Five Ways to Improve Lead Generation in 2019

In the age of the hyper-informed buyer, marketing and sales must collaborate to ensure a full funnel and a successful outcome from lead management activities. In this post, we’ll outline five ways sales and marketing can collaborate on lead generation and marketing to improve your sales performance in 2019.

  1. Agree on the definition of a lead. Sales and marketing can’t collaborate on leads if they can’t agree on what a lead actually is, i.e., the criteria which must be met before an inquiry becomes a lead. Our research shows that the percentage of organizations with no agreed-upon definition of a lead continues to rise: from 19.3% of respondents in 2014 to 42.0% of respondents in our new study. (click to tweet)
  2. For more details, download our recently released 2018 – 2019 Sales Performance Study.
  3. Formally document the nurturing process. Nurturing an inquiry into a lead can be a quick process or it can take many interactions over a long period of time, depending on where the customer is in their decision-making journey. Organizations need to map out what the process looks like at the activity level, where the data will be logged (CRM or Marketing automation) like, what conversations should occur, what content is needed and in what media. This is potentially a lot of moving parts and it needs to be carefully coordinated. Yet, our study shows that only about a third (35.0%) of organizations have an agreed-upon process for nurturing leads. (click to tweet)
  4. Drive sales and marketing collaboration. Having an effective process for collaboration is just as important as what you collaborate on. For example, if marketing is going to use a set of value messages in order to connect with a specific vertical, then there needs to be a formal way to enable Sales on those concepts so that sellers can reinforce the messaging when the lead is transferred to them. Similarly, there needs to be a formal mechanism whereby sales can reject leads and provide feedback to Marketing on refining the ideal customer profile. Without a formal set of processes to do this, it likely won’t happen and processes become quickly stagnant and misaligned.
  5. Focus your efforts. Our research shows a clear link between the ability to prioritize accounts for prospecting efforts and sales success. Do you have an ideal customer profile? Are you utilizing account based marketing? How effective is your organization at focusing sellers on accounts who are likely to buy? Unfortunately, less than one half (43.3%) of the organizations in our study said they met or exceeded expectations at prioritization, but those that did were five times as likely to excel at closing business with new customers.
  6. Use a range of measures. Organizations tend to focus on the two ends of the funnel: How many inquiries or Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) did we have? How much revenue did we close? Successful organizations also have a set of clear KPIs around the activities that take place in between, e.g., What are the conversion rates between each stage in the funnel? What percent of leads are not converted or qualified? What is the average sales cycle for different kinds of leads? By tracking and making visible these leading indicators, you can see what’s working and what’s not and more quickly make changes.

2019 and Beyond

There’s one approach to improving lead generation in 2019 that we didn’t focus on in the above list: implementing technology. That’s because advanced selling technologies can contribute to improvements in everything on the list by making each best practice faster, easier or more effective.

For example, the advanced algorithms in many of today’s sales analytics tools can help you predict which leads present the greatest opportunities. No more guessing at (or arguing about) what makes a “qualified lead.” Furthermore, at every step in the customer’s path, these tools can help your salespeople respond faster and more appropriately. They can also help marketing understand how their contributions, like mid-customer’s path sales tools, help drive sales performance.

Nevertheless, technology isn’t a cure-all for poor underlying processes, assumptions or silo-thinking. Building a culture of collaboration, especially between sales and marketing, is an important foundation for 2019 and beyond.

Questions to ask:

  • How do we differentiate between a lead and an inquiry? Are marketing and sales in agreement on this?
  • What is our process for nurturing leads? Who is responsible for each stage, and what content and tools do we provide to support them?
  • How well have we defined the collaboration process between sales and marketing? In what areas are things left undone because there isn’t clear ownership?
  • How effectively do we prioritize opportunities?
  • What metrics do we use to measure lead management success? How should we increase the emphasis on leading indicators?

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