54 Things to Do when Building a Lead Qualification Team

I hesitated to write this post, because Marketo’s Jon Miller has already written quite possibly the best, as-close-to-definitive guide to lead qualification.

OK, now that I have led you off my site, let’s get back to business. I decided to write this because I continue to believe in my heart of hearts that one of the single biggest levers a revenue-focused organization can pull is to have a dedicated phone qualification team. Also, I was cleaning out old paperwork and found some of my old notes from my days at SalesRamp.

First, some clarifications: I’m talking about a multichannel process that includes dedicated phone-based resources and automation designed to determine whether or not a lead fits the agreed-upon qualified lead definition and is deemed ready to speak with sales. Or CliffsNotes-style: There are people on the phones who qualify leads or inquiries before handing them to sales.

There are a number of different names for this: inside sales, sales development, lead development, telebusiness, lead qualification, and so forth. No matter what you call it, there’s a buttload of things to do when building an LQT (lead qualification team). I can think of at least 54:

  1. Establish a business plan.
  2. Create definitions; in particular, your qualified lead definition (more on this later).
  3. Determine your “value-chain,” starting from revenue the organization needs to generate then go in order from there: a) Opportunities: How many opportunities do we need to hit the revenue number?; b) Qualified leads: How many qualified leads do we need to hit our number?; c) Leads or marketing-qualified leads (MQLs): How many leads do we need to hit our qualified leads number?
  4. Draw the value chain from top of the funnel to the bottom.
  5. Create metrics for each step in the value chain.
  6. Determine your leads’ needs (demographics and so forth).
  7. Determine lead/inquiry generation flow (what are the sources, etc.).
  8. Figure out how leads will be entered into the system.
  9. Establish the merged/purged database process.
  10. Develop a list of prospects/customers not to call.
  11. Develop a definition of a qualified lead. I know I mentioned this earlier, but it is the most critical definition — what criteria must you uncover in order to pass this lead to sales?
  12. Sales has to agree to the definition, or nothing on this list will work.
  13. Get a commitment from sales to follow up on the qualified lead. Some might call it an SLA (besides Dan Waldschmidt).
  14. What is the deliverable to sales? Is it an appointment? Demo? What is the information provided?
  15. What’s the closed-loop process? Sales needs to provide feedback on the qualified leads; try to do it using your CRM.
  16. Create lead stages just like sales stages, but make them mimic the phone qualification process.
  17. Develop the quota of qualified leads (as my old boss Stu Silverman called it, “The ‘keep-your-job’ quota”).
  18. Develop a commission plan for the LQ reps. It should be a qualified lead number with a bonus for revenue generated.
  19. Develop a commission plan for the manager.
  20. Determine how to track calling statistics. Yes, sir (or madam), you need to do this. (P.S. You may or may not be able to do this in the CRM.)
  21. Tie your qualified lead flow with the overall sales forecasting process.
  22. Establish the territories for the lead qualification reps.
  23. Develop “hang-on-the-wall” materials: value propositions, call guide including voice mail, qualified lead definition, competitive comparison guide, list of customers and partners, diagram of the field organization, buyer personas.
  24. Set content-delivery strategy – what should be sent when.
  25. Create scoring (this is if you don’t have marketing doing scoring). You should score on lead source, demographic info that hits your sweet spot (title, for example), and so forth.
  26. Score will determine level of effort and time spent.
  27. Create a “connect-strategy” that includes phone and email — a series of calls and emails over time.
  28. Determine the number of voicemails you will leave (if any; some people don’t).
  29. Create a web-researching strategy. Allot a certain amount of time to research each account. Provide an application to do research such as Inside View.
  30. Create a process for inbound calls including call routing. (P.S. Here is to hoping you get inbound calls!)
  31. Get senior executive staff to buy into the LQT.
  32. Write all of this down in a strategy document. Not just to look cool, but for your own good.
  33. Develop automation strategy, customizations, reports.
  34. Choose a CRM system if there isn’t one. Figure out how to support your process if there is one.
  35. Ensure you set up CRM to make lead qualification reps’ lives easier. They need to live in it.
  36. Write an automation cheat sheet. Lead qualification reps should hang it on their walls.
  37. Establish a process for tracking qualified leads.
  38. Develop a lead source report — goodness of sources and goodness of follow-up.
  39. Make sure leads are seamlessly entered into the system. Make sure lead qualification reps are alerted when they enter the CRM system.
  40. Train, train and train: industry, buying personas, market, technology, product, company, your new lead qualification process, the automation, the message, objections.
  41. Sit with the lead qualification reps; it’s the best way to help them.
  42. Determine headcount.
  43. Create job descriptions. Copy other job descriptions of like jobs to make sure you are thorough.
  44. Advertise on craigslist, it works for this position. And send out word to your network. After you get one or two, pay for referrals. The average age will be young for this position, and the young’uns like working with their friends.
  45. Manage the group toward hitting its goals.
  46. Monitor calling. Use a splitter. It sounds invasive, but it works great.
  47. Continually communicate goals and results to management. They don’t always get it.
  48. On second thought, continually communicate to the entire company.
  49. Have a closed-loop meeting with sales. It should be weekly. Accept feedback and do something about it.
  50. Have a closed-loop meeting with marketing. It should be weekly too.
  51. Have marketing listen to calls of their leads so they can see what is working/not working live.
  52. Constantly optimize.
  53. Expect a year to 14 months of maximum output from lead qualification reps.
  54. Wake up do it again (think Groundhog Day).

