Sellers often commit three errors in their lead qualification process that prevent them from maximizing the value of their inbound sales lead flow as an engine for revenue growth. With the right management commitment and simple behavioral changes, these weaknesses can all easily be fixed and turned into strengths that will provide an advantage in most competitive sales situations.
#1: Underestimating the Value of a Modern Sales Lead
The first mistake sellers make in their lead qualification process is to treat sales leads as if the Internet didn’t exist. They think that the leads they receive today are like the sales leads their grandfathers ignored 50 years ago. In the pre-Internet dark ages of sales, potential prospects essentially had one source of information about your product and service. And that was you, the salesperson. They had no choice but to reach out to a seller and talk to a salesperson as part of their research in the very early stages of their buying process. As a result, a very high percentage of the sales leads that sellers received in the pre-Internet era were from people who were just looking and it was rarely a good use of a salesperson’s time to follow-up on them.
However, I think every salesperson could agree that things have changed. Yes, Virginia, there is an Internet. And your prospects are using it to educate themselves about your company and products before they ever reach out to you. When you get a sales lead today, the odds are very low that it is from someone who is just idly curious about your product. These are not your grandfather’s sales leads. They may not be a qualified prospect for your product or service. But, they are a valid lead who has invested their time to research and educate themselves about your product or service and they want more information about it than can be found online. These are leads that deserve follow up from a salesperson who knows more about your product or service than the prospect.
#2: The Unscratched Lottery Ticket Never Pays a Prize
Which brings us to lead qualification process mistake number two. Sellers are still not following up the majority of the sales leads that they receive. Even though, as I established above, the leads received today are much more likely to be valid sales leads. Research conducted by Insidesales.com has found that only 27% of sales leads received by sellers are ever contacted by a salesperson. Companies across the US are investing approximately $200 billion each year to develop brand awareness and generate leads for their products and services. And yet, 73% of those dollars go to waste as sales teams fail to follow-up on the interest that is created.
Salespeople need to act as if a sales lead is a scratch-off lottery ticket. It has exciting unknown potential. It could turn into a qualified prospect that ultimately orders your product. Or it could be someone whose requirements are not a match for your product. But until the wax is scratched off the surface of the ticket, you don’t know whether you have a winner or not. What holds true for lottery tickets is true as well for sales leads. Until you engage with it, you don’t know what you have.
There are $24 billion worth of scratch off lottery tickets sold in the US each year. Does anyone believe that 73% of these tickets, around $18 billion worth, are sitting around unscratched in people’s sock drawers or under the front seat of their cars? Of course not. People are scratching the tickets to see what they’ve won before they have walked out of the door of the convenience store where they purchased it. So too should it be with sales leads. (After all, the unscratched lottery ticket never pays a prize.)
#3: You Can’t Hit the Target If You Don’t Know Where to Aim
Which leads us to the third major error of lead qualification that sellers routinely make. They don’t have well-defined and documented processes in place for sales lead management. Salespeople do a lousy job of managing their own sales leads because managers have not adequately defined expectations for how they should follow-up (when, how and how often.)
Unfortunately most managers routinely and mistakenly assume that following up on a sales lead is like the autonomic response of breathing. If you breathe in, you must breathe out. If you receive a lead, then as surely as you draw a breath after exhaling, that lead will be followed up by a salesperson. Right? Unfortunately that isn’t happening.
In my own research conducted with over 300 companies that have completed a survey assessing the state of their sales processes, only 25% of these organizations report having documented their sales processes in writing. That means that nearly three quarters of sales organizations are basically winging it and improvising when it comes to sales funnel management. Which is crazy. Because, responsively and effectively following up its sales leads is the easiest and fastest way for any company to increase its sales.
Take a look at the math. Here’s a simple example. Let’s assume that your sales team converts 5% of all sales leads into orders. And, let’s assume that you are only following up 25% of your sales leads. If you were suddenly to increase the percentage of leads that you followed up from 25% to 50%, while keeping your close rate the same, what would happen to your sales numbers?