing what doesn't work is one of 56 reasons sales are down, from the ebook: 56 Ways to Turn Around Failing Sales

The ebook is not gated. Yet.

(istock photo)

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Topics: B2B Telemarketing, Sales Process, Lead Nurturing, Lead Qualification, Lead Management, Sales Leads

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