Sales receives an inbound lead from Marketing…Now what?

March 2nd, 2017 | by

You’ve worked hard creating content that prospects find interesting, are downloading, and now they are hitting your lead scoring threshold. You did it! But what now? Once you hand these Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) over to Sales what happens to them?

In previous blogs, we’ve discussed how Marketing should involve Sales in the process of creating content, progressive profiling, and lead scoring values and thresholdsSimilarly, Marketing should be involved in—or at least understand—the sales process. Sales teams use technology and information collected by Marketing to gain a deeper understanding of prospects, their buying behavior, and how to tailor follow-ups. This information, typically collected unbeknownst to the prospect, raises a number of questions about how it  should be utilized in the sales process—which Marketing should help define.

Sales teams can follow-up with leads in many different ways. You can take immediate action, a call within the first five minutes, or you can delay action by waiting a few hours, or even days to follow-up. For example, here is a step-by-step process from Hubspot that a salesperson could use if their organization wants to take immediate action in regards to follow-ups.

While an immediate action follow-up strategy is a best practice, many Marketing and Sales professionals have reservations about the process. Plenty of sales reps have had negative experiences using this approach which resulted in upset prospects who felt ambushed. Here are five sales strategies that can be used to seem less intrusive, making sure the inbound leads Marketing has worked so hard to nurture are not put-off when your sales professional reaches out immediately with an overabundance of information about them. In short, how not to be creepy.

1. Tailor Your Sales Approach

Sales should follow-up with each prospect based on context. If a decision maker requests a trial through your website, reaching out to them and asking if they’d like a demonstration of your product would be an appropriate response. But, the same approach would be considered pushy if you were reaching out to someone in an entry-level role who just downloaded an ebook.

Another tip is using lead scoring as a way to identify if a prospect is ready for a call from Sales or not. If this is their first download, and only basic contact information is available, they may not be ready for a sales touch. If this is their second or third download and your progressive profiling strategy has gained more pertinent information, Sales could reach out as more of a “reserved customer service representative” rather than an “overly-aggressive salesperson.” Use this outreach as a way of asking if there is anything you can do to help, if they have any questions about the topic in which they showed interest—based on your tracking—or if they need assistance finding something on the website.

This approach will allow you to inform your prospect even more, without being too forceful. Sales can then gauge this prospect’s level of interest, without outwardly trying to sell them anything.

2. Continue to add value to prospects

This strategy will only be successful if (1) Sales tailors its communication based on a prospect’s place in the buyer’s journey and (2) they center outreach around the needs of the prospect, not sales goals.

Considering a prospects stage in the buyer’s journey is more important for Sales now, than ever before, because buyers are more informed. According to HubSpot, 57% of the buyer’s journey is complete before a prospect ever speaks with a sales rep. A prospect’s journey is has three stages—awareness, consideration, and decision—and each stage is 100% focused on the prospect, not the sales professional.

  • Awareness – Buyers are aware they have a problem, but they have just started researching how to solve it. In this stage, prospects will turn to content created by your Marketing team as resources.  
  • Consideration – Buyers are starting to define what a solution to their problem could be and are now looking for advice. At this stage, a salesperson can become involved as an advisor to the prospect, but not quite as a “salesperson.”
  • Decision – Buyers are evaluating different products or solutions. During the decision stage, a salesperson should be working one-on-one with the prospect, educating them on the specific solution, and it’s competitive benefits.   

Another important piece to this strategy is making sure sales professionals understand buyers’ unique pains points and how your product or solution can alleviate them. While creating or updating buyer personas with your Sales team, be sure to include basic pain points for each.

Creating this list of general issues each persona faces can come in handy, particularly when customers cannot properly verbalize their individual pains. And ultimately, making the connection between a prospect’s real issue and how it can be solved directly with your solution is key in the sales process. If you feel it would be advantageous to further understand prospects’ needs/pains, consider adding a question to your organization’s progressive profiling strategy.

If a sales professional is able to answer prospects’ questions specifically and add value by using the buyer’s journey as a guide for talking points, they will be seen as a trusted advisor, not an intrusive salesperson.

3. Don’t make assumptions

Sure, your progressive profiling strategy is top notch, and your marketing and sales intelligence is filled with great information, but do you really know your prospect? With all that data, Sales reps must be careful not to jump to conclusions.

Use the information you have as a broad starting point, not as a way to make assumptions. Yes, you mostly likely have insight into the prospect and have categorized them as one of your defined buyer personas. But just because they fit a certain persona doesn’t mean they have all of the same pain points or issues. As long as Sales takes the time to ask questions and listen instead of simply assuming they know exactly what the potential buyer wants, prospects will actually divulge what it is they need. From there, Sales can pivot and tailor their conversation to address the individual’s specific pain points.

Every customer is different and Sales’ needs to adapt and customize its messaging to reflect that. This approach will lead to open and meaningful conversations between Sales and your prospects which can help you better understand your buyers and make the sale down the line.

4. Act Quickly While Being Helpful

There is far too much money on the table to have Sales professionals drag their feet when following up with inbound leads/MQLs. That being said, you can make or break the deal in the way you approach leads. Sales should be armed with the knowledge necessary to add value to prospects’ decision making process based on their position in the buyer’s journey (Consideration or Decision). Then, Marketing will not complain about Sales never following up with prospects correctly. Inbound leads don’t want to receive cold calls, so make sure you use the knowledge you have gained to properly connect with leads.

5. Not Sales-Ready? Send Leads Back to Marketing

Sometimes, even if all of these steps are taken and Sales has done their due diligence, a lead still might not be ready to buy. If you find yourself in this situation, you didn’t fail. Some prospects need more nurturing than others, and it is alright to push someone back to Marketing if they are not yet sales-ready. Here’s the beauty in following the tips above, when this lead is ready, they will remember the great experience they had with your Sales team. Because a good rapport has already been established, they will be more apt to call your organization than a competitor.

If a majority of leads coming through the lead scoring process are unqualified or need more nurturing, don’t be afraid to speak with Marketing about it.

Working together, Sales and Marketing should figure out what these unqualified leads have in common. Once that is accomplished, update your scoring criteria to better distinguish a qualified lead. Remember, this is a fluid process that will involve reassessment and strategizing on behalf of Sales and Marketing, but it will ultimately lead to a better outcome for both groups, your prospects, and the organization as a whole.


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