Craig Rosenberg is the Funnelholic. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter

Focus Funnel Expert: Jon Miller of Marketo

This week, Focus.com released the Book of Funnels, officially titled Focus Experts’ Guide: Sales and Marketing Pipeline and Funnel Models. The book includes interpretations of pipelines from sales and marketing thought leaders, providing insight into how frameworks can vary. To gain some insight into the processes they used to get their visions on paper, The Funnelholic caught up with some of the contributors. They provided some well-considered feedback, and a deeper understanding of their one-page funnel models.

To kick off my interview series, I had the chance to interview Jon Miller, VP of Marketing at Marketo, the revenue performance management company that’s transforming how marketing and sales teams of all sizes work — and work together — to accelerate predictable revenue.

Jon leads strategy and execution for all aspects of marketing at Marketo and is a key architect of Marketo’s hyper-efficient revenue engine (powered by Marketo’s solutions, of course). He explores everything from demand generation and lead nurturing to marketing ROI and revenue cycle management in his popular blog, Modern B2B Marketing, and was named a Top 10 CMO for companies under $250 million in revenue by The CMO Institute. While Marketo’s funnel might look traditional, don’t be fooled; its processes are original, especially its innovative new system, Revenue Cycle Analytics.

The Funnelholic: Explain your approach to the funnel.

Jon: My approach to the funnel starts with what I like to call Seed Nurturing. This is the process of building relationships with qualified prospects before you have their contact information. Essentially, our funnel starts with education and providing thought leadership so prospects can make an informed decision about our product later down the funnel.

Jon Miller Revenue Funnel

The Jon Miller Funnel

The Marketo funnel is comprised of six stages: Awareness, Inquiry, Prospect, Lead, Opportunity and, ultimately, Customer. Let’s run through the stages:

  • Awareness: Defines everyone who knows about Marketo. We know what a visitor is doing, but not who they are. Equate this to peeking out the window of an auto showroom and seeing a new customer on the lot.
  • Inquiry: Anonymous ‘awareness’ transforms into the ‘known,’ via a name and email address.
  • Prospect: A potential buyer or ‘qualified inquiry.’ This individual may have downloaded a webinar or whitepaper, but has yet to show any greater interest. But they are definitely on our radar.

