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What is a Lead?

A Lead is someone who has shown some level of interest to your organization, products, or services. Your organization might have collected a lead from a workshop event, conference, or ebook via your website. A newly created lead is not a sales opportunity (but could become one).

New to sales terminology? Check out our glossary.

What is “Working” a Lead?

When we say “working” a Lead, we mean qualifying leads (not closing opportunities). Salespeople usually receive Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) from their marketing department. From there, the sales teams begins contacting the MQLs to qualify their sales intent.

When a lead is qualified by the sales team, the lead becomes “Sales Qualified”; an option from the Lead Status field. Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) are not closed customers. When a salesperson identifies an SQL, they should create an opportunity and associate it with the SQL’s contact record.

Why Work Leads?

Leads that are qualified by the sales department become opportunities. An opportunity means there’s actually money on the table and discussions are happening. The reason a company would want to acquire more leads is to qualify more leads, therefore creating more opportunities, therefore increasing sales, therefore increasing revenue.

The truth about sales is that it’s a numbers game. If your sales team converts 10% of leads into sales opportunities, it makes more sense to work 1,000 leads instead of 10. Alternatively, if you’re looking for high-value clients that pay more than $10,000 per transaction, it might make more sense to work only 10 leads (but in a high-quality manner).

The way sales managers determine whether or not to pursue a higher volume of sales opportunities is to calculate average deal size. Average deal size will reveal how much, on average, customers pay for products and services at your business. If your average deal size floats above $10,000, you’ll want to spend more time focusing on higher quality interactions with few sales opportunities. If your average deal size is small, such as $100, you’ll want to focus on sales volume; increasing the number of sales opportunities being worked.

However, as we stated in our guide on how to create a sales process, higher priced items should have larger, more complex sales processes. If selling products for less than $1,000, it would be best to simply follow a partnership business model or setup an online shopping experience.

How to Work a Lead (3 Steps)

Working a lead is a 3-step process:

  1. Connect with the Lead
  2. Qualify the Lead
  3. Create an Opportunity

In short, the goal is for salespeople to qualify the lead to determine if there’s sales potential.

As stated in our guide to creating a sales process, before someone enters your amazing sales process, make sure they’re qualified and deserving of your effort. That’s essentially what we’re doing when we “work” a lead.

1. Connect with the Lead

Suppose your marketing efforts are finally paying off and you have a steady stream of leads entering your CRM. While having leads flowing to your sales team is good, it doesn’t necessarily mean each lead is qualified. That’s why it’s important that salespeople qualify leads in addition to the marketing department; to make sure that one department’s qualification criteria aligns with another.

Using a combination of email, phone calls, video chats, and social messages, reach out to the lead and ask if they’d be open for a discussion about their business.

If the lead declines the offer, mark their record as unqualified — this is an indicator back to the marketing team that their qualification criteria was off.

If the contact doesn’t respond to your first outreach, try again later. If the contact persists to not reply, politely send your regards and move on.

2. Qualify the Lead

Once you connect with a lead, you’ll want to qualify whether or not they’re ideal for your organization’s sales process. There are many different ways to do this, but we recommend following a sales qualification framework such as BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeline).

With BANT, your qualification questions translate to each letter of the BANT framework. How much are you currently spending on marketing? Who else is on your team that you work with? Are there any specific requirements your business needs as part of marketing services? What’s your timeline for implementation? Once collecting responses from the lead, determine whether or not there’s sales potential.

Be brutally honest with yourself. Not every lead you speak to is an ideal customer. The sooner you make peace with that, the sooner you’ll know when to cut your losses and move onto the next person. If a customer has a budget of $500, are they worth entry to your refined, highly-detailed sales process? Do they deserve the thorough proposal your team and designer will spend 3 full days preparing? Likely not.

Time is money. If a $500 project is going to yield a net return of $50 for your business (and you’re going to volunteer an evening to work on it), don’t do it. Be smart, charge the right price, and know how much money its going to take the client to successfully receive your services.

3. Create an Opportunity

Congratulations, you’ve qualified a lead and confirmed there is sales potential with a person or business. Go create an opportunity record (called a “Deal” in Hubspot) and begin moving the transaction through your sales process.

Through a series of Opportunity Stages (Deal Stages), you will talk to managers, send proposals, negotiate arragements, and close the deal (whether that means reaching ‘Closed – Won’ or ‘Closed – Lost’).

A key to successful opportunity management is to work them manually. When there’s money on the table and a person/company is warmed up to make a purchase, don’t try to automate everything. When a potential transaction reaches the opportunity phase of a sale, that’s when you take things off auto-pilot. Drive your sales to a close.

There Are No Stale Opportunities

Every opportunity has a close date. If you send someone a proposal and they disappear, contact them. If they don’t reply, take it as feedback towards your process and/or pricing — your product or service probably wasn’t a good fit for them.

Do not delete opportunities if the sales intent goes away. You created an opportunity for a reason and it’s important to track what happens with it. Remember, people and businesses can have multiple opportunities; making various purchases at your company. You’ll want to know what deals happened where (even the ones marked ‘Closed Lost’).

Consider the case where a company going through the sales process suddenly drops off. Imagine that 6-months later, they return asking to continue with the sale. This would be considered a new opportunity with new pricing (if your pricing changed) and a clean slate for applicable discounts (should you have discontinued an offer). Their old opportunity record would still exist in your CRM and be appended to their company record; marked as ‘Closed – Lost’. Moments like these give a salesperson insight into whether or not the potential customer is going to disappear, change their mind, or be difficult to book a meeting with.

Every opportunity has a close date — don’t let them linger on.

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