How to Optimize the Inbound Lead Management Process

Inbound leads account for a lot of B2B sales. Good marketing departments attract eye time to your showcased products and services, at the same time funneling calls to qualifying reps. A number of initiatives can lead to an uptick in inbound traffic, including but not limited to content marketing, explainer videos, social-media networks, white papers, online or trade-publication advertisements, and newsletters.

No matter how you captured it, once you have a new lead, you can put a simple process in place to exponentially increase the likelihood of converting that lead into a prospect; and that prospect into a customer.

Step One
Before any of that positive lead energy really gains momentum, however, your marketing and sales teams will have to a) communicate, and b) develop and follow a consistent process for determining how leads are qualified. To begin with, you need agreement between Sales and Marketing on ways to do this, and the following questions must be answered:

  • What constitutes a qualifying lead?
  • What activities and behaviors indicate that a lead is ready to be handed over to Sales, as opposed to being marketed to?
  • What’s the preferred way for Marketing to alert Sales about new inbound leads?
  • Which lead-generation channels produce the most leads and the most qualified leads?
  • Which lead-generation channels need improvement?

After Marketing and Sales agree to agree on processes, introduce a lead-scoring system. This will help identify and prioritize leads, along with designating who on the sales team should follow up with which leads. Your scoring system can include factors such as lead source, and it can track the lead’s level of engagement with your website—e.g., in addition to having filled out a form on your site, do they spend time on it researching your products and services? A good scoring system should also include the job title of the individual reaching out, and data showing how closely matched they are to your ideal client profile.

Step Two
Next, you’ll want to implement a lead-distribution and follow-up strategy, ensuring that all viable leads get shopped to the right reps. Time is a big factor here, so don’t squander it: The faster your team follows up with a lead, the greater chance you have of converting the lead to a prospect.

Take into account things like geographic area. For example, don’t give a West Coast lead to a rep whose territory is the Deep South. Look at the experience factor too. It almost goes without saying—but we’ll say it anyway—that a lead with the potential to be converted to large prospect shouldn’t be handed over to a newly hired rep still acquainting themselves with the whys and wherefores of the business. It’s essential for whomever is tasked with qualifying inbound leads—be that a qualifying rep or your marketing team—to take into account determining factors such as territory and tenure, and that those factors are communicated clearly to the rest of the team. When everyone knows the guidelines and protocols of your processes, you’ll avoid pitfalls like jealousy and resentments within the team when, say, a rep is passed over for a lead.

Step Three
The third and final step is to widen the communication channel that connects the folks who qualify leads and the reps who work them. For example, gather feedback from your sales reps and take seriously their suggestions for improving the inbound-lead process. In conjunction with that, look at which marketing channels should be exploited and which ones have room for improvement by evaluating lead-source-to-close-rate data, average opportunity size, and conversion rates.

This step provides the opportunity to look at the system you’ve put in place and measure it against real-world scenarios. Use it to deep-dive into questions like, “Does the scoring system produce the expected results?” Meaning, do leads with high scores in your system manifest as great opportunities? Determine and rank the quality of the leads. Be open to adjusting your lead-scoring and lead-distribution methods.

It sounds very scientific, and in some ways it is. It also just boils down to best practices based on simple logic and doing what we all do here in the “leads business”—try our best to predict a bright future.