What if I told you that you could make your sales team love you?
No, not like. Not respect. Not appreciate.
What if I told you that you could reduce your workload at the same time?
…while accelerating the growth of your company?
…and advancing your own career?
Do I have your attention yet?
Good, because here’s the truth: As a marketer, it’s your job to deliver a steady stream of qualified leads to sales. Without a sufficient number of qualified leads, your sales team can’t adequately fill their pipeline. Fewer opportunities mean fewer new customers. And that, of course, stifles your company’s growth.
Thankfully, there’s a solution: Implementing a lead management system that automatically qualifies, routes, and assigns leads to sales.
In doing so, you unlock some remarkable benefits:
- You eliminate the tedious, manual lead qualification process. Forcing your sales team to manually qualify every lead is a waste of their time. Automating this process frees up their schedule so they can focus on higher priorities, like closing deals! Plus, it shields early-stage buyers from pushy sales calls.
- You make your sale team’s life way easier. By reducing their workload and delivering a steady stream of qualified leads, you become their new favorite colleague.
- You grow your company (and career) by being a more effective marketer. An in-depth understanding of your target buyer helps you craft more relevant marketing experiences. Plus, once you know where your most qualified leads are coming from, you can eliminate any channels that don’t produce the results you need, effectively reducing your cost per lead. Both make you an indispensable member of the team.
What is a qualified lead?
Every company defines a qualified lead differently. At the most basic level, qualified leads are potential customers who meet specific criteria.
These criteria not only differ from company to company but also from department to department. For example, marketing and sales professionals define qualified leads differently. That’s why it’s important for departments to align on which criteria are important at each stage of the customer journey.
Marketers typically manage two types of leads:
1. Directly assigned leads
These leads enter your contact database via your “Contact Sales” or “Demo Request” form. Because filling out one of these forms signifies an interest in purchasing your solution, you can assume they’re far enough into the buying process to engage with sales right away. Hence why they’re immediately assigned to sales.
Here are two examples of forms that produce directly assigned leads:
2. Marketing qualified leads (MQLs)
These leads enter your contact database through other means, such as downloading a piece of gated content. For this reason, they must be qualified by marketing before being assigned to sales. That process often includes an assessment to determine demographic and firmographic fit as well as behavior-based lead scoring.
Those that qualify right away are routed to sales. Those that aren’t qualified right away are triggered into a lead nurturing journey in hopes that they’ll become qualified down the road.
Here are two examples of forms that produce leads who are later qualified by marketing:
Once you pass these leads to your sales team, they undergo another assessment before graduating to a sales qualified lead.
Here’s a 30,000-foot view of the lead management system I just described:
How to automate your lead management process
Now that you understand how different types of qualified leads flow through your lead management system, let’s dig into how you can route and assign qualified leads to sales, automatically.
Follow these 3 steps to automate your lead management:
- Define your lead qualification criteria
- Set up your behavior-based lead scoring journey
- Create your lead management journey
Step 1. Define your lead qualification criteria
The first step is defining what a sales-ready lead looks like for your business—an exercise you should do in partnership with your product, success, and sales teams.
“Drill into past customer wins and losses to help identify the demographic and behavioral signals that might predict lead quality,” says Guy Marion, CMO & Head of Business at Autopilot.
Simply put, you need to profile your target buyer. The closer a lead matches that profile, the more qualified they are.
This table lists common criteria used for qualifying leads for sales:
A lead’s demographic and firmographic traits indicate whether they are the right contact, from the right company.
Ask yourself, “What industries, company sizes, departments, and job titles are common amongst the customers we win?”
For example, Lyft Mobility Solutions looks for HR, finance, procurement, and administration professionals. Developers and marketers would not meet their qualification criteria.
FullContact makes this step a breeze for Autopilot customers, who enjoy free access to FullContact’s lead enrichment services.
FullContact requires only an email address to start pulling in relevant data. If available, the following information is automatically added to a lead’s profile:
- profile image;
- company name;
- title at company;
- link to Twitter profile; and
- link to LinkedIn profile.
This lead intelligence supplements your existing contact data so you can better segment and target them.
Behavioral data is used to score leads based on their level of engagement, which often helps indicate where they are in the purchasing process.
Ask yourself, “What key actions make leads more likely to convert?” These actions might take place on your website or, if you’re a SaaS company with a free trial, in your app. For example, if leads who download a high-value piece of gated content are 2.5 times more likely to convert than leads who don’t, be sure to factor this in.
You’ll also want to identify criteria to help you disqualify leads. For example, Autopilot uses this smart segment to exclude leads using a personal email address:
It’s a sure-fire way to ensure that our sales team receives only leads with corporate emails.
You may also want to exclude the following:
- customers (to prevent sending the dreaded “oops” email)
- fake emails and phone numbers (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org, 000-000-0000)
- competitors (to prevent spying)
Refining your lead qualification criteria is an ongoing process. With regular testing and analysis, your target buyer profile will become more accurate over time.
