One of the hot topics in marketing is "how do we get closed loop lead management?" Companies spend millions of dollars generating demand in the form of leads, yet most have little or no idea what really happened to the leads once the went to the sales channels. There is no effective measurement or ROI.
The assumption is that; if you only had the latest SFA system (Siebel, Blue Roads, Salesforce.com….. take your pick, you will suddenly have the means to close the loop. Will systems solve your problem? It’s not that easy. Having spent the last 8 years working with Siebel and Blue Roads, the routing / SFA system is essential to routing the leads to the right sales channel in a timely manner. It also provides the medium to reply and update the status of the leads. However with out two additional elements it still won’t work.
The most important elements in getting your sales channel to provide timely and accurate feedback are:
1. The quality of the leads
2. The management process to monitor the lead reporting and establish sales accountability for leads.
There is a wide range of what companies categorize as a "Lead" from someone putting a business card in the fishbowl at the trade show to a fully telequalified lead that meets a specific " BANT" type criteria. Most leads as perceived by Sales are "junk" Speaking as someone who spent over 30 years in sales and sales management, I don’t know if I ever got a qualified lead. During those times you had huge direct sales forces and you generated your own leads through sales prospecting. Those mega sales forces are gone, and now it’s critical that marketing help drive sales productivity through qualified leads.
What I do know is that sales people will not waste their time on poor quality leads, about the 5th time they follow up on a bad lead, it is the time that they will not even look at future leads. There is no lead routing system that will get them to provide you closed loop feedback on "Junk" Your direct or indirect sales channels are a very expensive way to qualify leads. They may do it initially, but they will not do it for long. It is marketing’s responsibility to provide quality leads and the sales channels responsibility to follow up on them.
At Avaya, we have developed a sophisticated database driven "Lead Refinery" process, where our marketing inquiries (not leads) are captured in a standard data format, matched and deduplicated and entered into the marketing database. There the inquiry is matched up to other data like Harte Hanks and D&B to enhance the record.. Scoring the inquiry based on its data, we identify it as SMB or Enterprise and put it through the appropriate telequalification process to qualify the lead.
We have various lead quality criteria for both SMB vs. Enterprise leads. For enterprise size leads which are 100% Telequalified, we have been consistently delivering to our direct and indirect channels leads that are graded by the sales force as 70 to 80% qualified. They are not inexpensive, but we have earned the right to expect the sales channel will provide us with accurate and timely closed loop feedback.
For smaller SMB opportunities, the qualification process is shorter and less expensive. However we make sure that even this lower quality lead is classified / graded so the sales channel is fully aware of the lead quality. By insuring the sales channel knows what kind of lead they are getting results in higher lead credibility and sales follow up.
Lead Management Process:
The second element that is required is a lead management process to hold your channel accountable for lead tracking. We have proven that even with great leads and a lead management system, that with out an active management process you still will not get closed loop feedback. I look at the lead routing / SFA systems simply as "pipes", they can deliver the lead but they must be managed effectively to get the closed loop results.
What we found that works well is a condensed reporting view of the lead status that can be easily broken down by the channel organization. We measure direct sales results by regions, sales teams and sales reps or by channel manager channel partner and channel sales rep for the indirect channel
We extract the data from Siebel and Blue Roads, pulling it into a series of Excel pivot tables. Key performance indicators include viewing the % of leads in a "pending" status, "active" status, and % of leads marked as "unqualified". Once leads are in a qualified / active status we then measure the pipeline revenue value assigned to the leads. For full ROI analysis you would then measure the leads as they move through the sales cycle to the ultimate won / loss status with revenue.
We publish these reports out to the channels weekly identifying the 20% that are not updating their leads. The accountability for lead management becomes a channel responsibility to insure that leads are being managed effectively.
With indirect channels it’s important to insure that the partner clearly understands the expectations from the manufacturer. Our policy is that we expect the partner to be able to successfully sell from the leads and provide accurately and timely feedback including win / loss utilizing the lead management system. The consequences are clear; partners that comply should get more leads, for those partners that are not willing / able to sell and report on lead status they will get less leads or be removed from the lead program.
Will it work? It all depends on the lead quality, if you have quality leads that the partners want, this approach works, if the lead quality is not there, no system will fix the problem.
Avaya North American Marketing