lead qualification illustration

You made it. Your company’s website is generating plenty of leads, so you can finally take a moment to breathe. But since you’re reading this article, you’re probably done with the breather or skipped it altogether. You’re probably asking yourself some of these questions:

  • What should happen after a lead comes in through our website?
  • Who is responsible for a lead?
  • What should we do with good-fit leads that aren’t ready to buy?
  • How can we stop wasting our time with bad-fit leads?
  • How do we measure website and marketing return on investment (ROI)?

The more leads your website generates, the more pressing these issues become. If you’re seeing ten per month, your focus should be on getting more good leads into the funnel. But if you’re getting 100 per month, boosting the lead-to-customer conversion rate will make a significant impact on your bottom line.

In this piece, we’re sharing guidance on how to maximize this conversion rate by breaking the issue down into three parts, in order of priority.

  • Priority 1: Make sure sales-ready leads are immediately met with your full attention
  • Priority 2: Don’t let mid-funnel leads fall through the cracks
  • Priority 3: Stop wasting your time with bad-fit leads
  • Bonus: Some guidance on measuring progress

Are you lagging behind on lead generation? Not a problem. Start with our guide to industrial marketing or enroll in our online course.

Priority 1: Address sales-ready leads immediately.

We don’t need to lecture you on the importance of timeliness in closing potential customers. But did you realize your odds of successful contact with a lead at the 30-minute mark are one hundred times lower than a response at the five-minute mark? Now factor in that the average B2B response time is 42 hours. Money is left on the table simply because businesses don’t get back in time.

Consequently, your first priority should be passing sales-qualified leads to your sales team immediately and guaranteeing their follow-up by following a few steps.

  • Provide your sales team with the information they’ll need for a follow-up. That includes a name, company, email, phone number and their inquiry. Other points of data such as their location and job title may be essential depending on your business.
  • Dig for extra bits of data that will make their outreach more effective. If you’re using a customer relationship management (CRM) tool like HubSpot or Salesforce, check out which pages the contact visited, which forms they submitted or which marketing emails they clicked. Can you find their LinkedIn profile? Great. This additional knowledge will make for a more informed conversation between your team and the potential buyer. Bundle a package of valuable data (read: quality over quantity) and send it off to the right sales team member.
  • Make it official. If your sales team is using your CRM (fingers crossed), assign the lead to the right team member and create a specific task for them, such as making a phone call, with a feasible due date.

Priority 2: Nurture leads that aren’t quite there yet.

Is it too early to pass the lead on to your sales team? Is your sales team not getting a response to their follow-up? Are leads just not ready to buy? Not a problem. But don’t let leads that are sales-qualified (i.e., fit your criteria of a good customer) but not yet sales-ready slide into database limbo.

You should nurture these leads, guiding them through the long and complex buying process with a combination of personal touch points (sales) and content / automation (marketing). The point is this: Because they’re sales-qualified, they shouldn’t be ignored. But because they’re not sales-ready, your sales team can’t afford to give them the manual attention that’s best suited for a lead who is both sales-qualified AND sales-ready.

Scenario 1: The lead has potential, but you need to qualify it further before you’re confident giving it to the sales team.

If you’re using HubSpot, this is where sequences are valuable. Sequences are a series of automated, templated emails that are sent over the course of a week or two. If you’re not using HubSpot, there are other tools to do this. While these emails will sound out whether or not the lead is qualified, they should also provide helpful, problem-solving resources.

For Gorilla, we’ve designed a five-email sequence that’s 90% resources, 10% sales. With a 23% reply rate, this tool generates real opportunities at the click of a button. Here’s a guide to help you set up your first HubSpot sequence.

Scenario 2: Your sales team is not getting a response to their follow-up.

While continued manual follow-ups should be part of the process (at least for promising leads), a regular email campaign will help you stay top-of-mind for these leads. For ourselves and our clients, this means a monthly newsletter that delivers our latest articles and guides to our contacts’ inboxes.

Your newsletter should position your company as an industry thought leader by providing high-quality, problem-solving content. When this works, the continuous drip of emails significantly increases the odds that your’re in the running when a lead is ready to buy.

