Thursday, October 21, 2010

Marketing Needs to Lend Sales a Hand With Lead Qualification


Building a bridge between the marketing team and the sales team.
Article | September 14, 2010
By Mike Drohan

Many companies, Fortune 500 included, today are looking at leveraging the sales team’s time as an area of great opportunity. Clearly, it’s not a good investment of a sales rep’s time to follow up with prospects that have not been qualified. So one way the marketing team can better support the sales team is by adding the skill to call and qualify the needs of prospects and clients.

Now this goes against the grain because marketing typically doesn’t follow up on leads. But in reality, the marketing team is at its best when it helps the sales team to meet with more qualified prospects so they don’t have to spend precious time looking for them. Many leads the marketing team generates should be further qualified before being given to the sales rep. By doing this, the leads are quality graded and prioritized so the sales rep only receives qualified prospects in the following order:

•Leads that have a need and want to meet with a sales rep now.
•Prospects that want a sales rep to call at a later date. Marketing will develop these leads until the appropriate follow-up date and then turn them over to the sales reps.
•Prospects that meet your criteria but do not have an immediate need. Marketing will update key database information and continue to nurture them. Marketing will continue to make follow-up calls to monitor if their needs change.
•Non-qualified prospects are set aside so they do not waste the sales team’s time.
Whether you have your marketing team make the calls, add an inside marketing team to your staff, or turn to a team of professional lead qualification specialists, the key is that they will produce better results that will leverage the time of the sales team. In addition, the marketing team can make the calls for a fraction of the cost of having your sales reps make them.

Chances are good that if you look at the job your marketing team is doing at creating targeted marketing campaigns, you will be impressed. I’d bet they are better at defining prospect and client audiences so they can create highly targeted campaigns. These campaigns include:

Event Marketing: Webinars, seminars, and trade shows

Direct Marketing: Direct mail, whitepaper downloads

Product Focused: New products, upgrades, and special promotions

Industry Focused: Needs-based marketing

Dormant Clients: Rekindle relationships

Here are several examples of how utilizing lead qualification specialists will further qualify leads, leverage the sales team’s time, and open sales opportunities.

Event marketing. Webinars and seminarsare difficult for the sales team because the prospecting work needs to be done in a short window around the event date. A large number of calls must be made to generate interest and registrations before the event, and then more calls need to be made to follow up immediately after the event. Often, even though marketing did a great job on the event, the follow-up calls after the event can be poor to non-existent. Two issues that can cause poor follow-up are too many prospects that are not qualified, and the short window after the event. While the marketing team has done a great job to generate a prospect that attended a Webinar, there is still work to be done before giving these leads to the sales team.

Trade shows are not easy for the sales team for three reasons. First, many companies stop by the booth just for the giveaway. Second, often the right company stops by the booth but not the right decision-maker. Third, the window of opportunity closes quickly right after the show. It’s no wonder that 80 percent of trade show leads are never followed up on. The marketing team should call to follow up on the leads to beat slow-moving competition, make sure no leads fall through the cracks, and qualify leads to keep the sales team from spending any time with unqualified leads.

Direct Marketing. Whitepaper downloads are tricky for the sales team because many are not qualified prospects. Many are doing research, writing a paper, or looking for competitive information. Before handing the inquiries over to the sales team, the marketing team should call each prospect to learn why they downloaded the whitepaper, qualify their need, and motivate those who have a need to meet with a sales rep.

Direct mail follow-up likewise is tough for sales reps because they just don’t have time to follow up on an offer when the need is unknown. There is a tremendous benefit to complement a direct marketing campaign with phone calls to proactively reach prospects. But it is not a good use of the sales team’s time to make those calls. The marketing team can confirm the person responsible, qualify their need, and motivate them to set an appointment with the sales team.

Product-focusedcampaignsthat offer new products, upgrades, and special promotions. New products are a challenge for the sales team because a relationship needs to be established with a new decision-maker. Upgrades are demanding on the sales rep’s time when the incentives are lower than a normal sale. Special promotions have time restraints that force sales reps to dedicate large chunks of prospecting time. The marketing team can call to qualify each prospect’s need to prioritize the best opportunities for the sales team. In addition, they can develop the rest of the prospect universe by capturing decision-maker names and e-mail addresses, and identify where there are opportunities down the road.

Industry-focusedcampaigns. These are a problem for the sales team because they have to start prospecting from the beginning. It’s not easy reaching all the new prospects in each territory. The marketing team should call to identify the right decision-makers, introduce the company and its vast offerings, and generate appointments with the companies that meet the client’s criteria. Then the sales rep can focus his or her efforts on meeting with qualified prospects.

Dormant clients are tiring for the sales team because they don’t know if a company fell through the cracks or if the business closed. Having sales reps call companies that may be closed is a waste of their time. While there is a great amount of opportunity there, the sales team does not have time to consistently make these calls. The marketing team should call to open the communication lines, learn why they stopped buying, and rekindle the relationship to open up a sales opportunity. When the marketing team identifies a client that is interested in re-engaging and wants to make a purchase, an appointment is made for the sales team.

Nurturing open territories is a challenge for the sales team because it’s tough enough to prospect in their own territory. Due to travel time and not knowing the territory, it is difficult for the sales rep to do much more than respond to the inbound sales requests. If the covering sales rep does do any quality prospecting, it gets lost when the new rep takes over. The marketing team should make these calls to provide touch points to let prospects and clients know you care about their business. They can identify the needs within the territory and prioritize them for the covering sales rep.

Hopefully, these examples provide a better view of how the marketing team can have a tremendous impact by qualifying leads to leverage the sales team’s time. Separating the sales opportunities from the non-prospects will produce better results and energize the sales team.

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