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Sales Leads – Behind Qualified Lead lies a vision and data to deliver Sales Target

Behind every qualified lead lies a vision and the data to back it up

I’m dedicating this blog to a topic close to every business developer’s heart: leads – finding them, converting them and doing so in the most efficient way.

The key to generating qualified leads lies in your customer data and making sure the whole company (your wider ‘sales’ team) uses it while understanding exactly what they are working towards. Behind every qualified lead lies a vision and the data to back it up, in other words.

Share the vision with the whole company
The workforce that knows the end goal, and the steps they need to take as individuals to achieve it, is an engaged workforce. So don’t just create the vision for the boardroom – share it (in detail) with the whole company.

There are many stories about vision and the workforce, some apocryphal, many turned into films. You’ve no doubt heard the one about President Kennedy on a trip to NASA, during the Apollo 11 era, asking a janitor what he was doing and getting the answer “I’m helping put a man on the moon.” Cheesy? If you’re cynical, I suppose so. If you’re a business leader, it’s enviable. And given that we spend so many hours at work, it would probably be welcome to many employees if they had an achievable vision to work towards.

This takes us back to your customers because, if your vision doesn’t embrace their needs, you’ll be working in a bubble and those qualified leads will be even further from your grasp.

Understand your customers and their world
This is your top-line objective – to understand, and base your business, on your customers and their world. I refer to customer knowledge in an earlier blog and will cover the topic in more detail later in the year. Briefly though, when you unpack ‘customer understanding’ it involves some of the most valuable data you’ll ever need:

• What represents ‘value’ to your customers?
• Who are you up against (as in who is meeting their needs right now)?
• Who are your strongest allies (partners, suppliers, etc)?

Your data must be robust, accessible and dynamic (‘real time’). Knowledge is power – to understand how to differentiate yourself and put clear water between you and your competition. If you know exactly what they’re up to, you know more about your potential target customer:

• What lead generation activities are they using?
• What’s their product offering?
How do your products differ from theirs?

In my experience, businesses don’t always treat such data with the respect it deserves. But, if your marketing reflects this knowledge, the leads you generate must, by definition, be qualified and therefore valuable.

Every employee is in ‘sales’
It’s true; every employee is in sales. They all have a role in creating qualified sales leads, from NASA janitor to MD. Of course employees have specific roles – engineer, receptionist, marketing executive, bookkeeper, etc. But they also have a broader brief to maximise every opportunity to turn a prospect into a buyer, to change the mind of a disgruntled customer, to entice an ex supporter back into the fold. Helping them recognise this, and then make them comfortable with their more holistic sales lead role, is vital.

“I’m not a sales person I only look after…”. Change this mindset, change the culture if you want the business to be successful by having everyone pull in the same direction. Get them to look at things from a different angle:

• If you are a receptionist and you are rude to a visitor, or behave in an unprofessional way, you might lose a potential customer. This is such a negative approach to carrying out your job. How about doing more than not losing a potential customer? How about going out of your way to turn them into a potential customer?

• Shouldn’t customer services be superheroes? Troubleshooting problem solvers building a rapport? Often, they’re trained to do a minimum, using data protection as barrier and then asking you to complete a quick satisfaction survey.

In many respects you aren’t even asking employees to ‘go that extra mile’. It’s just asking them to apply a different set of values to what they do and, at the very least, be an advocate of the organisation.

The culture in the business should always be to focus on customer needs. That’s how qualified leads are generated for the official sales team to convert into buying what the business needs to sell.

Only Qualified Leads are worth chasing
The key word here is ‘qualified’ because only qualified leads are worth chasing. So, it follows that failing to impose a universally (eg company-wide) agreed definition of what a qualified sales opportunity looks like will simply generate misleading, unhelpful and ultimately useless leads. Tracking the number of leads generated in the absence of a consistent quality standard tells you nothing and may lead you to do even more of the wrong thing. Just to reinforce the data approach, work it backwards:

1. What does your order book need to look like each month?
2. What kind of conversion rate do you need to achieve these orders?
3. What should be going into the sales ‘funnel’ in the first place to deliver the desired ‘qualified’ leads and secure the level of orders the business is seeking?

You’ll need to craft qualification criteria that address the specifics of your offering and your markets. At minimum, a qualified sales opportunity must satisfy all of the following:

• Is there a clear need – as in, is there a problem that requires a solution?
• Is the lead likely to buy something (do they have the budget/money to spend?)?
• Do they require a solution now or sometime in the future?
• Are you talking to the decision-maker or an influencer?
• Would they make a good customer?
• Do you have a reasonable chance of winning?

Marketing to your qualified leads

Labelling your leads helps you identify where they are in the funnel, reflecting the various stages a person goes through as they consider making a purchase. Understanding this will help you treat them appropriately, thereby increasing your chances of converting them into customers:

IQLs – Information Qualified Leads
This is where an exchange of (low level) information has taken place, usually online: in a form, signing up to a newsletter or downloading something. They’re at the top of the funnel but have qualified themselves as a lead by showing interest in receiving more information about your business and/or its products. As you know little about them, you need to feed their interest carefully to ensure you market to them successfully.

MQLs – Marketing Qualified Leads
This lead has engaged with your marketing content and responded positively – maybe clicked on something in the newsletter they signed up to. The piece of content they’ve engaged with tells you more about this lead’s wants and needs.

SALs – Sales Accepted Leads
As the name implies, this is a lead that’s interested in you putting a deal together – or at least getting you to quote.

SQLs – Sales Qualified Leads
Quite simply these leads are ready and able to buy from you. You should be familiar with their their needs, expectations and concerns so they transition through to conversion without unnecessary delay.

Having understood where they are in the funnel, it’s vital you have a process that ensures you get your leads through to the appropriate stage which, if they meet the criteria, should be conversion to a sale. Whatever the outcome, you need to learn the lesson the experiences teach, and refine your process accordingly. Then the process leading up to the successful sale needs to be replicated while any loss of opportunities need to be examined and monitored

1. A competitor wins the deal
2. The prospect decides to implement an internally developed solution
3. The prospect decides to do nothing
You will lose an opportunity for some valuable learning if you file these outcomes under ‘lost’

Let’s recap on what we’ve covered in this blog

1. We’ve discussed vision – why sharing it means your employees are more able to help you achieve it.
2. Next we looked at customer data – how understanding them is the key to getting their loyalty.
3. Then we went back to your employees – exploring how they are your unofficial sales team. Their understanding of your vision and customers will help generate the right leads.
4. Finally, turned our attention to the kind of leads that should be going into your funnel and how you treat them in order to turn them into SQLs – the very best kind.
5. So, now we have the elements to help us set your sales leads target rate…
Setting your sales conversion/ leads target rate

Let’s say your average (av) sales cycle, from start to finish, is 3 months, and assume your average order value is £25k. So, working backwards:

Target for June = £100k creating the need for 4 new customers (av £25k per order). So in March you will need 340 MQL leads broken down as follows:
• SALs = 12 (assume 33% convert into orders)
• SQLs = 34 (assume 35% converted into sales opportunities)
MQLs = 340 (assume 10% converted into SQL)

If at any stage of the funnel process, your company is not hitting your target then you and your sales and marketing team(s) need to be thinking about how to fix this.

By fully understanding what’s behind your win/conversion rate, you can drive improvements where they’re needed.

Various studies have shown that organisations using data to drive a proactive management of their order pipeline show significantly accelerated revenue growth compared to their peers. It all gets back to data – gathering, understanding and using it