If you’re like many marketing teams, you might be so focused on generating leads for your sales or business development team that you send all of your raw, unqualified leads straight to them. Or maybe you’re on the other end of the spectrum, following the school of thought that says every lead should be marketing-qualified and scored prior to conversation with a sales representative. Based on my experience, I can tell you that the right answer sits somewhere in the middle.
The fact is, not all leads should be delivered directly to your company’s business development team – but not all leads should be perfectly qualified using automated methods, either. There are some leads that may not be fully developed within your qualified criteria, but nonetheless deserve to be sent over to sales for qualification and nurturing.
To put it another way, lead qualification should be a thoughtful combination of technology and touch.
There are many amazing marketing automation platforms out there that can capture, nurture, and score your leads. Using this technology, you can set up lead scoring based on a variety of criteria. You can look at explicit information, such as number of employees, annual revenue, industry, location and installed technologies. You can also measure implicit information like web page views, e-mails opened, white papers downloaded, videos or webinars watched and much more.
The great thing about using marketing automation to qualify leads is that a lot of qualifying procedures can be performed without personal oversight at each step. Leads can be scored based on demographic information and online behaviors, as long as you set up the tracking correctly at the outset. You can even launch email campaigns and serve up dynamic web content based on this information, which helps your business cater content to each prospect’s needs and interests.
The trade-off is that the information gathered using automated methods can be spotty, at times. If a particular prospect doesn’t have cookies enabled, they won’t be tracked or scored. If their company information is not readily available on public websites, you may not be able to append this information to their record. And that’s where the human “touch” comes in.
In addition to online scoring and qualification activities, I highly recommend an intermediate step between lead capture and delivery to sales. In some organizations (like ours), we use a Lead Development team to ensure our leads are screened properly prior to moving to our sales team. Some call it appointment setting, while others call it inside sales if they’re prospecting for an outside sales team. Whatever you call it, it can be critical to marketing and sales success.
The idea behind a Lead Development team is that sales or business development professionals should not prospect or qualify leads themselves. Once a lead gets to them, it should be pre-qualified, vetted, and confirmed. What is determined to be a qualified lead will vary dependent on your firm, industry, goals, and other factors. But whatever your qualifying criteria, the Lead Development function should ensure that escalated prospects meet that criteria and are ready to talk to a representative.
There are also intangibles that can only be gathered during a one-to-one phone consultative call. A sales representative or teleprospecting agent can build rapport, ask compelling open-ended questions and gauge a prospect’s interest level – and you just can’t do that as effectively using only technology.
Striking a Balance
Making sure you strike a balance between delivering a suitable quantity of high quality leads is a challenge, but it all comes down to how much of your qualification is done by automated means and how much is human touch.
I believe it all comes down to balancing your touch and technology. You want to qualify leads through automated means enough to make sure they’re worth the Lead Development team’s time. But you don’t want to make your automated qualification criteria so stringent that they filter out too many potential prospects.
So how do you qualify your leads? Do you use 100% touch, 100% tech or a combination of the two? Have you found a Lead Development or teleprospecting team to be a valuable addition to your marketing mix, and what do you think the right balance is? Please share any thoughts or questions you have in the comments below.