Out With The Old, In With The New…
Ask any marketing or sales leader, when a buyer is interested in speaking with a sales representative you will most likely receive a variety of different responses. However, data shows that buyer behavior has shifted to the point that 19% of buyers want to connect with a salesperson during the awareness stage of their buying process, and 60% want to connect with sales during the consideration stage, after they’ve researched options and narrowed it down to a short list.
This means 79% of buyers are willing to talk to a sales rep in the awareness or consideration stage of their buying process—much earlier than most traditional lead handoff strategies would support. With this in mind, it’s clear that by the time a lead is finally handed over to a sales rep, it may already be too late.
Using Outdated Lead Scoring Tactics is Leaving Money On The Table
So what do most organizations do? They adopt a lead prioritization scheme, allowing them to attribute a score to each lead and prioritize them based on their ranking, however this system is far from foolproof.
The Stages of a Typical Lead Management System | Source
Overscoring happens when a lead is given a score based on information such as firmographic and engagement, ultimately conveying a score that says they are ready to engage with a sales rep, however this is not always the case. Perhaps they just enjoy your content, or maybe the company is a great fit, but they really aren’t in the market for your product – this creates a lead that appears qualified, but when they get on the phone with sales, it’s clearly a waste of everyone’s time.
Conversely, and perhaps even more detrimental to a business, is the problem of underscoring. When it comes to utilizing a lead scoring model, a lead can just as easily be underscored which holds qualified leads in the top of the funnel, slows down the buying cycle, and causes unnecessary burden on sales to follow up with every single lead.
This category is made up of leads who:
- Are qualified but aren’t ready to speak to a sales rep
- Have not yet been qualified
- Somehow have slipped past Marketing’s radar altogether
As a result, you not only end up with an army of unhappy salespeople, but you will have also created a very strained sales and marketing relationship. Commonly, this happens to companies that were overscoring in the past and they overcompensate when adjusting the scoring model. If sales was getting too much “junk” before and now some of the best opportunities are falling through the cracks.
If you’re like many companies still utilizing this system, you’re not alone. Here are a few examples to help illustrate the gaps in the traditional top-of-funnel process which tends to make use of a lead score prioritization model:
- Typically you hand off roughly 40 percent of your new leads as MQLs, leaving 60 percent to fall into a nurture program or retargeting campaign. What if you are wrong and let’s say 5% of these leads are qualified and ready for sales? How much revenue are you missing out on?
- When leads exhaust all their nurture campaigns, they’re often left to go stale in your database. You might run reactivation campaigns every so often, but for the most part, those leads end up sitting and you’re relying on them to raise their hands a second time on their own.
- You’re handing over hot leads directly to the SDRs. But how fast are they following up? In many cases they don’t have the capacity to follow up within the same day (if not within the same hour), or follow up falls off after a few attempts. Delays kill deals— In fact waiting longer than five minutes to engage with a hot lead, reduces the odds of successfully qualifying it by 80%.
- When leads are unresponsive and/or disqualified – You probably have a nurture campaign that picks them up, but now you’re relying on the prospect to raise their hand and tell you they’re interested again.
With an influx of leads coming from marketing, sales might not have the bandwidth to engage every lead and a bottleneck ensues leading more qualified leads to either be completely missed, or have such a long response time that they are no longer interested or have moved forward with a competitor.
Then there are unengaged leads, which may not be “A-list” and sales-ready, but this is only due to a lack of nurturing and engagement on behalf of marketing and sales.
So is this method of lead scoring really the best way? Or are there other methods or tools available to increase lead engagement that can be applied to this category of preexisting pipeline?
When To Engage During The Buyer Journey
The truth is, in most cases you’ll never truly know if a prospect is interested in having a conversation with you if you never ask. Unfortunately, that concept isn’t scalable for your sales team.
However, rather than dumping your lower scoring leads into a nurture campaign and waiting for them to become MQLs, there is a way you can engage every prospect with a personal touch, and that’s through the use of an Automated Intelligent Virtual Assistant.
By providing your lower scoring leads a little personalized attention, you’ll be able to successfully move them through the funnel at a much faster pace—often yielding an increase in pipeline that wouldn’t have materialized if you had relied solely on those leads to resurface over time.
A perfect example is CBORD , a company that realized a 3X increase in qualified leads, by integrating an AI Virtual Assistant to engage with their list of un-engaged leads that were “less qualified”, based on the traditional lead scoring model. When the Virtual Assistant determined a lead had a true interest, it connected that lead with a live salesperson. In fact, it even booked the meeting on the sales reps calendar, and forwarded the entire communication it had with the lead to the rep.
Adding a Virtual Assistant allows you to never worry about under or over scoring since all leads get engaged by the Virtual Assistant. Powered by Artificial Intelligence, the Virtual Assistant can even read the conversations to qualify the leads so that those that are truly ready to talk to a rep will have a meeting scheduled. Cutting out the waste and improving the marketing – sales handoff.
A New Way To Think About The Marketing Funnel
Prioritization is imperative for lots of reasons. Namely, keeping lead volume optimal and ensuring sales all their conversations are productive and with prospects who have buyer intent. But, prioritization must exist in tandem with coverage —that is, ensuring hot leads are a focal point, but also ensuring your other leads aren’t left to navigate the buying process alone.
This is where intelligent Virtual Assistants can do the heavy lifting. Remember those unengaged leads? Well with a Virtual Assistant you can engage with those leads who are not ready to talk to sales yet and drive more pipeline out of this existing category of leads who would have otherwise stayed dormant.
A Virtual Assistant can not only adjust your scoring model, but drive it to optimal efficiency and put more quality in your sales queue, without the worry of whether a rep will see it in time. Every lead is followed up on in a timely fashion and your reps can spend more time in meaningful conversations rather than chasing potential leads or having conversations with unqualified prospects.