Common Lead Definitions: What, exactly, is a qualified lead? What are its characteristics? Get as detailed as you need to be, but make sure both sales & marketing agree on that definition. That way, when leads are delivered to sales, they at minimum meet the basic criteria you've both agreed on to make them worth the sales team's time for follow-up.
Initial Response Time: If the leads are good (and meet the minimum qualified definition), you need a "service agreement" for how quickly those leads will get their first response. If the lead is waiting for something (a white paper, for instance) response time should likely be no longer than 24 business hours. In other cases, 48 hours may be acceptable. Decide what's right for your organization and customer, get sales management's buy-in, communicate it clearly to the sales team, and put in place reporting tools to make it super-easy to track this on a daily basis (and send both you and the sales rep alerts when leads fall outside of the service agreement).
Lead Follow-up Steps & Channels: How many times should a lead be attempted before the sales rep gives up and moves on? Should all of those attempts be via phone, or should there be a mix of other channels - email, social media channels, in-person, etc.? If you don't reach agreement on this critical process, every sales rep will have his or her own idea of what's right. Some will call once, leave a message, and consider the lead dead. Others will call the poor prospect 20 times. Create a standard with sales not only to ensure leads are thoroughly vetted, but also to ensure sales is moving on to fresher opportunities if there's nobody at home.
Clear Lead Stages: A lead comes in. The rep starts to attempt a call back. They reach the lead and determine it's a good prospect, or long-term prospect, or just not qualified. How do they report this information to you? What lead stages have you set up in your lead management or CRM system to not only make it easy and clear how you want sales to categorize their working leads, but also to report to management progress & quality of leads (not to mention improve your lead generation ROI performance moving forward)? Don't go overboard - 15 lead stages gets way too complicated - but 4-6 stages is reasonable and actionable for most sales environments.
Handing Leads Back to Marketing: According to MarketingSherpa and others, the vast majority of leads generated by B2B organizations in particularly will buy - just not right now. Those leads (once they're identified as such) need to be passed back to marketing for active nurturing. Make sure there's a clear process for sales to do just that - ideally with the click of a button.
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