Brian Carroll

Lead Generation That Converts Leads into Sales Opportunities

Ask most executives and marketers what salespeople need to sell in this economy, and they will say one thing: more leads.

That’s why many marketing and lead generation programs tend to focus on quantity. Unfortunately, as little as 5 to 15% of all marketing inquiries (aka leads) turn out to be phonetruly Sales-ready opportunities. Marketers who really want to help Sales perform better will focus on higher-quality leads, which have better odds of converting into pipeline opportunities and customers. However, according to MarketingSherpa’s data, generating “high-quality leads” is the B2B marketer’s No. 1 challenge.

Most marketers realize the more validation and verification of each lead or database, the better the quality of the lead. So, what’s the best way for B2B marketers to efficiently verify the accuracy of their lead data captured online before turning said inquiries over to the sales force?


Create a marketing funnel 

The purpose of the marketing funnel is to bring inquiries (aka leads) into one spot (your marketing database) and qualify them. It creates Sales-ready leads and nurtures the leads that aren’t sales-ready.

Lead qualification first must classify leads according to their “Sales readiness” and business fit. Second, it must manage all the incoming leads effectively.


Keep the ‘giving of information’ at a comfortable level

It is important to remember that most people coming to your website aren’t coming to purchase right away. They come to your site for information. An early-stage lead shouldn’t be expected to give up the same kind of details as a later-stage lead. People start to question the value of providing too much information on forms before you’ve earned their trust.

You’ll do better by thinking of lead generation as a process of micro-conversions that build an opportunity profile over time. Start with requesting basic information such as an email address. In the next step, request first and last name. Later, request more detailed insights — after a relationship has been established.

I read recently that a company trimmed its registration form to include an extremely basic two-field form and found its conversion rate more than tripled with this simplification. At the same time, the company expanded its email follow-up process and was able to increase the amount of personal data collected over time.


Create the universal lead definition, and apply it to the remaining inquiries

There are things your sales team must know before an inquiry is worthy of being called a lead. You should:

  • Identify company size, industry and geography. You may choose to remove inquiries based on specific marketing requirements or limitations at this point, including non-U.S. or student email addresses, or contacts residing in locations or industries that you don’t serve. This step can reduce your leads by as much as 10%.
  • Ask business situation questions, such as number of users, current systems platform, etc.
  • Determine the inquiry’s role in the organization or authority in the buying process.
  • Determine if your organization can help based on the lead’s business need.
  • Identify the prospect’s stage in the buying process. Many “leads” are actually still early in the buying process and are conducting general market research. Although these contacts are very valuable and should be nurtured and managed over time, they clearly aren’t ready to buy.
  • Purge those inquiries containing any obvious bogus information. Remove duplicates and invalid names and email addresses. (Simple forms tend to generate less invalid information than lengthy, time-consuming forms.)


Create a behavior model to prioritize leads based on activity and data

Use your CRM or marketing automation suite to prioritize based on:

  • Size of organization: Is there an organization that fits your “sweet spot” better than others?
  • Fit: Can you meet leads’ immediate needs?
  • Differences in activity based on time frame: Emphasize recent activity. The ongoing uncertainty about the health of the economy doesn’t necessarily reflect every prospect’s current situation. Even in beleaguered sectors, strong companies will see opportunities for growth. Activity within the past three months — such as downloading a whitepaper or responding to emails about upcoming events — receives a higher score.

The same activities that took place six months or a year ago receive lower scores if a prospect has not engaged in additional marketing activities since then. This technique allows Sales to focus its attention on prospects that have demonstrated strong interest in recent marketing campaigns. Definitely maintain older leads in your database, and keep these lower-scoring leads in the nurturing program until their activity increases again.


Use the phone (or email) to qualify high-priority leads based on scoring

Some companies may use third-party list providers to verify information. Just remember, the phone is the gold standard for qualifying most leads. A good conversation is the best way to assess a company’s interest. (MECLABS has found email to be a great way to create a one-on-one dialogue by asking questions as well. Be sure to test this with your audiences.) Use data from your lead-nurturing and lead-scoring systems to have relevant chats with prospects.

Based on your company’s value proposition research, ask questions that show you understand the challenges your prospects face. Introduce ideas about how your company can help them meet those challenges.

Most salespeople are really good at what they do, and they want to help prospects meet their challenges. Make sure you give them the highest-quality leads you have. It’s worth the effort to move through the qualifying process slowly. In this economy, prospects’ buying cycles are getting longer, making it even more important to start out slowly. You’ll earn trust more quickly this way, and you’ll build relationships that truly impact your Sales pipeline.


Photo courtesy of  Rudolf Vlček


You can follow Brian Carroll, Executive Director, Revenue Optimization, MECLABS Institute, on Twitter @brianjcarroll.


You might also like

Sign up for the B2B Marketing Newsletter to learn more B2B trends and strategies

Lead Generation Optimization: 7 ‘must-haves’ to improve your campaign planning process [MarketingSherpa case study]

B2B How-To: 5 lead nurturing tactics to get from lead gen to Sales-qualified [MarketingSherpa how to article]

Lead Generation: How one additional form field decreased conversions 11% [Lead Gen Summit 2013 live test] [MarketingSherpa case study]

Lead Generation: Testing form field length reduces cost-per-lead by $10.66 [More from the blogs]

15 Tips to Generate More Leads in 2015 (Part 1, featuring tips 1-5) [More from the blogs]

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn

Lead Generation , , , ,

  1. | #1

    I agree with you completely about focusing on building higher quality leads. In the early days of my web design company, I achieved some good search engine rankings and lead generation counts jumped up considerably. However, it was mostly low quality leads that didn’t have the right budget to work with us. By working on crafting a better value proposition and pitch within our sales copy (and actually asking for more information up front in our case) we started to get better quality leads through this particular channel even though the count went down some. An additional result was that the average sale price went up while overall lead count went down overall. In the end, revenue increased overall despite having less overall leads. The current goal now is using a strategy more like yours to increase our overall lead bucket size and funnel them eventually through an email drip-campaign to build more trust and qualify them there or increase the chance they opt-in later at our actual lead generation page so we get the benefits of both more qualified leads + larger sale prices.

  2. | #2

    Great post, thank you! I agree that often, we think in terms of lead generation volume, but more important is the conversion rate (which correlates to the lead quality). I like your point about behavioral tracking and would add that having a behavioral segmentation that identifies 1-3 priority segments (e.g., most profitable and attractive customers to go after)and their key purchasing drivers and barriers is key to using the right marketing/advertising tactics to increase lead quality.

  3. | #3

    Really interesting post. I’ve lost count of how many times an excited young salesperson comes in gushing with excitement about a new lead only to find out they hadn’t qualified the opportunity in any way.

    Do they have a need? Do they have the ability to purchase?

    So much time is wasted on opportunities that are never going to progress any where. An extra 5 minutes of qualifying and fact finding would dismiss a lot of these time wasters allowing time to be spent on real opportunities.

  4. | #4

    Its absolutely right that creating high quality leads are most important challenge for B2B lead generation companies.
    All the provided information is excellent, and I really assured that thie information would be more beneficial to every B2B lead generation orgnization.

  5. Nick N
    | #5

    CRM system has a great role in lead generation. If crm has business-oriented tools, it helps to convert leads into sales. Our company uses Zvonokla crm system, it also has integrated ip telephony and interesting features that can help a lot

  1. No trackbacks yet.