Time and time again, I see leads in companys’ systems that are supposed to get contacted. Yet, they just sit and begin to grow mold like the old bread in the back of your pantry.
The quick answer is “just call them,” but that’s not always the right solution. These aging marketing qualified leads (MQLs) result in wasted investment and lost opportunity.
Does this sound familiar? Here are some of the top reasons–some valid, some not. If you think you don’t have the issue, go into your MQL pantry to do an assessment—you might just find a little mold.
Responding to Leads within an Hour Generates 7x the Conversations. Harvard Business Review
The Marketing Mistakes
An MQL is a lead that Marketing deems qualified enough for a Sales rep to call for further qualification.
1) Leads Get Lost in the System or are Missassigned.
If Peggy Rock left the company six months ago, there is no need to have MQLs assigned to Peggy. Or, if leads from the UK keep getting assigned to the Germany Sales rep, that’s not a recipe for success.
Solution: Assess your lead assignment rules and make changes as needed. On an ongoing basis, run a weekly report of leads by lead owner to make sure leads are getting assigned to the right person.
25 percent of Fortune 500 managers change jobs each year. Human Capitalist
2) Leads Pass to Sales too Soon.
This situation happens when organizations loosely define MQLs as any leads that enter the system. For example, maybe the 20 people who requested more information at a recent trade show are MQLs, but the 500 attendees should not pass to Sales as MQLs.
Alternatively, some Marketing teams are measured on MQLs produced. The team then sets the bar low so leads artificially move to the MQL stage when the leads should really sit at a pre-MQL stage.
The end result of either of the above is Sales won’t waste its time on the mislabeled MQLs. This causes MQL inventory to rise and hurts Marketing’s credibility with the Sales team.
Solution: Marketing needs to work with Sales to develop a two-way relationship. Don’t practice premature MQL-ing. Say it five times: “I will not pass bad leads to Sales.”
3) Sales Reps are too Busy Generating Opportunities and Don’t Have Time for Top-of-Funnel Leads.
This is a big one. It’s the end of the quarter and a quota-carrying Sales rep needs to hit quota. Where do you think that Sales rep is going to focus? Calling new leads or getting the signed proposal in the door?
Additionally, closing a lead requires a different skill set than generating the lead. Companies run into issues when they try to have their reps take on both roles. There is a reason why Justin Verlander is a baseball starting pitcher and Mariano Rivera was a closer–they both excel in their roles.
Solution: Consider moving to a Sales Development Rep (SDR) model.
Best practice organizations don’t rely on quota-carrying Sales reps to manage new leads. Instead, the companies focus on dedicated roles where the division of labor is split between closing and lead development. In these organizations, it is the responsibility of SDRs to follow-up in a timely basis. Instead of revenue, SDRs are mostly compensated on meetings created.
Nearly six out of ten companies front-end their closing reps with an SDR team. Bridge Group 2015 SaaS Inside Sales Survey Report
4) Sales Reps Don’t Know How to Get Access to the Leads.
There is no big book of MQLs that gets dropped on reps’ desks every day. Sales reps need to know how to find and manage the leads in your CRM.
For example, I was recently working with one rep that had no idea where to find his territory’s leads. What was happening was the leads were physically assigned to someone else so he had none under his name. When he adjusted his lead view to his territory (instead of his name), all of the leads showed up.
Solution: Whatever process your organization follows, make sure Sales manages its leads in a consistent manner.
5) The MQLs are Contacted, but Sales Reps Don’t Change the Status.
This happens a lot with new reps or when a company adopts a new process. Here, a rep sees the MQL lead in the system, calls it, but doesn’t change the lead status. There is no way to tell if the rep followed up if the rep doesn’t tell the CRM that the lead was called.
Solution: Train, train and train again. Changing the lead’s status is as basic as it gets but some reps need a little hand holding.
6) Lack of Knowledge of Service Level Agreements (SLAs).
It seems like common sense that Sales reps should jump over MQLs like white on rice but that doesn’t always happen. Marketing and Sales leaders not only have to agree on follow-up timeframes, the groups must also make sure that urgency trickles down to the Sales reps making the calls.
Solution: Make sure Sales reps know the proper SLA of your organization. If follow-up for an MQL is two days, every rep should have that timeframe on the tip of their tongue.
Companies with an SLA tend to have higher marketing budgets. Hubspot
7) It’s the System’s Fault.
System issues do happen—so expect them. Sometimes, lead scoring is off and leads get tossed to MQL by mistake. Or maybe a list was uploaded incorrectly into an MQL status. Oh yeah, I’ve made that mistake a few times.
Solution: Roll with the punches. These issues will occur on occasion. Don’t let these become a reason not to follow-up on the best MQLs.
8) Sales Reps Don’t Feel the Leads are Worth Their Time.
“These leads *&^%” or “I don’t have time” are some things you may hear from reps. The reps may be right but the only way to tell is to follow process.
For example, if reps follow up with a group of eBook MQLs according to the SLA timeframes and the opportunity conversion rate resembles a lottery winning percentage, it might be time to reinvest marketing dollars elsewhere.
Solution: What cannot happen is to let those leads sit untouched. Management must enforce the process, stressing the importance of future improvements. The other possibility: Sales reps need to schedule their time more efficiently.
According to TOPO’s SDR benchmark research, 33.3% of high-growth companies cite challenges around SDR time management as one of the top three challenges for their organization. TOPO Blog
9) There is No Process for Working MQLs.
Many times, Sales reps have their own individual processes for working leads. John may work MQLs out of a lead queue while Sara may run a weekly excel report and call MQLs on Friday.
Solution: Consistency. Make sure reps follow the same process for MQL follow-up. Hold team sessions so reps can share best practices among team members.
10) Not Enough Info on the Leads.
Sometimes MQLs hit the system with emails only, so Sales has limited data to follow-up. “How can I call when there are no phone numbers?”
Solution: At the very least, this is a productivity/efficiency issue. There is this thing on the Internet called Google and it works pretty well for research. Yes, it’s an extra step for the Sales rep, but letting an MQL sit because there isn’t a phone number is not a best practice.
For companies that want to get serious about making its Sales team more productive, consider data appending services from NetProspect, ZoomInfo, and others. These services will try to match your leads against their own databases and append the phone number if available.
11) The World Cup is On. Will Call Later.
The World Cup is awesome. Youtube is great. We all get stuck there sometimes. However, if the distractions are causing work to suffer, it may be time to adjust polices or make a change.
Solution: This is a management call. Hopefully your reps are hitting their goals. If they are not and you find reps watching Youtube’s greatest hits daily, you may need to make a few changes.
To summarize, a lead follow-up process is not as simple as it seems. When assessing your MQL follow-up system, ensure that your organization follows a consistent process to bring the right leads to the right Sales person at the right time.
And stay away from moldy bread.