If you’re not sure where to start on developing a newsletter for your company, read this guide.

Priority 3: Weed out bad-fit leads.

If you’re spending time skimming messages from vendors and students, sifting through leads from countries you don’t serve or weeding out RFQs for projects too small to consider, this section is for you. While we’re all for diversity and appreciating the small things, you need to focus your efforts on the best opportunities in the geographical area you can serve. Marketing automation will help you sort out this bycatch, allowing you to focus on the good stuff.

Start by sitting down with your sales team to discuss clear-cut characteristics that disqualify a lead. For our clients, disqualifying characteristics can be location (e.g., outside of the U.S.), job title (e.g., student) or a measure of revenue potential (e.g., annual spend). If you’re not already asking for this information on your website forms, make sure to update them.

Once you’re collecting that information, build automated processes that help differentiate good leads from bad leads. In HubSpot, Salesforce and other CRMs you’ll be able to use existing processes (e.g., HubSpot’s lead scoring) or build custom workflows (e.g., Salesforce’s Process Builder) that score a lead based on the criteria you determined earlier. Whatever your process for going through new website leads, you can now incorporate this score for filtering out bad-fit leads, focusing your time and attention on those you can and want to serve.

For a deep-dive on the lead qualification process we use here at Gorilla, read this.

Measuring progress

The goal of this article is to help you to maximize your lead-to-customer conversion rate. To understand where this conversion rate stands today and, more importantly, where you might be losing business in the sales funnel, you need to implement a measuring system.

Imagine a dataset that knew where each and every one of your leads was in the buying process and, if they closed, how much they spent. Now combine that with your CRM’s knowledge of their original source (e.g., organic search, pay-per-click, social media), the pages on your website they visited or the marketing emails they received. In addition to measuring lead-to-customer conversion, having accurate lead data means knowing whether a sale was worth the effort and expense made to attract it.

This level of detail in your data provides you with transparency into the return you’re getting on your marketing tactics, allowing you to invest in those that produce the best outcomes.

Say, for instance, that over the course of a year you invest in an SEO campaign and a Google Ads campaign. With a clean set of data in your CRM, you can simply let the numbers judge which of the two produced better results in terms of qualified leads, one-time sales and annual revenue. Closing the loop will elevate your marketing team from “the people who make our brochures” to “the people who are bringing us new business.”

For most of our clients (and, for that matter, the majority of companies out there), achieving this level of detail in their data is a challenge, especially with larger sales teams and often-long buying processes. While keeping information about leads updated while they’re still in your hands is on you, difficulties can arise when the lead is handed off to sales team members whose lead records are intermittently updated, if at all. We understand. Your sales team’s performance isn’t measured based on how neat their data is. Here’s how to approach this issue.

  • Put yourself in your sales team’s shoes and explain how clean data will help their goal of generating additional revenue. Create a what-if case study that illustrates how making marketing decisions based on sales data grows their bottom line.
  • Start small. Collaborate with select sales team members who are ready to embrace change. In exchange for data, provide them with tools that make their lives easier. Are they answering specific questions over and over again? Tools like Hubspot let you create templates for emails or even paragraphs to insert into emails. Even better, offer to write a blog post they can easily pass on to customers. Experiencing the power behind these tools can make them your ambassadors, helping you spread the data gospel throughout the company.
  • If you can, get buy-in from the executive team to initiate change from the top. If there’s an explicit call for change, you’ll have an easier time leading the charge.

Implementing measurement should go hand-in-hand with the three priorities discussed above. If you’re not reporting accurately, how will you ever know whether or not you’re improving?

This is great and all, but where do I start?

We get it. These challenges take months or years to address, not days. Start by assessing your status quo for each of the above priorities and determine your starting point. Is your sales team already highly responsive? Start with priority two. Are you seeing a low percentage of bad-fit leads? Skip priority three. Although you should consider each of the priorities, not every business will have to tackle all of them.

If you need guidance along the way, we’re happy to help. Just give us a call or request a consultation below. Besides addressing your lead management challenges, we’ll help you take a step back to develop an industrial marketing strategy that drives sustainable growth for your business.