I've seen a lot of companies investing in lead generation programs without first going through the process of defining what a qualified lead looks like and more importantly, what to do with one when you come across it! This is not something that marketing can do alone. Without active involvement and feedback from sales, lead scoring or rating systems often miss the mark.
So what is a lead? That depends a lot on how you sell. For B to B businesses such as ReadyTalk, we look at our direct sales team for supporting both "cold" or "cool" calling as well as moving more qualified prospects through our sales process. This means that a ReadyTalk rep is calling both unqualified and qualified prospects. We try to keep the "cold calling" to sub 20% of their time, but we do expect this to be a standard part of their daily routine. So how do we decide when a lead needs to go to the sales team vs. staying in a marketing incubation program? Some of the metrics that we use for rating are the following:
What is the time frame for making a purchase decision? Obviously if you have a prospect that says they are going to make a purchasing decision soon, you need to move quickly on that lead and its rating goes high immediately.
- What is their role in the purchasing process? The role of the prospect is important in determining both the rating and what to do with the lead. If the role is an Economic buyer for example, the rating should go up. If it is a user role, then the rating may not increase.
- Do they have a budget? This is always a good litmus test for if a customer is sincerely intent on purchasing or if they are just evaluating technology or solutions for the future. Use this with the time frame to buy to help rate your lead.
- Are they in your target segment? Size, job function and industry all have relevance in determining if the opportunity is a fit for your solution or product.
- How well does your product fit the need? This is sometimes difficult to determine in a some lead generation programs, but the more information you can find out about the customer’s need, the better armed your sales team will be in determining if follow up is required and how to follow up with the prospect.
- How did you get the lead? Lead source doesn't seem like it would impact how you rate a lead but it does. We find that if a prospect is referred to us by an existing customer, they will be much more receptive to a phone call than a lead that found us through an internet search. Referral leads end up being some of the best leads for our business. We rate them much higher than other leads.
So now that you have agreed on the qualification criteria, how do you rate or score leads. You can use the tried and true A, B, C system or a more complex 1 to 100 system. Some of this depends on the sophistication of your marketing systems and the ability for your sales team to determine how to act on the rated leads.
At Ready talk, we use a combination of A through D and 1 through 4. So you can have an A1 lead that a rep receives that will not only get an immediate follow up, the rep will be doing some additional homework on the prospects site to better understand the opportunity and the customer's business. This amount of pre-call time is justified for that quality of lead. If the lead is a C-4, the rep will still call back, but may do so when they have a bit of free time and they wont be doing much pre-call work. You will want to continually get feedback from your sales team on how the rating system is working. If they start getting all leads and find out that they aren't qualified, the sales team becomes less like to follow up with these leads in the future.