At first glance, these stats seem shocking. How could a sales team let so many leads slip through their fingers!? While you never want to let a lead sit unattended in your funnel, I’m going to let you in on a little secret to help you avoid this common mistake…
Not every lead should receive the same amount of time and resources.
Rather than aggressively pursuing each and every lead that falls into your funnel, your salespeople should be focused on high-quality leads with the best chance of a conversion. Otherwise, you risk clogging your funnel with poor leads that cover up those nuggets of gold.
At the same time, that doesn’t mean you should abandon cold leads altogether. There’s a wide spectrum of reward in your funnel, and unlocking it requires tight marketing-sales alignment, an established MQL process, and a well-oiled sales engagement strategy that incorporates automation, manual touchpoints, and plenty of nurturing.
So how do you make that happen? Here’s how your organization can set up a holistic lead capture funnel that prioritizes warm leads without losing sight of those still-convertible, but not quite ready prospects.
Categorize Leads by Impact and Value
Leads are the lifeblood of B2B. Companies spend millions worming their ways through the increasingly-complex layers of firmographics, technographics, intent, lead scoring, and qualification to uncover potentially interested decision-makers and connect them with skilled salespeople for a conversation. But during this fever-driven pursuit, many forget to sit down and strategically plan how to best engage the diverse spectrum of warm and cold leads.
50% of sales time is wasted on unproductive prospecting, and 77% of marketers consider lead quality to be more important than lead generation. In other words, figuring out who your cold leads are (and spending less time on them) is the key to building sales pipeline faster, with less effort.
We want to help make sure that all current and future leads get the perfect amount of attention for how warm they are. And to do that we need to talk about sorting your leads based on two factors: intent and fit.
What Does a “High Value” Lead Look Like?
High-value leads have both intent and fit.
Fit determines quality of lead; are you speaking with the decision maker, in the right industry, with the means to purchase your product or service. Intent defines how warm a lead is; do they have a clear need, understand your value, and are ready to buy. These two factors come together to determine how much time a rep should invest in a lead.
Of course, there are nuances. If you have a lead that fits well in both intent and fit but has recently unsubscribed from email lists or regularly visits your “Careers” page, they’re probably not high-value. So, there’s a layer of decision-making that goes into this process that’s more intricate than two simple qualitative metrics. But the general idea is finding people that have both a want to purchase and the ability to purchase.
High quality, warm leads need to be pushed to a real salesperson that will follow up directly to connect. However, leads with low intent and high fit need to be nurtured by marketing until they reach a certain threshold (lead score). Once they hit this point, they then should be pushed along into a sales engagement platform to be further nurtured and converted via a 1:1 sales message. Any leads that do not convert get sent back to marketing nurture. And the process continues.
Leads with low intent and low fit should remain with marketing until one of two things happens. Either we get new data that suggests they are a better fit and can be engaged as above or they become warm enough that their poor fit is less concerning (within the bounds of fair qualification) and they then get pushed into sales engagement for 1:1 sales conversations.
To help, let’s look at three leads for a fictional company that sells sales tools:
Lead 1: John signs up for your email list and downloads the latest white paper detailing how your product works. On LinkedIn, John’s profile suggests that he works as a sales rep at Corporation Awesome.
Lead 2: Ashley has visited your blog multiple times, attended a webinar, and joined your email list. When Ashley fills out the webinar form, she indicates that she’s a sales leader at Corporation Cool.
Lead 3: Jack visited your website one time to download a generalist whitepaper about sales strategies. To get the whitepaper, Jack filled out a gated form fill with his details. Jack never visits your website again, and he works as a sales rep at Corporation Spectacular.
Lead 1 is a mid-value lead. John has expressed tangible interest in your product, but he doesn’t have buying power. There’s a chance that John is involved in a buying committee, so you can’t write him off. He deserves a mix of automation and manual touchpoints to nurture him and uncover his buying power.
Lead 2 is a high-value lead. Ashley has expressed interest and has direct buying power. This person needs immediate contact from sales. Remember, C-level is rarely involved in first-level purchasing decisions. Ashley is in the Goldilocks zone. She has influence, and she likely has pull for sales tool purchases.
Lead 3 is a low-value lead (for now). Jack visited the website once, filled out a form fill, and has never returned. Furthermore, he doesn’t fit your ICP, as he has no buying power. You should use an automated sales enablement tool to regularly nurture Jack, but you shouldn’t waste salespeople’s time on contacting him directly (yet).
How do you measure “fit”?
Fit is a measurement of how well a prospect fits within your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). Questions you should be asking include:
- Is the lead a decision-maker with purchasing power?
- Does the lead have a use for your product or service?
- Does the lead embody qualities of your high LTV customers?
- Is your product or service a good fit for the lead (this goes both ways!)?
