Introduction

Sales Development Reps are trained to push leads directly into meetings, and into a hard sale. This is great if the lead is sales-qualified and ready to buy, but can be disastrous if he or she has only just started researching your brand. 

Hubspot statistics show that only 25% of B2B leads are ready to be advanced to sales, proving that too many marketers hand off top-of-funnel leads before they’ve been nurtured down toward the bottom of the funnel. After all, just because someone downloaded your whitepaper doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is ready to talk to a sales rep.

Not yet anyway. 

You don’t want your sales teams wasting time cold calling from a list of unqualified leads, and you don’t want your leads to feel like they’re being pushed into a hasty decision before they’ve had time to think things through. The stakes are high. The timing has to be perfect. And it’s down to you, the savvy marketer, to get it right. Here are five key ways to know when your leads are ready for that sales conversation you’ve been working towards. 

 

1. Your lead represents your ideal buyer persona

Studies show that one of the biggest challenges of creating sales-qualified leads comes down to a lack of alignment between sales and marketing. 

Sitting down both departments will help you esh out your ideal buyer persona, which you will later use as a joint scoring system when validating leads. This customer profile will be made up of the ideal prospect’s persona, industry data, role, and company revenue. Incorporating other information such as the lead’s activities and interests can also build a more sophisticated profile, enabling you to build a stronger buyer-consumer relationship. 

Hubspot studies have revealed that 90% of B2B marketers say that the leading attribute of content marketing is ‘audience relevance’. Listening to your customer isn’t up for negotiation, it’s vital. 

Social listening is an important tactic here, and tools like Mention or Talkwalker help you listen to conversations happening in real time on social media platforms, so you can target your customers’ pain points and find out what truly matters to them. This in turn enables you to provide them with personalized, relevant content, which will prepare them for a sales conversation. 

 

2. Your lead has accessed content through all three stages of the funnel

According to a 2020 survey created by FocusVision, 75% of B2B buyers said they relied more on online resources for research, and consume on average 13 pieces of digital content before reaching a purchase decision.  This window of time is where you’ll need to prove that your solution matches a lead’s needs. 

By classifying content into three stages, you can determine how far into the process leads are. It’s also an opportunity to target potential buyers at each point of need. 

Top-of-funnel leads will refer to content such as blog posts, social media updates, landing pages, videos, podcasts and infographics – so they understand what your brand does. 

Middle-of-funnel leads will want e-books, whitepapers, case studies, reports with original research, testimonials, reviews, newsletters, and product webinars – as substantial proof that your company can provide the solution to their problem. 

Finally, bottom-of-funnel leads have serious potential for conversion, and this is your opportunity to target them with consultations, free trials, demos, and estimate requests with clear call-to-action buttons.

More often than not, challenges like information overload and a lack of time can disrupt the success of your marketing strategies. Outsourcing work to specific lead generation companies can help you target key decision-makers better, and fine-tune your content so that it focuses on quality, rather than quantity. The more quality content your leads have access to, the more sales-ready they will be. 

 

3. Your lead’s engagement has been monitored with analytics

The obvious sales-ready leads are those who have contacted you directly by submitting a contact form or requesting a call-back. In these cases, responding fast is key. According to a McKinsey study, approximately 50% of sales goes to the vendor who replies first. But most leads won’t come to you directly.  

Enter: engagement monitoring.  

Monitoring a lead’s engagement based on the content they’ve accessed will help you determine specific factors like time spent on page, scroll depth, email signups, social media shares, as well as the general factors like SEO performance, internal traffic, and exit rate. Using analytics will turn this information into actionable reports, helping you better determine a lead’s engagement level and whether or not they’re ready for a sales talk. 

Analyzing keywords and subject matters will also show you what your leads are interested in, so if they’re still fairly new or dropped off during the sales cycle, you can apply this knowledge to re-engage them. 

For example, if a lead has only just downloaded an e-book, they’re probably not ready to buy, but if they’ve returned to your website on multiple occasions, have opened all or most of your emails and downloaded multiple sources of content, they’re more likely to be sales-ready and open to a serious conversation. 

 

4. Your lead scored high on your metrics system

Companies that score leads generate more sales-qualified leads. Yet according to Hubspot, 79% of marketers haven’t established a solid system for scoring.  

By using marketing automation software, you can assign a value to each score. The more leads engage with your content and communications, the higher they will score. And, once they’ve reached a defined number, sales can contact them.  

You can score leads based on lead fit, which will depend on demographics, company size, revenue, and locations, as well as budget, authority, need, and time; lead interest, which involves monitoring a lead’s level of interaction with your sales content; and lead behavior, which gives you an estimate of where that person is in the buyer’s journey.

The best CRM platforms integrate your email marketing, social media channels, and events in one place. That way, your sales team can tag an individual they’ve interacted with to make a note of his or her interest. Or, a recipient of one of your emails who clicks through the links you send can similarly be tagged. 

Then, all this information is compiled together in a centralized hub – letting you know who is ready for a handover. You can also set up a way to automatically sign a lead over to sales, once they’ve reached that defined threshold, so that sales can contact them immediately. 

 

5. Your lead was targeted with needs-based messaging and campaigns

It’s time for email segmentation and targeting. According to a DemandGen report, lead nurturing emails get 4-10 times the response rate compared to standalone email blasts.

Readiness and willingness to purchase should always be evaluated in marketing before a lead is handed off.  This can be achieved through a series of targeted email campaigns. 

For example, there are a number of nurturing campaigns that work to engage (and maintain) a buyer’s interest. 

A welcome campaign, for example, should introduce your brand, reiterate subscription benefits, spell out next steps, and offer an opt-in to something else. An education campaign should get them ready to talk to sales by engaging to further profile that prospect, or by educating them about your value proposition. You can also accelerate their decision process by providing leads with relevant decision tools. 

 

Conclusion

To summarize: be patient but never idle.

Essentially, buyers no longer progress through a clear sales funnel, but loop back and repeat different tasks more than once throughout the whole process – 90% of B2B buyers in fact. 

You have to be patient, and monitor their engagement with precision. 

You should never be aggressive too quickly, or you’ll end up burning your future revenue pipeline. Leads require nurturing over time through repeat engagement before attempting to enlist them in a sales talk. 

 

Key action points to take into account throughout the nurturing process:

  Research the account and provide insight via high-value content.

  Match your solution and your subsequent touches to their needs.

  Help them learn more about your offerings and value proposition.

  Analyze content engagement & consumption to monitor where they are in the buyer’s journey.

  Score leads following additional engagement.

  Wait to call them until they score high enough to benefit from an appointment.

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