Which Way Do They Go?

In spite of all the evidence that B2B marketing is changing, and that marketers need to engage buyers by building relationships, many organizations are still stuck in the past.  Evidence of this is in the fact that they continue to maintain a one-directional Lead Routing process:  leads only go from marketing to sales.  The result of this one-way, linear model is far reaching and results in …

  • The inability to build a relationship with the buyer via lead nurturing
  • Sales being inundated with names instead of leads, resulting in lack of follow-up
  • The continuing of the ever widening gap between marketing and sales
  • Lost ROI on marketing programs (See Counting the Losses)

At the end of 2009, we began a blog series where we defined Lead Management, debunked the myth that Lead Management is only Lead Nurturing and Lead Scoring, and began  describing each component in the holistic Lead Management process (See Much More To It! ).  This next installment of that series is on Lead Routing, another of the very important areas of focus in the development of a Lead Management process.

Lead Routing can be defined as “the mapped or documented process that determines how qualified leads will be routed to sales, and how sales will send not-ready-to-buy leads back to marketing.”

According to several recent research studies, up to 80% of buyers are not ready to purchase at the time they respond to a marketing program.  Since this is the case, the linear model whereby ALL leads go to sales doesn’t work (Why should a “not-yet-ready-to-buy” lead be sent to sales?)   To achieve a best practice Lead Management process, companies must move from one-way Lead Routing to a three-way approach:

  1. From marketing (via campaign or marketing activity) to sales
  2. From marketing (via campaign or marketing activity) to a lead nurturing campaign
  3. From sales back to marketing for further nurturing and development

In addition to the three-pronged approach, marketing and sales need to establish Lead Routing rules to effectively govern the Lead Routing process. This is done through the use of defined Business Rules and Service Level Agreements (SLA’s). 

Business Rules are agreements between sales and marketing that define how Lead Routing will operate.  A Service Level Agreement is a time period affixed to the Business Rule that governs how long the recipient of the lead has to respond or process that lead.  Business Rules and SLA’s should be put in place for each of the three routes listed above – marketing to sales, marketing to nurturing and sales to marketing. 

To get started, here are some questions that will help you develop your Business Rules and SLA’s:

  • How much time does marketing have to route Marketing Qualified Leads (or MQL’s) to sales?
  • How much time does sales have to confirm receipt of a lead, making it a Sales Accepted Lead (or  SAL)?
  • How much time does sales have to initiate contact with a lead?
  • How much time does sales have to assign a qualification status to an SAL, making it a Sales Qualified Lead (or SQL)
  • How much time does sales have to work an SAL or SQL through the pipeline before it gets sent into a lead nurturing program (This will depend on your organizations sales cycle and buying process

These are just a few questions to consider when developing your Lead Routing Business Rules and SLA’s.  And remember, proper Lead Routing cannot be accomplished without a defined Lead Qualification and Lead Scoring model. (See What Do You Mean When You Say That?).

Organizations that are serious about implementing an effective Lead Management process will not forgo this important piece of the puzzle. It’s too important to overlook and is often one of the key areas that allows the other disciplines to function fully. Conversely, proper Lead Routing will yield tremendous benefit including: 

  • A better buying experience for your customer leading to longer term business relationship
  • Better qualified leads delivered to the sales force, allowing sales to sell rather than qualif
  • Better alignment between sales and marketing
  • Improved ROI on marketing programs, and ultimately increased revenue
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