Part 2 in a series, this article looks at the context side of lead qualification. Part 1 covers data.
By Peter Larkin
Chief Revenue Officer, True Influence
I can’t stress this enough – sales calls on people, not businesses. The lead you accept is a person, not just an account. With the increased focus on account-level activity as a lead-scoring factor, this basic truth has emerged as something of a disconnect between marketing and sales, but it’s still true.
In scoring a lead, engagement with content by a specific contact should be at the top of the weighting scale. Even if the account is red-hot, don’t accept a sales lead on the CFO until they get to know you through your marketing programs. Only truly extraordinary circumstances – we’re talking a direct, personal referral from a current customer – warrant a possible exception.
What marketing learns about the account and what you learn about the contact may actually be quite divergent. And contact-level behavior helps shape the one-on-one conversation your sales team will initiate with the contact.
Account-Level Insight Adds Context to Lead Qualification
Even if our hypothetical CFO is a huge fan of your content, there’s no reason to call if no one else in the company is researching your product or services. Afterall, it’s not like the CFO is going to spend their own money on a B2B software solution. If the company isn’t seriously considering a purchase, there’s no reason for sales to call on any lead, regardless of job title.
I went into more detail about how company-wide purchase intent can help you evaluate the readiness of a key contact in this blog post. I’d suggest it as a good additional resource. In our hypothetical, it’s likely that the CFO is just doing long-range strategic research and is best suited for an extended brand and value proposition marketing campaign.
Buying Group Role Maps Contacts to Account Readiness
In evaluating the sales readiness of a lead, you also need to include a scoring mechanism for the role the contact plays in your buying group model for the product or service being offered. This offers an additional layer of context beyond basic job title, on how an individual’s purchase research impacts the broader account purchase journey.
In fact, a solid buying group model is what told me that our hypothetical CFO (likely a decision maker) is likely making long-range plans, as opposed to just being enthusiastic about your product category.
We’ve built buying group modeling into our True Influence Marketing Cloud and demand generation services. It’s quite possible to add this layer of context to your lead scoring matrix, too.
Grade Your B2B Content for Engagement Value in Lead Qualification
It’s worth your time to grade out each category, if not every piece, of content you offer to potential leads for weighting in your sales acceptance score. No single piece of data, like a whitepaper read, should trigger a sales call. The activity toward accepting the lead will depend on the nature of the content and who is reading it.
Obviously, a total cost of ownership (TCO) or overall financial impact briefing should grade out higher than a high-funnel “here’s how you know you have a problem” checklist. If you can determine a senior person is reading the content, or that multiple contacts in the account are reading the same piece of content, that’s a big step toward sales acceptance.
Brand Reputation and Lead Qualification
If you already sell into multiple lines of business within an account, you can infer brand reputation with the contact. That counts heavily toward sales lead qualification. And what you likely know about the account’s buying cycle, risk tolerance and three-year outlook are all factors that drive big-ticket, B2B purchase decisions.
And it’s certainly a powerful hook for sales to tell a new contact, “I was talking to …”
Your Own Data Still Comes First
Obviously, creating the layers of context needed to effectively score leads requires a lot of data. If you haven’t yet augmented your rev ops with third-party intent or enriched your contact database to get a complete picture of who makes purchase decisions, you need to do so – immediately. Not only does third-party data let you identify interest in your specific solution, it also highlights other related interests that help sales craft that all-important initial email or call.
Having said that, your own first-party behavioral data remains the gold standard in lead scoring. Any interaction with your own content and message is most valuable is advancing the conversation toward a meaningful sales call.
Again, if you compare first-party and third-party account-level intelligence, they most often will be very similar. It’s when you get to the specific contact level that personal behaviors can begin to deviate from the group. And sales is ultimately going to call on the person.
Keep Scoring the Lead After Sales Accepts
Once sales begins working a lead that reached your qualification score, that doesn’t mean that the hand-off is complete or final. In truly integrated revenue operations, marketing continues to support the sales effort with background messaging. Programmatic display advertising has proven to be an excellent channel here.
If you get to a point where sales just is not getting results, or you’ve discovered that the buy call is a way off, sales can bump the lead back to marketing for nurturing. When your lead scoring system tells you the time is right, sales can call on the account again.
Measure Results for Best Lead Qualification
Data-driven B2B marketing is about quantifying opportunities and measuring results, and the handoff of leads to sales must be supported by multiple layers of data that indicate contact and account-level purchase intent. Building a lead scoring system based on both first-party and third-party intent data and context lets you focus valuable sales resources on contacts that are ready for a call.
If you missed Part 1 of this series on lead qualification, catch up here.