Most Demand Generation and Marketing Ops pros are well-accustomed to the idea of prioritizing the leads they generate for Sales by using lead scoring and following a traditional funnel model. It’s a practice as old as time, it seems. Leads come in—and depending on their level of engagement and demographic qualifications—a score is assigned. That score builds over time until… Poof! An MQL is born. The prospect moves through the funnel from there.
Lead scoring and the traditional funnel were invented with the best of intentions. Marketing doesn’t want to burden Sales with leads that aren’t sales-ready, so they leverage lead scoring to measure engagement and determine which leads warrant follow-up as they graduate to the next stage of the funnel. It’s completely logical: Sales doesn’t have to spin their wheels on low-quality prospects because Marketing does the heavy lifting in getting a lead to engage to the point that they’re sales-ready.
But is the traditional model really the best way? Are there other methods to increase lead engagement and find more sales-ready leads?
Leaving Opportunities for Lead Engagement on the Table
The problem is, lead scoring isn’t great at measuring the intent of a lead by itself, especially in a world that’s just been turned completely on its head. Buyer behavior has changed to the point that 79 percent of buyers are willing to talk to Sales in the awareness or consideration stage of their buying process—much earlier than most traditional lead handoff strategies would support. Knowing this, there’s a strong possibility that by the time you’ve handed a lead to Sales, it’s already too late.
Common Mistakes with Identifying Sales Readiness
If you’re relying on a lead score to tell Sales when to follow up, you’re likely missing some key opportunities for engagement with your prospects, and thus, leaving money on the table. Here are a few examples of some gaps in the traditional top-of-funnel process:
- Typically you hand off roughly 40 percent of your new leads as MQLs, leaving 60 percent to fall into a nurture program or retargeting campaign. How certain are you that all of those leads are truly “not ready”?
- When leads exhaust all their nurture campaigns, they’re often left to go stale in your database. You might run revival campaigns every so often, but for the most part, those leads end up sitting and you’re relying on them to raise their hands a second time on their own.
- Of course, you’re fast-tracking hot leads straight to the SDRs. But how fast are they following up? In many cases they don’t have the capacity to follow up within the same day (if not within the same hour), or follow up falls off after a few attempts. Delays kill deals—the longer you wait to follow up, the chance of engagement goes down.
- If Sales makes attempts to no avail, what happens to the lead once it’s disqualified? Again, you probably have a nurture campaign that picks them up, but now you’re relying on the prospect to raise their hand and tell you they’re interested again.
Rethinking Sales Readiness
We’ve engineered a process that holds leads in the top of the funnel and essentially slows down the buying cycle. Yes, it’s completely impractical to burden Sales with following up with every single lead. Not only will you end up with an army of grumpy Salespeople, but you’ll also have created a very strained Sales and Marketing relationship and spent a ton of money in the process. So of course, we want to help Sales prioritize and facilitate great conversations. But when did prioritization turn into only talking to 40 percent of your prospects?
The truth is, in most cases, you’ll never truly know if a prospect is interested in having a conversation with you if you never ask. Unfortunately, that concept isn’t scalable for your Sales team—so don’t throw your lead scoring model in the trash just yet.
When you score your leads, you typically have your SDR follow up with the best leads or “A leads”—that part stays the same. However, rather than dumping your lower-scoring leads into a nurture campaign and waiting for them to become MQLs, you can greet every prospect with a personal touch from an Intelligent Virtual Assistant (IVA).
Showing your lower-scoring leads a little personalized attention is known to move them through the funnel at a much faster pace—often yielding some serious pipeline that wouldn’t have materialized if you had relied on those leads to surface over time.
As an example, CenturyLink saw a 16 percent to 20 percent increase in qualified leads, just by turning an IVA loose on the leads that were less qualified in a traditional sense. When the IVA determines a lead has true interest, she can connect that lead with a Salesperson, just as an SDR would.
Managing the Flow of Sales Ready Leads
Prioritization is imperative for lots of reasons. Namely, keeping lead volume reasonable for Sales and ensuring Sales is having productive conversations with prospects who are actually interested in buying. But prioritization must exist in tandem with coverage —that is, continue to hand hot leads off to Sales under a traditional lead scoring strategy, but don’t leave the rest of your leads to fend for themselves and navigate the buying process without a hand to hold.
Intelligent Virtual Assistants can do the heavy lifting of following up with all your less-qualified leads—without putting pressure on Sales—and can squeeze more pipeline out of the leads you’re already generating.
Plus, the work the IVA does can help you hone your lead generation strategy in real-time. The results the IVA gets out of the leads you may not have thought were qualified can help you make adjustments to your scoring model, and better determine which channels are performing best.
Learn more about how to get more engagement out of your leads in the recording of our recent discussion at B2B Ignite, Engage to convert: How to use intelligent Virtual Assistants to find more sales-ready leads in your funnel.