When Is A Lead Sales-Ready?

cooking_timerNot every lead you generate comes to you “ready to buy”.  Some leads will never buy your products or services. According to some studies, only 25% of new leads could be considered sales-ready (I think that may be high), and upwards of 25% are probably never going to buy from your business.

That leaves approximately 50% of your leads who may buy from you at some point but are not ready to buy right now. Our challenge in dealing with these 50% is this two fold – 1) how to we stay “top of mind” so they will remember us when they are ready to buy and 2) how do we know when it is appropriate to move from a marketing conversation to a sales conversation?

For professional service providers, achieving and maintaining top of mind status is typically achieved by sharing relevant and timely information on a consistent basis with your prospective customers. Electronic newsletters are a common way to “stay in touch” these days, but phone calls, handwritten notes, whitepapers, and recorded webinars are all great ways to deliver relevant information while establishing yourself as an expert and building Know, Like, and Trust.

Detecting when to shift from a marketing conversation to a sales conversation can be a little trickier. With today’s emphasis on marketing with digital media, marketing conversations typically do not take place face-to-face, so it can be difficult to detect a prospects level of interest. Therefore, many professional service firms just wait for the prospect to initiate a sales conversation.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, What Type of Salesperson Is Your Website?, some marketing automation tools give us the ability to detect our prospects’ “digital body language”, providing us clues about the sales readiness of a particular prospect.

Before spending money on a marketing automation software solution, it is important to think about the criteria that you will use to define when a prospect is ready to have a sales conversation. Software vendors usually refer to this as “lead scoring”. The basic idea behind lead scoring is you assign values to your prospects attributes and behaviors. You then adjust your end of the conversation to match the prospects level of interest and where they are in their particular buying process.

If you have different people fulfilling the sales and marketing roles in your business, one of the best things you can do to insure they are aligned with the same goals is to have them work together to develop the criteria of what constitutes a sales ready lead.

When working on your lead scoring scheme, you should take the following three broad categories of criteria into account:

1. Demographic Data: Geographic location, company size, industry, position in organization, etc.

2. Lead Source Data: Where did the lead came from – web search, tradeshow, referral, advertisement, etc.? What questions or search terms led them to you? What business problem are they trying to solve?

3. Behavioral Data: Knowledge of whether they visited your website or read your content marketing materials. Different actions should carry different scores – visiting your pricing page should receive a higher score than a visit to the careers page.

Once you collect this sort of intelligence, you can use it to determine a prospects area of interest (which pages did they visit) as well as their level of interest (did they visit an area multiple times, download related resources, or return to the site more than once?).

Use what you learn to adjust your communications to the appropriate level. If someone’s behavior indicates they are in research mode you may want to send them a whitepaper or case study. A repeat visitor who has consumed most of your marketing content may appreciate a phone call to help answer any questions they still have that are preventing them from moving forward.

Like all marketing tactics, success with lead scoring and marketing automation is dependent on having a sound marketing strategy in place. If you are not sure if you are ready for marketing automation, may I suggest taking advantage of our free Signature Brand Marketing Audit.

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