Lead Generation through Social Media: Leveraging Twitter
Lead-Generation Strategies: Direct Mail Creative Execution
Lead Generation through Facebook: Promoting Ads

Lead-Generation Basics: Define Your Sales Leads

Not all sales leads are created equal. And it is critical before you embark on your lead generation journey to determine what your definition of a good lead is. And it's not just your definition that matters. What is your sales department's definition of a good lead? After all, salespeople are the ones who are following up and closing deals. So if marketing thinks a good lead is one thing and sales vehemently disagrees, you have a problem. Organizational alignment and a clear, spelled-out definition of a lead make for a good lead generation program.

Of course, there's no easy way to do this. A "good lead" can be just as objective as say, the best artist or musician. You might think the best band is Led Zeppelin but your best friend is more of a Pink Floyd person. Everyone has an opinion. And you can bet on the fact that the CEO, CMO, and VP of sales all have a unique definition of what they think the "best lead" is. Remember to be realistic and compromise.

The first step to coming up with an agreed-upon lead definition is having a meeting with all stakeholders, and then opening the discussion up to both your sales and marketing teams. Create a list, diagram your lead flow on a whiteboard, and then come up with "the one lead definition to rule them all."

Assess demographic fit for new leads

First, look at some basic demographics. Who is your buyer? Use demographic information (ideally from your customer relationship management program or marketing automation software) to begin creating a profile of the individual or group who most often purchases your product or service.

Demographics become more important for B2C (business-to-consumer) companies as the demographic attributes of individuals work fairly well to determine how to segment your marketing campaigns. Demographics are also extremely useful for B2B (business-to-business) companies and can be used quite effectively to develop your lead generation strategy.

Typical demographic attributes can consist of

  • Gender

  • Title

  • Age

  • Education (degrees and certifications)

  • Years of experience

  • Income

  • Specialties

You can add many more demographic attributes to this list, depending on what is important to your marketing efforts. The more detailed your demographic list is, the closer you can get to really defining what a good lead means to your company.

Demographic profiling is an attempt to generalize and create a profile of your target buyers and leads. Often, your leads will be very different from your developed profiles. Remember to always reassess your demographic lead profile frequently as your business needs and priorities change.

Apply firmographic profiles for new leads

Just as demographics apply to people, firmographics help you narrow down what sort of organizations buy your product or service. This is highly important, particularly to a B2B organization. Firmographics look at information such as location, company size, and industry.

Most companies sell products or services within particular verticals, like high tech, healthcare, financial services, and so on, to certain-sized companies. For instance, an enterprise application firm whose software costs upwards of $500,000 per year would not want to bother with leads from a company that could only afford to spend about $15,000 per year. This is where firmographics becomes very important to your lead generation segmentation.

When looking at firmographics, you often measure

  • Company size

  • Company location

  • Revenue

  • Number of divisions

  • Industry

  • Number of products/services sold

  • Geographic markets served

  • Rankings/stock indexes (Fortune 500, Inc. 500, and so on)

Qualify leads with budget, authority, need, and time (BANT)

BANT stands for budget, authority, need, and time, and is a more advanced lead qualification practice than demographics and firmographics. BANT takes into consideration the ability to secure facts about the prospect before moving forward, and therefore these are questions often asked by the sales rep to further qualify the lead.

Although you can ask some of these questions upfront on a website form, your forms should always be short and leave the tough questions to your sales teams. Research shows that the longer the form, the more drop-off you have.

Here are the specifics and further details on BANT:

  • Budget: Budget is a big one. Make sure the lead can afford your product or service. This is often one of the first questions that your sales rep asks in order to determine whether the lead is good or not. Both B2B and B2C companies care about the answer to the budget question: "How much do you have budgeted for this project/item?"

    Your lead will likely not give you a specific answer, so expect a range, and be ready to ask some other questions (like what she's currently using today) to indirectly deduce a conclusion. And also remember that budgets are flexible and can change. However, don't spend time trying to sell a $3,500 handbag to someone who only really has the money to spend $350.

  • Authority: After you have determined that a lead has the dough to spend on your product or service, find out whether he has the authority to make the decision. Can he sign that dotted line? If so, you are truly in luck. But most likely, the first contact you speak to will be a "gatekeeper" of sorts, or an "influencer." Your first contact, even if she is not the decision-maker, is most likely crucial to the decision-making process. She has either been tasked to find a solution, or is the one experiencing the pain that your product can rectify.

    If you determine that the lead is an influencer, your sales team needs to dig deep to find out who the decision-maker is because that is someone you need on your lead list.

  • Need: Your lead has to need your product or service. Simple as that. It never works out if the lead wants your product or service but doesn't really need it. But remember, your leads may not know that they have a problem, so it's up to your sales team to show it to them. If your lead fits all of your other criteria, a good sales executive can help her find that pain (or future pain) and solve it — with your product or service, of course!

  • Time: What is your lead's purchasing timeframe? It needs to map pretty closely to your delivery process so that you are aligned with what your lead needs.

    For instance, say you run an office furniture supply store and you get a call from a company 1,000 miles away that needs an order for 100 chairs that you have currently back-ordered. The customer wants them delivered in three days. You obviously can't get the chairs shipped on time. Therefore, the timeframe in which your prospect needs your product does not align with your capabilities. Of course, you want to try and sell her another chair that you do have in stock, but be wary when expectations and reality don't line up. You want to be careful to set realistic expectations.

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