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3 Lead Flow Mistakes Your Company Is Probably Making

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We're still discussing misalignment between marketing and sales because the problem hasn't disappeared. Sales will probably always think marketing should generate higher quality leads, and marketing will assume sales didn't bother to follow up on the lead before complaining about it.

The thing is, there is always some truth in both arguments. Marketing may need more information and feedback to improve their qualified lead definition. And sales will only follow up on the leads they think are likely to convert.

Everyone would be better off embracing curiosity instead of judgment. Marketing should use sales feedback to improve their lead quality, and sales needs to be more open-minded about what works and what doesn't.

So how do we fix it?

By asking the right questions and challenging the status quo. 

If you're looking for a place to start, here are three common mistakes in the handoff process.

Forcing sales to follow up on old leads

Have you heard the saying, "Time kills all deals"?

Leads that are followed up on in five minutes or less are 100 times more likely to convert into an opportunity. After those first five minutes, the chances of qualifying and converting the lead go down 80%. If your team doesn't respond quickly enough, 30% of those customers will hit up a competitor.

It's not just frustrating when qualified leads pile up over time. It hurts the business.

But because the likelihood of converting a lead goes down drastically after the first five minutes, let alone days, is it really worth making sales reach out to every stale record created?


At that point, you're forcing a team to do work that distracts them from leads that actually have a chance to turn into a deal.

What should your team do instead?

Two things.

  1. Get curious. Ask the sales team what about the stale leads made them less valuable. Was it the company profile, the type of job or experience the person has, or the lead source that signaled a bad lead? Document the reasons, then look for ways to improve your process - and give the feedback to marketing so they can change their targeting strategy to lower the odds of attracting more of the same.
  2. Put a clawback in place. After a set number of days, "active" leads should be deactivated and put into a nurture workflow. Ironically, the sales team will probably push for something like 60 days. The odds of converting a lead after 30 days are extremely low, so don't let them go wild with the timeline.

When your marketing and sales teams start squabbling over lead quality, it's time to start asking questions. It's a sure sign there's a misalignment in the definition of a lead and room for improvement in your systems workflows.

Not monitoring conversion rates by channel

If your team doesn't use campaigns (more on the details of campaign setup here) or hasn't instituted a last-touch model, you have homework to do.

If you have these pieces in place, it's time to start measuring conversion rates. 

A conversion rate is a pool of records that match certain criteria as the denominator and the number of those same records that have progressed to the next stage as the numerator.

It's not dividing opportunities created this quarter from webinars divided by all webinar leads this quarter. Those are two different populations.

Understanding conversion rates by channel can help you understand which leads your sales team has the most success converting. It will be up to you to determine why these leads convert the way they do. Often, specific channels attract people at different points in the buyer journey. Sometimes, sales had a bad experience and won't go near them even though marketing has done work to improve the quality.

Once you have conversion rates by channel with trends over the last 12-18 months, you'll understand which lead types are candidates for being nurtured rather than passed over to sales.

The number one thing we want to avoid is adding confusion about what sales should follow up on and when. It's in your company's best interest to ensure sales is regularly reminded of where to find their leads and how to sort them in a way that works best for them.

Important Note: You may have a sales team that wants to see every lead marketing generates. Congratulations! That's fantastic! This may be because your marketing team already does an excellent job of gating leads or because sales receives very few leads. Either way, an over-eagerness for leads is a clue that it's time to investigate whether too many leads are held back.

Overcomplicating qualification

Lead qualification is simple in the early stages of a company's growth. Lead volume is so low that sales wants to see every lead.

At some point, the lead volume is large enough to warrant only surfacing the most likely to convert leads.

I've seen people go wild with layering persona, firmographic data, intent data, and direct engagement to create a tipping point score to qualify a lead. There's popular software out there that will do it for you.

It's vital to remember that sales must understand the logic behind qualification to trust it. 

Software with machine learning algorithms needs a significant sample of "Successful" leads to work, and if your vendor can't give you the number of closed-won opportunities to make the program work well, run away! Listening to sales feedback and incorporating it into your lead scoring algorithm is also highly critical, which is extremely difficult if it's a "black box" or uneditable solution.

Measuring intent and other signals is a great practice, but it's not good for your company if sales refuses to use it. A tool only helps your company generate more opportunities if the people creating opportunities.

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