Here’s a stat that will make most marketers wince: just 27% of sales leads ever get contacted. Despite the frightening gap between leads generated and those which are followed up, a recent MyCustomer feature noted that 43% of sales and marketing representatives agree that generating sufficient lead volume is a top marketing challenge. So what’s going wrong?

Don’t blame ‘sales’

While the immediate answer may appear to be simply getting the sales team to actually follow up all the leads they’re assigned, there’s an awful lot more to it. In truth this gap is almost definitely not the fault of the sales team. After all, why should they follow the leads up if they’re not good enough quality, they have no idea where they came from or the the process to find them and follow them up is unclear. It’s not surprising a high proportion of leads go direct to the “when I get to them” pile, only for the sales person never to get to them. So what can we as marketers do about it?

  • Work together to understand that perfect lead

    Is what Marketing assumes to be the perfect lead the same as what Sales believe it to be? Making assumptions about job titles, industry verticals, company size and even budget can present a big enough risk. But perhaps there’s even more detail that could be established. Are you aiming to find people at a particular point of the buying cycle or who have a particular challenge? Work together and establish exactly what a perfect lead looks like and where the degree of qualification falls between sales and marketing. Nail these fundamentals and you’ll have a better foundation for lead-follow up success.

  • Bring client-facing teams in early in the campaign development phase

    To ensure your content really connects with a target audience it’s important to show you understand a customer’s needs and challenges – and nobody understands the customer better than your client-facing colleagues. Lean on their expertise and involve the sales and customer services teams when you’re creating a campaign. You will not only improve the content being created but sales will have greater confidence in the quality of the leads generated.

  • Make sure the lead source is clear

    The involvement of Sales in campaign development will help this one, but it’s important  to make it crystal clear at the point of handover exactly what the source of the data is and which campaign the lead came from. If email notifications are given as each lead is passed over then these should include reference to the source. Even more important is to ensure that it’s simple to identify all of this in your CRM. Without this insight there will be no context and little understanding for the sales person on how to approach a follow up conversation. It will also help you as a marketer to know how many leads came from your campaigns so you can assess their quality and overall success.

  • Improve the speed of hand over

    Let’s assume your inbound leads are passed immediately to sales for follow up . After all, the odds of successful lead follow up drop off dramatically after the first 30 minutes (which makes a recent post on stating that the average response time as over 38 hours very worrying). Outbound leads (say for example, a response to an email campaign promoting a white paper) may be treated slightly less urgently, but only within reason. If it it takes a week or two to extract the lead data, import into CRM, dedupe against existing customers and assign to Sales, then the ‘hot’ moment of opportunity may have passed. Even the most enthusiastic sales folks may chose not prioritise those calls, and at worst may be reluctant to call at all. Get it all done in 24 hours and the response is likely to be far greater from both the Sales rep and the prospect.

  • Is the lead really ready to hand over?

    This is perhaps a question of agreeing the qualification criteria per our first point above. If the lead is clearly not ‘sales ready’ then consider a nurture programme that will either help them get there or make sure you are on their radar for when they’re ready. A programme of continuous communication, with content that is insightful and actionable, will not only maintain the relationship but it can further position an organisation as a thought leader. When the prospect engages with content at the optimum point of their buying cycle that is when the lead should be handed over to sales and followed up.

  • Get the right technology (and people) in place

    In most organisations there are lots of processes, technology and people involved between developing a campaign and the lead getting to the the sales person. Programmes with technology such as CRM and marketing automation need to be built appropriately with the endgame in mind. The right data needs to be captured, put into the system with accuracy (being applied to the correct campaign) and the notifications to Sales must be timely, smooth and clear.

For all the points mentioned above, the real key for marketers is to simply foster a close relationship with their Sales colleagues to identify what an acceptable marketing qualified lead looks like and what is required for it to become a sales accepted lead. Without first understanding this, everything else mentioned above will be worthless. On the other hand, get this figured out and that sales lead follow-up ‘black hole’ will soon begin to close up.