Step 2. Set up your behavior-based lead scoring journey
Behavior-based lead scoring helps you identify your most active and engaged leads. As I mentioned above, a lead’s behavior score helps indicate their readiness to talk to sales.
Once you’ve identified which behaviors are exhibited by marketing qualified leads, you can start scoring leads in Autopilot.
Autopilot is visual marketing software for automating your customer journeys.
Marketers use Autopilot to build multi-channel customer journeys to achieve specific goals, like converting free trialists into customers or turning existing customers into brand enthusiasts.
Smart organizations also use Autopilot to build out operational journeys. Behavior-based lead scoring and lead management are two examples of operational journeys.
Each journey you create has its own canvas:
Simply drag, drop, connect, configure, and publish.
To foster flexibility and creativity, we’ve taken a “build it yourself” approach to lead scoring. Our change score shape allows you to increase or decrease a lead’s score based on their engagement with your website, app, emails, forms, and more.
For example, you might increase a lead’s behavior score by 1 if they open your email, by 5 if they click your email, and by 10 if they reply to your email.
You could also increase a lead’s behavior score by 1 every time they visit your website. Or increase it by 10 every time they visit a specific page on your website, such as your pricing page.
Because you assign each key action a number, you are in control of how a qualified lead is defined and how quickly they become a sales-ready lead.
Don’t forget to decrease a lead’s behavior score after a period of inactivity. That way, once active leads who decided against buying your product or service (or stopped engaging with your content) don’t retain their high scores forever.
In this example, we decreased the lead’s behavior score by five points after a 10-day delay:
Step 3. Create your lead management journey
In this step, you leverage your lead qualification criteria and behavior-based lead scores to automatically route and assign leads to sales.
Directly assigned leads
You’ll first want to qualify and assign direct sales requests, which are triggered by a form submission.
For example, this lead qualification journey is triggered when a lead fills out our “Contact Sales” form:
Let’s walk through it, step by step.
The journey is triggered when the “Contact Sales” form is submitted.
The first condition check disqualifies any leads who meet our exclusion criteria. For example, customers and competitors are immediately disqualified, along with contacts using personal email addresses.
The second condition check routes leads based on company size. Leads from companies with more than 500 employees are assigned to a mid-market sales rep, while leads from companies with fewer than 500 employees are assigned to an SMB sales rep.
Finally, the sales team is notified via Slack that they have been assigned a new lead.
Why are these leads treated differently than those who, say, download your content?
“Unless they’re wildly unqualified, you’re expected to follow up,” says Guy Marion.
In other words, it’s rude not to follow up with inbound sales leads.
Despite this, nearly one-quarter of U.S. companies never respond. To prevent potential buyers from falling through the cracks, smart companies include a follow-up email in their lead management journey.
Lyft Mobility Solutions is one example. After filling out their “Contact Sales” form, leads are routed based on company size, then assigned to a specific sales rep. Shortly after, they receive an email from that sales rep, requesting more information.
For example, enterprise leads receive this email:
By including a Calendly link, Lyft eliminates the time-consuming back and forth that’s often required when scheduling a meeting. As a result, the sales rep is freed up to focus on what they do best: selling.
If the lead responds to the questions in the email, even better! The sales rep gains valuable information that both enriches the lead’s profile and helps them prepare for their first call.
Marketing qualified leads
Once you’ve routed directly assigned leads to sales, create a separate journey for managing your marketing qualified leads.
You’ll want to route marketing qualified leads to sales in one of two situations:
1. They are a strong demographic and firmographic fit and exceed your minimum engagement threshold.
In this example, we built a “strong fit” smart segment:
This dynamic list includes executives of companies with at least 2,500 employees that are located in North America, who signed up with a corporate email, are not on our suppression list, and have engaged in some manner, resulting in a minimal behavior score.
Leads who meet this criteria are routed and assigned to an appropriate sales rep. Leads from companies with more than 5,000 employees are assigned to our enterprise account executive, while leads from companies with fewer than 5,000 employees are assigned to one of our mid-market account executives.
2. They are highly engaged and meet your minimum demographic and firmographic requirements
Here’s a glimpse at our “highly engaged” segment of leads:
In this case, to become a marketing qualified lead, the contact must have a behavior score over 50 AND use a corporate email, work for a company with more than 500 employees, and not belong to our suppression list.
Pro tip from Guy Marion: When defining your qualification thresholds, aim for a 10-15% lead-to-customer conversion rate.
Once you’ve built out your lead management journeys, all you have to do is click publish. Leads who enter your contact database in the future will be automatically added to each journey, qualified, routed, and assigned to sales. It’s a hands-off process that frees up your team while ensuring you follow up with each and every inbound lead.