When companies discuss leads, the conversation often revolves around how to increase their number. And for good reason: Companies of all sizes and in all industries devote a large percentage of their resources to lead generation. What to do once the leads begin to roll in, however, may be less clear. How can you ensure that your business benefits from your team’s hard work?
The answer is, you can allocate those leads. While there are a number of smart strategies to help you with lead allocation, here are four to consider:
1. Qualify your leads.
The first thing you should do with all the leads your company receives is to ensure that they are qualified. This should happen before they are passed on to the sales team. Unqualified leads can tax company resources and frustrate your sales team, which makes implementing a lead-scoring system critical.
If your company is in the startup phase, you may have to make some educated guesses about what constitutes a qualified lead, but as you do more and more business, you can (and should) refine your criteria. If a lead is deemed to be unqualified, or not yet ready for follow-up by the sales team, enter it into a nurturing program. While some people view leads in a nurturing program as lost leads because no purchase has been made, the reality is that nurtured leads may ultimately prompt bigger purchases. According to the Annuitas Group, leads in a nurturing program make 47 percent larger purchases than non-nurtured leads.
Suppose, for a moment, that you sell communication software to global companies, and that the purchasing time line for each lead features heavily in your scoring system. A nurturing program can help you continue to build relationships with those leads who intend to make a purchase within six months or more, while also prioritizing those who are currently ready to buy.
2. Continually refine your process.
As mentioned, the more leads you generate, the more you can refine your scoring system. When you first begin to review leads, your process may be manual -- for instance, you read detailed notes from your sales team on why some leads are qualified, while others are not. Over time, however, you will accumulate enough sales history to automate the process, and to include a feedback loop that examines which leads become sales.
Because the process is rarely clear-cut, you should consider developing a scoring range, rather than a qualified/unqualified designation. For example, with a rating of 1-5, leads that score a 4 or 5 could be forwarded to sales, while leads that score a 1, 2, or 3 could be entered into a nurturing program.
3. Automate your qualification system.
Automation (discussed in the previous paragraph) is one way to streamline the process of collecting information, building customer profiles and scoring leads. The key to effectively automating such a system lies in collecting enough information upfront to accurately score leads without overwhelming potential customers with requests for too much information.
Each time you ask for more information, you increase the likelihood that your lead drops out of the process, so collect simple details like name, telephone number and email immediately. This way, if a lead drops out before you complete all the steps in your process, you can still follow up via a nurturing campaign. You can also try to determine purchasing ability based on questions like company size (i.e., number of employees, number of offices). This limits the amount of information that the lead has to provide, while still allowing you to add sensitive information to each profile.
4. Utilize high-value lead routing.
A fantastic benefit from ranking leads is the ability to route your highest-quality leads to the salespeople most qualified to convert them into customers. This is often far more effective than solely routing leads based on salesperson availability, because it allows you to capitalize on a salesperson’s unique knowledge base and familiarity with a potential client (or businesses similar to that of the potential client).
As much as possible, design your lead system so that the right salespeople can quickly address those high-value leads that relate to their areas of expertise. Not only will you likely improve your sales numbers, you may also further motivate your sales team to consistently perform at a high level.
Ultimately, the most effective lead-allocation systems are those that qualify leads; utilize an automated, continually refined process; and capitalize on high-value lead routing. With such a system in place, you can make more efficient use of company resources and strengthen your bottom line.