lead_conversionYour campaign’s off the ground and the pipeline’s filling up with leads. Great! Now the sales warriors will get to work, and begin the conversions.

In an ideal world, that is. Because the truth is, it’s not all up to them.

How often do we see a great deal of those juicy leads fail to convert? Or decompose and get thrown out, long after sales should have gobbled them up? It’s a common enough problem – but don’t be too quick to blame the folks in the field.

First, a simple question. What sort of campaign is pulling in these leads? Inbound, or outbound?

If this is an outbound, high-touch operation – cold calls, trade shows, and the like, involving a lot of direct contact with prospects – then maybe your salespeople really are sitting on their hands. But if they aren’t, or if your campaign is an inbound, content-centric thing, then the root of your problem might be lead qualification (or the lack of it).

These are three things all marketers need to know about the qualification process.

1. Give it a human touch

Slip into a salesperson’s head for just a minute. What would you do to source your own leads? Chances are, you wouldn’t need your marketers for that. You would, however, need them to screen what they find, to minimise your likelihood of wasting precious time on prospects that won’t become customers.

Marketing automation and intelligence tools can help with the screening, but these aren’t replacements for human conversation and judgment. The only sure-fire way to ascertain if a lead is ‘hot or not’ is simple, direct contact; hence why qualifying leads in an outbound campaign is often easier.

2. Continually review it

By the same token, this is why it is all the more a cause for concern if your outbound lead pipeline is stagnating. You may be asking the wrong questions, or even targeting the wrong personas.

Check, and if necessary, refine your lead qualification tactics from time to time, to make sure they are going somewhere.

3. Pair it with rapid response

Another thing – if at all possible, qualify leads quickly. That means contacting the lead within minutes of its submission.

According to a 2007 study, even a half-hour delay in responding to a lead can drag down qualification chances by a factor of 21. Speed does kill.

Even in organisations where marketing and sales are closely aligned, marketing folks that overlook the lead qualification process short-change not only their sales cousins, but themselves. Lead generation metrics may look nice on a report, but alone, they’re worthless in the big picture – which is where ROI, many a marketing department’s raison d’etre, comes in.

Qualify for quality over quantity, and you will make your leads work better for you.

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