Sales leaders, improving B2B lead generation results starts by looking at your sales pipeline definitions, specifically the FIRST stage in your sales process.  Does it begin as many do with something like Opportunity Identified or Qualifying Opportunity?

If you’re like most B2B organizations, Stage One of your sales pipeline is likely a vaguely defined term like one of these we mentioned.   It is supposed to represent all the opportunities your sales team is allegedly “qualifying” into real deals.  Fact is, most sales leaders rarely inspect this stage and fewer still ever count these deals when valuing their pipeline.

Why?  Because smart B2B Sales Leaders know most Stage One leads are crap!

Stage One is the safe zone for reps to park all those prospects, would-be prospects, leads they may some day call back, and leads that died a long time ago.   It looks good if there are a lot of them in there because it implies great things down the road.

The reality is this stage, and what precedes it, is highly influential in terms of setting the sales organization up for success.   Not enough qualified leads Above the Funnel (as 3FORWARD calls it) dooms the sales team to missing the number.   It’s that simple.  How do you get better at managing it?  We suggest three steps.

1. Creating a B2B Sales Lead Process.

  • Establish specific stages of a Lead pipeline.
  • Define the exact criteria that allow a lead to progress from one stage to the next.
  • Set goals for the number of leads in each of these stages.  Measure and report against these goals weekly.

2. Formalize and assign the responsibility of Lead Creation.

  • Today’s recognized best-practice is for marketing to own Lead Management -from targeting and identification through the qualification stage where leads are promoted to sales.  If this is possible with your organization, work now to make this happen.
  • Apply goals and metrics for how many qualified leads are needed each month to adequately load the top of the sales funnel.  You need to create enough leads at the top so there enough opportunities reaching the final pipeline stages to allow the company to achieve its revenue target.
  • Download our Do I Have Enough Leads Calculator to help you determine this number.

3. Create a Lead Lifecycle Management program built on Marketing Automation.

  • To create a sustained volume of qualified leads you need a multi-channel, diverse combination of out-bound and in-bound marketing built on lots of value add content, events, social media and other activities.
  • Marketing Automation, combined with other best practices such as segmentation will enable automated lead nurturing, web-site tracking, lead scoring, personalized communications and lead stage tracking.
  • Download the white paper Increasing Sales Effectiveness with Marketing Automation for lessons learned, tips, checklists and more to make your MA program a success.

This is a lot of work!  Remind me the benefits.

Applying the same “pipeline” rigor to leads and providing visibility to the process is the way to improving the number and quality of your leads.  Better leads also result in improved Sales Effectiveness when the sales team can focus their full efforts on qualified opportunities.