It’s common knowledge that all sales leads are not created equal.  Whether generated online or offline, converting sales lead implies that the lead is fully qualified. Depending who you talk to (marketing or sales) there are many different versions of what constitutes a qualified lead.  In the endless battle between sales and marketing, the subject of lead management gets tossed back and forth like a hot potato. Marketing delivers leads for sales to follow up on, and sales is typically looking for pre-qualified leads – which can also have many interpretations.

The line of responsibility around leads can blur.  But it should be simple.  Marketing targets the best fit prospect profiles in selected market segments.  They deliver on the first half of the work:  targeting and lead generation.  Does every lead convert?  Of course not!  Some of them are tire kickers, some of them just want whatever free content you may be providing, and some might be just doing research.  The good news is that they are showing interest and they connected with your company.  Sales needs to winnow down this targeted lead pool to a subset of fully qualified leads.  (The balance should be nurtured by Marketing.)  Conversion starts here.  Let me say that again:  Conversion starts at qualification.   

One: Qualification Is the Key

A fully qualified lead has a number of moving parts. This might sound like I am stating the obvious. But the reality is that there are literally hundreds of thousands of leads clogging up pipelines everywhere that were never fully qualified in the first place.  Doesn’t convert?  Won’t close? Start with revisiting your qualification of that lead. And before you succumb to the urge of pointing the finger at marketing, let me state emphatically what every single salesperson needs to wrap their arms around. SALES is responsible for LEAD QUALIFICATION. I’ve had too many conversations with reps who tell me the leads are crap and that’s why they can’t close them. I’ve been in both marketing and sales. So I am not pointing the finger at anyone! Each group has its role and conversion requires equal effort.

Next step:  Go back and RE-qualify the lead. It will either give you what you need to know to move it forward towards conversion, or it will get it out of the pipeline and make room for something that is fully qualified.

At a minimum you need to confirm the following:

  • Is there budget available for the purchase?
  • Do I need/have an internal coach to help me navigate?
  • Am I dealing with the person who has the authority to buy?
  • Does our value proposition connect with their needs?
  • Are there time constraints around the decision to buy?
  • Who else is on the shortlist and can we counter?

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Two: Simpler Is Better

Making it simple for someone to choose your offer has many facets to it.  In other words, there are many ways to make things simple.  They range from the initial message to the buying experience, and they all count. Nothing is a purchase killer like starting out simple and getting more complex as the buyer journey progresses. Here are four simple approaches that can help speed conversion. (Note:  I mean simple for the potential customer. You will have to put in lots of effort to pull these off.)

  1. Value proposition is targeted, clear, and value-based (not feature-based) with quantification and verifiable proof.
  2. You make it easy to get access to educational, non-salesy, content that provides objective, value- based information that will help the buyer build a case for the purchase.
  3. Your road map through the buying process accommodates the buyer’s own process and is clearly explained before the purchase.
  4. Delivery, service, and support options are spelled out before the purchase and do not show up as an upsell at the eleventh hour.

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Three: A Sales Lead Decision Is a Jigsaw Puzzle

Depending on the nature of the purchase, there can be a range of decision criteria that need to be addressed in order to convert the sales lead. The more complex and/or expensive the offer, the larger the group of people on the buying team, each with potentially different criteria that must be addressed. Too many organizations rely on a single set of criteria that addresses only one member of the team. Even if that person is the decision maker, not being able to address the needs of the CFO, end-user, or key influencer could spell trouble for lead conversion. To assemble the puzzle is a multi-step process:

Step 1:    Identify all members of the buying team.
Step 2:    Go back to the prospect’s needs and extract potential criteria
Step 3:    Assign the criteria to appropriate team members
Step 4:    Fill in the gaps by asking good questions of your “coach” or the individual in question,
or through research.
Step 5:  Personalize sales messaging to weave in criteria responses.

Whether the sale is simple or complex, online or off, these steps can be adjusted to reflect the buying process and contribute to the ease of conversion.

Smart organizations will address all three of the ways presented above to improve sales lead conversion.  But of the three, qualification is the biggest piece as nothing is more counter-productive than trying to convert a lead that isn’t fully baked.  Checking your lead qualification steps can help grease the path – either by adding factors, or tightening the existing ones.  Netting it all out, the probability of converting a sales lead increases the more qualified, simplified, and decision proof you can make your buyer’s journey.