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MQL’s Don’t Suck! (But Your Follow Up Strategy Probably Does)

By: Jeff Hoffman

“These are the leads.  These are the Glengarry leads.  And to you, they are gold.  And you don’t get them.  Because to give them to you would to be like throwing them away.” 

So says the motivational speech by Alec Baldwin as he teases his sales office with the promise of a stack of fresh lead cards.

We all get them.  Through partners, trade shows, trial downloads, and LinkedIn connections.  But if you ask your marketing colleagues about our use of these leads, they may quickly echo Alec’s opinion.  Marketing works hard to create a supply of warm landing places for us to make that first call, only to be greeted with a myriad of excuses on why the leads “suck.”  And guess what, fellow salespeople?  The marketing team is right.  The leads don’t suck.  But our strategy in working these leads often does.

Here are 3 things we may be doing very, very wrong when it comes to managing our leads…

1. Thinking the lead is a person, not a company.

Let’s face it.  Your buyer is probably not walking around the floor of the Javits Center at 2:00 on a Tuesday afternoon getting his badge scanned.  It’s much more likely he sent one of his direct reports to scope out the best vendors. So why would we expect that this particular trade show attendee is a lead?  Clearly, he isn’t.  And calling that attendee will inevitably create a “gatekeeper” who may block you when trying to get to his boss.

Solution:  Call power FIRST.

That attendee isn’t the lead, but the company he works for is.  So when you get a list of trade show leads from your field marketing team take a step back and look at the big picture. Reach out to the CxO contact at each account, as you would when making any cold call.  Then, regardless if you make a connection, follow up with the trade show lead by saying, “Hi Brad.  I understand that you recently stopped by our booth at DSP World last week.  Coincidentally, I just happened to have left a voicemail with your CIO this very morning….what did you learn about our product at the event?”  You have now gone wide in the account without calling around anyone, giving you plenty of room to navigate.

2. Waiting too long to follow up.

One of my clients recently shared with me some fascinating marketing data.  She noticed that the effectiveness of converting a MQL (marketing-qualified lead) to a sales opportunity dropped by nearly 15%every single day that the lead went untouched.  To incorporate this finding into their cadence, they actually used timeliness as the primary factor when scoring the lead.

Solution:  Track follow-up in hours, not days.

Even if your CRM or marketing/sales ops platform doesn’t process your leads as quickly as you like, create a manual process so that you can follow up with leads immediately.  Carve out 30 minutes each day (I prefer midday) to follow up with every lead captured over the previous 24 hours. If you don’t contact them within 24 hours, you can no longer cite the source of that lead as the primary reason for your call.

3. No definitive close.

“Following up!’  “Checking in!”  “Touching base!”  All declarations that salespeople make to avoid sounding pushy.  And congratulations!  It isn’t pushy at all!  Unfortunately, it also isn’t important.  The nature of any lead already indicates that some level of interest exists.  Our job is not to validate that interest.  Our mission is to convert the existing interest into actual desire.

Solution:  Use an old-fashioned “open-ended” close.

Open-ended questions (Who, What, Where, When, Why, How) are designed to inspire conversation.  Use them to ask pointed questions to discover both want and need.  “Who attended the webinar with you?”  “What surprised you most about our demo?”  “How often do you reach out to vendors to ask for more information?”  This gets the ball rolling in a far more compelling way than the usual “How can I help you?”

Celebrate the efforts of your marketing colleagues and recognize that a lead flow of any kind is a luxury. Embrace your inner Alec Baldwin and become the strongest rep on the floor when comes to MQL conversions. You’ll fill your funnel with shiny new deals that will be the envy of the sales floor. Who knows, maybe you’ll even catch a Glengarry lead along the way. Not that you’ll need it.

Happy Selling!
Jeff

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- Bret Wilbur, Director of Sales, TriNet

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