How to Transform Inbound B2B Leads Into Sales

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With inbound marketing, you create quality content, attract your target audience to your website and turn them into leads. Then, you close the sale.

It all sounds good, but if your company is creating a lot of leads that don’t become customers, it can be frustrating. But look on the bright side: you have already cleared a huge hurdle—successfully generating leads.

Now you just have to add these five steps to your sales and marketing process to increase your conversion rates:

  1. Define a Qualified Lead

Is a form filled out on your website a qualified lead? In most cases, the answer is “no.”

According to Gleanster Research, 25% of leads are qualified and ready to buy (sales qualified leads), and 50% of leads are qualified but not ready to buy (marketing qualified leads). The remainder will never buy anything: students, people doing research and individuals who may have some interest, but not the necessary budgets or authority to purchase.

Since you only want to work the leads that have the potential to transform into sales, your first step is to define the criteria for qualified leads. A definition of a qualified lead enables you to cull through your web registrations to find those worthy of follow up.

Bear in mind that the definition of a qualified lead is where the misalignment between sales and marketing begins. That’s because there is often disagreement between the two functions on what represents a qualified lead.

To prevent professionals who should be working hand in hand from diverging, you need to define both marketing qualified leads and sales qualified leads. And whatever criteria you use to place a lead in one of these buckets, sales and marketing leaders must agree to it.

Qualifying criteria may include titles, responsibilities, industries as well as budgets, the authority to buy, need and the urgency of solving the problem with a product, solution or service like yours.

  1. Qualify Your Leads

You can use marketing automation systems to score your leads based on how they engage with your online content. Scores provide some clue as to a lead’s level of interest.

However, it’s likely that some critical information is missing. That’s because to boost registrations for a webinar or guide, you may have abbreviated your registration forms. Perhaps you have the name of their company but don’t know how big it is or its industry. To learn more, you’ll want to append the data with demographic information from external sources.

With this additional data, you know which leads meet your demographic criteria. You don’t know, however, the problem they’re trying to solve and whether they have the budget and authority to buy. Also, there’s no indication of when they’re likely purchase, who influences the sale and what information your leads need to make decisions. To gather this information, you need human-to-human lead qualification: inside sales people or telemarketers on the phone, asking questions. Insights that you gain in these conversations will also help you to tailor sales presentations to a prospect’s needs.

  1. Assign Responsibilities

Marketing’s responsibility is to nurture marketing qualified leads—those that have potential to mature into sales qualified leads. The sales people then take on the ready-to-buy leads and close the sale.

Having a clear definition of leads and functional responsibilities conquers an age-old problem. Sales reps, who in the past may have failed to follow up on marketing leads, now pursue them eagerly because they know they’re qualified. And because they’re working the leads, marketing leaders no longer complain that sales people are frittering away the leads they worked so hard to produce.

Overall, the team is energized, working efficiently and is more likely to achieve the desired results.

  1. Nurture Marketing Qualified Leads

Why is it so important that the marketing department nurture leads until they are ready to buy? According to Forrester Research, companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales ready leads at 33% lower cost than those that don’t.

The most cost-effective way to nurture leads is through email marketing. Email marketing, however, is not synonymous with mass marketing. The more personal your campaigns, the better.

Accordingly, you need to segment your audience by their interests. You may be able to do this, for example, based on their titles (CEO versus Manager), industries or company size. Also, you can segment based on interests and level of interest in your offering. The pages a lead visits on your website are an indication of which products or services they would like to learn more about. The amount or type of content they engage in is a strong indicator of their interest level. For example, a lead who reads a blog post may be doing early research while one who attends a webinar may be deeper into the decision-making process. This segmentation process enables you to serve up relevant emails that are more likely to produce results.

Email marketing is effective, but it’s not the only device in the nurturing tool box. Don’t forget the advantages of a telephone call.

While clicks and downloads provide some information about a lead, a one-on-one conversation allows you to ask open-ended questions and gain deeper insights into someone’s needs and how you can help them. It also provides an opportunity to answer a prospect’s queries and, if appropriate, counter their objections.

After the call, you can implement a follow-up plan tailored to your prospect’s needs. And, of course, there’s one powerful bonus to a phone call. Adding the human touch builds your relationship. Remember, business-to-business sales is really person-to-person sales. People buy from people.

  1. Close Sales-Qualified Leads

Depending on the complexity of your product, service or solution your inside sales people may be able to close the sale on the phone. If selling requires a face-to-face meeting, the inside sales or telemarketing representative can increase your sales force’s efficiency by setting up the appointments.

When it comes to closing the sale of complex B2B products and services, you cannot rely solely on automated techniques. The human touch is essential. Does that mean you’re out of luck if you don’t have an inside sales team? Absolutely not. There are companies with professional business development specialists who focus on nurturing B2B leads and appointment setting.

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