Notice that we are now past the first three stages of the funnel and have yet to identify a ‘lead.’ As noted, a common mistake made by many marketers is to pass ‘leads’ along to sales far too aggressively.

  • Lead: At the lead stage, the prospect has shown sufficient interest to receive a score high enough to pass it along to sales. We’ll get into lead scoring soon.
  • Opportunity: A certain number of leads will transform into sales opportunities. Again, we’ve found this to be about one-fourth of the amount of leads we generate.
  • Customer: A bell rings as a sale is made.

Essentially a prospect goes through many stages where, at first, they are only a name. Only until they interact with us, whether it be downloading a piece of content or clicking through an email, can we call them “engaged.” It is actions like these that are extremely important to demand generation. It helps us learn what type of content to promote and which type of emails increase click-through rates, etc. Someone who is engaged moves to prospect based on his or her increased level of significant behavior and interesting moments. A prospect becomes a lead when they reach a specific score. There are three outcomes of a lead: disqualified, converted to an opportunity or recycled.

What’s interesting to note is that when someone becomes a lead, they begin interacting with the sales rep. At this point there is an agreement from sales (SLAs) that they will follow up with these leads in a prescribed amount of time. If these SLAs are not met, sales and marketing management is notified via automated processes. Following these SLAs is not only critical for proper interaction and relationship building, but also so that marketing can report properly on program success.

We also have a webinar that provides some further details about our funnel: The Secret Sauce to Demand Generation.

The Funnelholic: Besides your own, were there any other funnels that resonated with you?

Jon: The other funnels that resonated well included Cloud9′s, Matt Heinz’s and Carlos Hidalgo’s. The reason I like these funnels in particular is because the funnels go beyond the closed/won deal. Also, Carlos Hidalgo’s funnel really emphasizes the need for nurturing throughout the entire funnel. The emphasis that is placed on customer lifecycle management is something that is really important. Nurturing doesn’t stop after the deal is closed.

The Funnelholic: What did you learn from the exercise?

Jon: It’s very important for marketing to have a funnel in order to do proper reporting and create forecasts. The funnel is the key to the organization’s success. Before this book, Marketo already had an established funnel that we shared with our customers in order to help them build out their own pipeline. Here are some other lessons we’ve learned:

  • Don’t let leads sit in any one place in the funnel.
  • Learning is a two-way process. Use lead nurturing to educate prospects and learn their preferences as they interact with your content.
  • Automate the process by using lead scoring to move leads to the next stage.
  • Lead recycling is powerful – it allows sales to spend time with their best leads.

The Funnelholic: If everyone needs to create a funnel to model their business, what are best practices for creating it?

Jon: Building out a funnel can be hard stuff. Work with your sales team to build out processes and methodology that works across both organizations. You also need a way to capture your data. Marketo has helped their customers by creating a tool that enables this process and helps build out a funnel and a path to success. The Revenue Cycle Modeler is a tool built to help automate the process of mapping out your funnel, including Inventory and SLA stages. It enables you to send alerts and trigger campaigns instantly and easily. Below you will see the image of our model. Unlike the funnel, this model allows us to trigger different processes depending on the stage of the revenue cycle. It will even track the SLAs mentioned earlier.

Path to Revenue

As you think about your process, it is important to note that there is no perfect revenue path. Each funnel and path may be different; the important part is to have some form of funnel in order to do reporting, an essential aspect in today’s marketing world.

Craig Rosenberg is the Funnelholic. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter

You like me, you really, really like me! Funnelholic interview on Lead Gen

One of my favorite blogs, the Modern b2b Marketing blog, has posted an interview their editor Jon Miller did with me.  It’s part of their thought leadership series (yes, I was excited to be called a thought leader).  Anyway, it is a very thorough post with lots of good info on my thoughts on b2b lead generation.

Read here: Funnelholic Interview on Modern b2b Marketing Blog about Lead Generation

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Craig Rosenberg is the Funnelholic. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter