If you knew you could apply a number of best-in-class lead generation processes proven to close five times more deals than average processes, would you do it?
Seems like a no brainer, doesn’t it? But in reality, many companies continue to implement lead generation processes that can be considered average at best or, more realistically, broken and ineffective.
Here are 10 critical best practice processes that are continually being shown to close more deals and drive more revenue.
1. Identify and Commit
Why should you identify and implement best practice processes?
Marketing and sales groups that implement best-in-class lead generation processes are outperforming those with average processes by a margin of five to one, according to recent research from SiriusDecisions.
To be clear about this metric, companies applying best practice processes are closing just over 14 deals from a prospect universe of 1,000 while those applying average processes are closing just under three deals per 1,000.
Best-practice companies are also growing year-over-year revenues as well as profits.
2. Align Marketing and Sales
If the CEO or a senior vice president is not satisfied with current marketing and sales results, chances are there are issues in these areas.
Things probably won’t change if the two groups are charged with working things out. After all, a statue has never been built to honor a committee. It may sound draconian, but it’s going to take one single person to step up and spearhead the alignment initiative.
Written service level agreements need to be implemented so that all participants have clearly defined responsibilities and accountabilities at each step in the buying cycle. The SLAs will cover areas like definitions, lead management processes and measurement.
3. Precisely Define, Segment and Test
Micro targeting is a critical success factor driving lead-generation success.
Why? Consider that a 5 percent lead rate achieved from qualifying 1,000 companies is actually comprised of subgroups that average higher and lower lead rates. There may be five segments of 200 companies each with lead rates of 9 percent, 7 percent, 5 percent, 3 percent and 1 percent that — in total — average an overall 5 percent lead rate. Testing identifies the subgroups most likely to buy.
By applying micro targeting to a client’s potential universe, the number of prospect companies can be radically reduces. Also, the focus can be placed on larger opportunities that close as easily as smaller ones and represent profitable vs. marginal business.
4. Agree on Lead Definitions
Once agreement has been reached on market definition, marketing and sales must agree on lead definitions.
Adopt strict criteria for lead types and consider implementing a lead progression framework like the SiriusDecisions Demand Waterfall:
- Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) — Qualified and delivered by marketing
- Sales Accepted Lead (SAL) — Reviewed and accepted by sales
- Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) — Contacted and further qualified by sales
It’s not wise to depend on full BANT (budget, authority, need and timeframe), as this tends to rule out high-value opportunities that will buy in the future, as they will not be actively pursued by sales reps due to how they’re compensated.
Authority and need, however, are critical qualifiers as they imply timeframe. Need should be supported by a compelling event linked to finding the solution to a problem within a specific timeframe. Budget is also driven by need, and it’s more important to identify the process and players involved.
5. Agree on Expected Metrics
Regarding expected metrics, measure the percentage of MQLs that become SALs, SQLs and closed deals.
Perfection means 100 percent of MQLs become all three, but progress occurs the closer the percentages get to 100 percent.
6. Balance Outbound and Inbound Efforts
The correct balance between proactive outbound marketing and inbound marketing is based on the nature of your offering, your prospect’s buying path, and your selling model.
Situations where outbound is critical include a complex buying landscape with C-level or multiple decision makers; larger target company size; longer sales cycle length; higher-value solution offerings; and presence of a strategic account group.
In situations like these, waiting for inbound digital body language may not get you to the table in time. Rather, a healthy dose of proactive outbound contact is required.
Additionally, inbound leads tend to be lower-level decision makers and smaller deal sizes. Inbound marketing strategies are important, but it’s critical to achieve the right outbound/inbound balance.
7. Apply Multitouch, Multimedia and Multicycle Contact Strategies
An internal or external dedicated group of lead generation and lead nurturing experts is required to apply best-practice contact strategies characterized by a multitouch, multimedia and multicycle approach.
Good proactive campaigns have just enough contact to engage buyers, but enough space to respect demands on their time. The trick is to know the media to use, contact timing, and the number of cycles required to optimize response. A series of touches using multiple media over a period of time to educate and stimulate a buyer is best.
8. Give Sales Fewer, More-Qualified Leads
Sales executives don’t need more leads. They need fewer leads — or more accurately, fewer raw, unqualified leads.
Standard lead-generation’s focus on quantity floods the pipeline with far too many low-value leads that don’t deliver ROI.
Take a “less is more” approach and send only the best opportunities to the field.
9. Nurture Long-Term Leads
In a strategic sale process, typically 5 percent of the market is in play at any given time.
But another 15 to 20 percent will be in play over the next six to 12 months. These companies that are qualified, but not short-term, are mostly ignored by sales.
It’s possible to as much as double program revenue with a relatively small incremental investment focused on optimizing long-term lead value.
Let’s say you started with 1,000 prospects and found 40 short-term qualified leads that resulted in eight deals along with 40 long-term opportunities. You could either start over to get another eight deals or nurture the 40 long-term opportunities to get eight deals at a fraction of the cost.
Sales reps are not the right resources to do nurturing, and it’s critical to assign coverage to the right resources to deliver the right messages at the right times.
10. Use Closed-Loop Processes to Track and Manage Flow
Without closed-loop processes to track and manage lead flow, sales funnel leakage takes place.
The first occurs when MQLs have been accepted as SALs, and sales does not engage them. The second occurs when SALs have been moved to SQL status, but not fully pursued — perhaps because they did not convert quickly enough.
Effective lead management processes will identify these outliers as needing immediate attention, perhaps by being passed back to the dedicated nurturing group.
How do you visualize lead generation success for your company?
Chances are it’s one or more of the following: happy and loyal customers; more closed deals; increased revenue; greater profits; improved shareholder value.
Committing to and applying these proven 10 best-practice lead generation processes will make your vision a reality.