Inbound marketing is a great strategy that when done well, educates prospects and brings them to you. But, of course, it doesn’t do all the hard work for you. An inbound lead is still an inbound lead—they won’t become a customer or even an active opportunity without additional effort, and that effort begins with qualification.
Lead Qualification Process and Outcomes
The ideal lead qualification process enables you to segment your inbound leads so you know what the appropriate next action is. While every company has some nuances, in general this means every lead should go into one of three buckets:
- Short- or medium-term sales potential (SQL): This is the gold we’re looking for and these leads need to be delivered to sales with intel to help them have a productive conversation.
- No immediate need, but fits our target profile (MQL): We want to nurture and build a relationship with these leads for when they are ready to enter the buying cycle.
- Everything else: Whether it simply isn’t in our target profile or the data is junk, we want to remove these leads from the database.
Lead Qualification Approaches
Most companies try to tackle this themselves, but are challenged to do so effectively. The best qualification happens when you speak with the leads live on the phone. But because it takes an average 31 dials to reach each inbound lead, it quickly becomes a resource issue. Some companies invest in automated lead qualification systems, which can help prioritize but don’t replace the need for live, human lead follow-up. The rest either let the sales team cherry-pick based on who-knows-what criteria, or they simply throw everything into nurturing and hope that sales opportunities will pop out on their own.
What most companies don’t consider, however, is outsourcing the lead qualification process. By outsourcing, you can give all your inbound leads the live follow-up they need to be appropriately segmented without creating extra work for your sales team, letting them instead focus on just those leads deemed to actually have sales potential.
Five Reasons to Consider Outsourced Lead Qualification for Your Inbound Leads
1. Your inside sales team has multiple “top priority” responsibilities.
Just because you have a fully staffed-up inside sales team, doesn’t mean you have the resources you need to follow up on your inbound leads with the timely attention they deserve. Our own research shows that while 55% of inside sales reps (ISRs) are tasked with following up on inquiries, 63% are responsible for cold-calling into whitespace accounts, and 42% for email prospecting. Other activities ISRs are asked to shoulder include account research, field team support, and social selling.
There are only so many hours in the day—something’s gotta give. By outsourcing qualification of your inbound leads, you offload the time-critical heavy lifting and instead give your team a manageable list of sales-qualified leads worth prioritizing their time and effort on.
2. Your leads come in lumpy batches.
Even if you have internal resources to qualify the regular stream of inbound leads, what happens when you have a program or event that creates a large influx of new leads in a short period of time? It’s critical that follow-up happens as soon as possible after the engagement, while you are still top of mind with those leads. Outsourcing lead qualification for those events and programs gives you an instant team focused on providing that fast follow-up.
3. Your top-of-the-funnel assets are killing it, and it’s killing the team.
As a marketer, there’s no better feeling than seeing lots and lots of people download your piece of content. It feels like a big win, but the real prize isn’t the lead, it’s turning them into a paying customer. When your program exceeds expectations and overwhelms you with inbound leads, it’s a great problem to have, but it is still a problem because if you can’t support the volume, you can’t drive that success all the way through to revenue. Outsourced lead qualification is a great solution—it enables you to scale quickly to meet the lead follow-up challenge, while keeping the internal team focused on the qualified leads and getting them to that coveted “Closed-Won” status.
4. Program conversions have dropped.
Of course, not every program is a runaway success. And sometimes a program that was going gangbusters starts to lose its luster. Or has it? Long gone are the days when marketing teams use the raw number of leads generated as a measure of program success (hallelujah!). Chances are you’re tracking your lead-to-MQL and MQL-to-SQL conversion rates closely. But it’s not enough to look at those numbers from an overall perspective—you need to see how your leads fare at the individual program or campaign level so you can allocate marketing budget where it will have the most impact.
Outsourcing lead qualification not only segments your inbound leads, it also provides you with a dashboard analysis of the results of the campaign to help you assess the quality and ROI of different programs. And if you’re not tracking your conversion rates today—for whatever reason—an outsourced program can help you instantly kickstart your ability to better measure the effectiveness of your lead generation programs.
5. You’ve got SLAs for delivering MQLs and SQLs.
Marketing and sales in companies everywhere are working hard to improve alignment. One great tactic is to set SLAs on the leads—both marketing-qualified and sales-qualified—that the marketing team delivers. Of course, to keep the relationship strong, you have to meet (and hopefully even exceed) those numbers. Think of it as marketing’s quota. You want to make sure that every real MQL and SQL is identified and put into the appropriate process. And you want to avoid putting “false positives” (leads that may look pretty and shiny but don’t have any real potential and will just waste reps’ time) into the mix. By outsourcing lead qualification, you’ll have information about each lead that you can only get from detailed, live, individual follow-up to find the hidden gems and avoid chasing ghost deals. You’ll meet your quota, which helps sales reps meet their quota, which makes everyone aligned and happy.
Outsourced Lead Qualification for the Win
Qualifying inbound leads is hard and it takes time - and it’s absolutely critical to the sales process. It’s as important as the marketing programs that generated those leads in the first place. If you’re struggling with any of these scenarios, contact us to find out how BAO’s Lead Qualification service can improve follow-up on your inbound leads to find more MQLs and SQLs and improve the productivity of your sales teams and marketing programs.