- Is the lead capable of paying for your product or service?
In other words, if you were on the phone with this lead right now – would it be worth your time and would they be a good fit for your product/services? Are they someone that could, realistically, purchase your product/service and end up with a great big smile?
How do you measure “intent”?
Intent is a measurement of how interested a lead is in your product or service. This involves your funnel and the buyer’s journey. Questions you should be asking include:
- How far along on the buyer’s journey are they?
- Has the lead directly expressed interest?
- Is the lead consuming bottom-funnel or top of funnel content?
- What sources are informing me of their intent and how much do I trust them?
High-intent leads present themselves to you in bright, bold colors; you don’t have to scout them out. Leads that are consuming webinars over how your product works have some intent. Anyone that requests a demo has high intent. And leads that have taken action while on the magical carpet ride of your nurturing campaigns have intent.
Setting Up Campaigns to Tackle Leads Based on Value
Now that we’ve covered how to tell the difference between high-value, mid-value, and low-value leads, how do you actually separate them in your sales pipeline? Let’s look at how you should approach each lead type.
Cold Leads: Leverage fully-automated Sales Engagement workflows
Don’t waste salespeople’s time on ice cold leads. Just don’t. It’s not worth the lottery pull that happens every 5,000 lead contacts. Instead, focus on nurturing these leads with fully-automated but valuable and educational nurture campaigns.
Just because they’re not ready to buy now, doesn’t mean they’re worthless. Sales enablement platforms like REGIE.io work great for building best practice workflows to then leverage in your sales engagement platform. You can keep the lead in a nurturing funnel without actually spending human hours on the nurturing process. To be clear, cold leads aren’t stuck in the low-value zone. They can become high-value but you need to nurture them (often over months or years) before they get to that zone.
Nurtured leads increase sales opportunities by 20% and lead to 47% larger purchases. While not all nurtured leads convert, it’s worth the small investment when they do. And you don’t need to nurture them manually to see conversion. There’s a reason that businesses that automate lead management see a 10% revenue bump, and businesses that use marketing automation see 451% more MQLs. Put simply, automated nurturing works.
Warm Leads: Mixed Campaigns
Warm leads have either intent or fit. But they don’t have both.
So you need to spend time with them and get them into the golden zone. While these leads shouldn’t be your first priority, they do deserve some attention. We highly recommend that you stick these leads in a multi-channel sales sequence. You want to combine automation and human touchpoints. Ideally, those human touchpoints are routine, so you can place them into a specific part of the day instead of trying to ad-hoc them into your workflow.
We won’t dive too deep into multi-channel sequences here (we recently covered them in detail in another blog post), but you should be using a smart combination of automation and human interaction with these leads. This is important. One of the biggest mistakes we see is two-category lead scoring systems (hot vs cold). Warm leads are real; they’re a step above cold and should be handled accordingly.
Hot Leads: Manually-driven, Nurture-rich Campaigns
When you find those oh-so-juicy leads that have fit and intent, you need to get your salespeople involved. Don’t waste time on automated campaigns for these leads.They need to be engaged with a highly relevant message from a thoughtful human ASAP.
To be clear, you should definitely set up a sales sequence to help support and enforce this, but it needs to be heavily driven by manual interactions. After the first immediate reply, drop the automated messages.
You may have the most thoughtfully segmented automated messaging in the world but you can’t afford to take chances with your highest value leads.
High-value leads should eat up the bulk of your sales reps time and attention. They’re likely to be the source of most of your conversions. And, better than that, they’re the best source of high velocity deals.
Putting it All Together
So what does this look like in action?
First, marketing and sales need to get together and define criteria for low-value, mid-value, and high-value leads based on qualitative and quantitative metrics surrounding fit and intent.
Note: Beware of vanity metrics. One visit doesn't display high intent - but is does display some engagement and curiosity. Intent is based on actual intent to purchase or demo your product.
Next, give marketing the tools they need to create MQLs and nurture cold leads. Again, sales enablement platforms and marketing automation tools are ideal for those prospects.
Finally, use multi-channel sequences for warm leads, and have sales spend the majority of their time focused on creating high value and relevant conversations with hot leads.
That's it! Of course, it's more complicated than that, and you will have plenty of metrics to pour through, sales and marketing meetings, and tool investments to make. But the gist of the strategy involves separating leads based on value and pursuing them with unique strategies.
Sapper Can Help
The never-ending game of lead pursuit can quickly sap your resources and time if you aren't paying attention to lead quality. You need a robust, holistic, and data-driven way to categorize, pursue, and close on leads. We can help.
At Sapper, we specialize in helping B2B brands generate and close more deals. Our expert teams leverage years of expertise, sales enablement tools, multi-channel sequences, and plenty of data to drive actionable lead strategies into the heart of your business. Want to learn more? Contact us.