The sales reps at most B2B organizations have two choices: 1) Spend their time culling through leads that experience has shown are overwhelmingly raw, unfiltered, and unqualified. 2) Or, dismiss them outright.
In this take-it-or-leave-it scenario, nobody wins. Sales is not as productive as they need to be to meet quota, marketing is wasting its budget generating leads that don’t get followed up, and the company as a whole is not likely to meet revenue goals.
So, what’s the best way to rid the funnel of fool’s gold (leads that may look good at first blush, but are actually not worth much)?
How can you most effectively fill it instead with solid gold leads that have high potential of closing?
In short, these questions can be answered by changing established perceptions within your organization:
Marketing needs to understand that leads that haven’t been qualified or nurtured are of little value to sales. There’s a lot of work to be done to move leads through the pipeline to the point they’re ready for sales, and marketing must accept the fact that sales won’t (and shouldn’t be expected to) take these tasks on.
Sales should expect to receive leads that are qualified, nurtured and ready to begin the closing process. Reps need to trust the worth of the leads they receive, all of which, at this point, should have a relationship with the organization and be familiar with its solutions and value propositions. In return, sales team members must follow-up on leads they receive promptly, and update forecasts in a timely and realistic manner.
Of course, asking sales and marketing to change to the extent described above doesn’t make that change happen. To get these two areas to work in concert and to most effectively and efficiently do their respective jobs, means marketing must add an important function to its organization: Prospect development.
The role of prospect development is to close the gap between marketing and sales. Prospect development professionals take leads generated by marketing and own them until they’ve been appropriately qualified and properly nurtured. It’s their job—whether they’re in-house or outsourced—to develop leads into prospects, engaging them meaningfully across multiple sales cycles until they can be defined as “sales qualified.”
As part of the process to develop leads into prospects, this group of prospect developers has the responsibility to document a complete contact history, develop a company profile, and gather information about the budget, decision timeline, individuals involved, events or other factors driving the decision, pain points, hot buttons and competition.
While prospect development has the important role of turning raw leads into qualified, nurtured prospects. Just as vital to the success of a program such as this is their role in providing the information sales needs to turn these prospects into customers.
By focusing on delivering fewer, yet more qualified prospects to sales, B2B organizations have the very real potential to significantly impact their ability to generate revenue.