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Someone filled out a question card at my workshop without leaving a name, but I like the question: “How to Reduce the tension between sales and marketing over timely follow up to qualified leads?”

Whoever wrote the question, I just want to let you know that it’s a common issue across industries and companies. You are not alone. Marketing works hard to get leads, but sales say that the leads can’t be converted or are not ready to act on. Sometimes, they don’t even follow up… I get it.

I think there are three ways to address this issue:

  1. Agree on actionable MQL definitions
  2. Focus on quality of leads, not quantity
  3. Establish a Service Level Agreement (SLA)

Agree on Actionable MQL Definition

I am using myself as an example here.  I do a lot of research for my clients on messaging framework, SWOT analysis, persona creation, and content writing. So I download white papers, trends, and reports from many websites. After downloading certain types of content, I’d get an email or a call from that company’s salesperson trying to follow-up with me. Obviously, the marketing team didn’t qualify me before they passed me to the sales team. I usually share my real first and last name. By the way, my last name Didner is not very common. If marketing had done some research on me, they would know that I am not a qualified lead and probably didn’t meet the sales’ team’s ideal customer profile (ICP).

The best way to get sales to follow-up your leads in a timely manner is to make sure that you pass leads that meet their ICP. These prospects have done something on their website to indicate that they are ready to talk. I use LeadGenius as an example frequently, their MQL definition is someone who matches sales ICP and has raised a hand to request a demo. When this lead is passed to sales, sales knows that this person wants to see the demo, therefore, it’s a hot lead. Sales have a big incentive to follow-up right away.

Focus on quality, not quantity

Many marketing groups are tasked with an aggressive goal, such as 2000 leads per month. For 2000 leads a month, that’s 100 leads per day based on 20 working days. If you are looking for 100 highly qualified leads, you’ll need to amp that to 400 leads per day assuming a 25% conversion rate. People like me may be perceived as a high-qualified lead who came to your website and downloaded several pieces of highly valuable content. But a high lead score based on content consumption, in this case, doesn’t mean that I am a highly-qualified prospect. Continuous nurturing won’t convert me, either, given that I’m only interested in white papers or trend reports, not necessarily about the products and services.

It’s important to have a frank conversation between sales and marketing about goal setting. A high number of leads doesn’t equate to high-quality leads. Sales want as many leads as possible, I get it. But it may be unreasonable to task marketing to get all those leads, especially if the budget is small. Leads are not free. Driving outbound campaigns for inbound leads is not free, either. You need to correlate your budget with lead goals and educate the sales and management team to understand that.

Establish a Service Level Agreement (SLA)

To ensure that sales perform timely follow-up on leads try to set up an SLA and ask the sales team to commit to follow-up on the leads within a certain amount of time, like 48-72 hours after a lead is assigned to them. Of course, you need to make sure that you have a dashboard in place to track that follow-up. If they aren’t keeping up, have a conversation with them.

Here is the truth: you’ll have salespeople that follow the SLA and you’ll also have sales people that don’t. Maybe you can also do the correlation analysis to see if salespeople who follow-up on your leads have a higher probability of meeting their sales goals than those who don’t. Use the data to have a conversation with those who aren’t following up in a timely manner. Salespeople are motivated by data. If you can show them that timely follow-up of your leads helps them, they’ll do it. Hopefully, the data is on your side.

This is a very common issue on the marketing side. I want to let everyone know that you are not alone. If anyone of you has other ways to address this issue, please let me know. I am more than happy to share your best practices with everyone and give you credit as well.

Again, if you like the podcast, please leave comments on iTunes.

Before you leave, make sure to check out the previous podcast episodes!

Keep hustling, my friends. You got this.


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