How Do You Know if a Lead is Sales-Ready?

Marketing Insights for Professionals

Marketing Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership articles and reports for Marketing pros

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Not every prospect is ready to be sold to. Contact them too early and you'll scare them off; leave it too late and your competitors will get there first. Use lead scoring to help you understand a prospect's position in the buyer journey.

Article

Imagine you’re a professional baker. You’ve got all your ingredients and are ready to make some delicious baked goods for your store team to sell to hungry customers.

But you don’t have a recipe to follow, your oven hasn’t got a temperature gauge and rather than using a timer, you’re just going to have to guess when it’s all ready.

Your sales team are hoping to be presented with trays of perfect macaroons, cupcakes and eclairs, but what you’re actually giving them is half-finished, undercooked or overdone. They’re going to have to use every trick in the book to sell them.

This is exactly what you’re doing every time you pass on a half-baked lead. It forces your sales team to work much harder, which could cause them to miss out on an opportunity that’s ready to be closed. That’s why you need to take the time to understand whether a lead is truly sales-ready.

Using lead scoring to support your sales team

Once you’ve taken steps to build a top-tier sales team, it’s in your best interest to supply them with a constant stream of sales-ready leads.

Not all leads are created equal. Half in any given sales pipeline aren’t yet ready to buy, according to Marketo. So it’s alarming that many marketers aren’t taking the time to understand the readiness of their leads. Indeed, MarketingSherpa discovered that four-fifths of B2B marketers haven’t established any form of lead scoring system.

As the name suggests, lead scoring is all about determining whether a given lead should be fast-tracked through to the sales team, or instead requires further nurturing. A lead should only be passed to sales once it reaches a high enough score against the following metrics:

1. Lead fit

You’ll need to capture some data on a prospect to assess their lead fit score. That information should include:

  1. Demographics: information about the lead, such as job title and time in role
  2. Firmographics: information related to the organization, such as company size, revenue and location
  3. Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline: various details that help you ascertain the lead’s position in the buyer cycle

Rather than forcing your salespeople to collect this information over the phone or via email, do it with data capture forms on your website. Create gated content, run registration-only webinars and offer unique insights to people who sign up to your newsletter.

2. Lead interest

The way a prospect interacts with your brand can help you gauge their interest level - and therefore how ready they are to be sold to. Calculate a score for this metric by keeping track of key indicators such as:

  • Email opens and click-throughs
  • Social media engagement
  • Content downloads

3. Lead behavior

By this point, you’re less concerned with whether or not a prospect is a good fit - which should already be apparent - and more with identifying their position on the buyer journey.

There’s no set way to do this. It will naturally vary from industry to industry and business to business, with improvements made over time. But it’s essentially about understanding the online behaviors and activities that tend to suggest a lead will eventually become a customer.

Viewing multiple case studies, downloading a whitepaper and following you on Twitter may earn a prospect a high score, while a lower score could be awarded to someone who exclusively views early-stage content.

4. Buying stage

Simply put, is your prospect at the early, middle or late stage of the buying journey? The easiest way to assess this is to create specific criteria for each buying stage, based on the layout of a traditional sales funnel.

Use these criteria to ascertain whereabouts your prospect fits - and therefore whether or not they’re ready to be handed to your sales team.

How much time should you spend on lead nurturing?

It’s easy to dismiss lead nurturing as a potential barrier to closing deals. After all, once you’ve got a prospect’s details, surely you’d want to get your sales team on the case? Spending time on nurturing those leads is just wasting time.

This view simply isn’t supported by evidence. In fact, Forrester Research famously found that when companies excel at lead nurturing, they’re able to generate 50% more leads at a 33% lower cost.

The length of time that you spend on nurturing naturally depends on your industry, the length of your buyer journey and the behavior of each individual lead. But it should be a core focus of your marketing efforts - particularly if your sales funnel is anything longer than a few weeks.

Think of it another way. If you’re not actively nurturing your leads with targeted, highly personalized emails and content, your competitors probably are. Ultimately, the sale is likely to go to the company that’s been more attentive throughout the buyer’s journey.

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