Lead Progression

I recently wrote about the 3 fundamentals of sales that, if ignored, will keep your business from growing at a sustainable level, especially in terms of revenue. Getting these essential principles wrong, or adopting an all-too-pervasive attitude of denial, will eventually kill your business. And the market, along with your prospective clients, will show absolutely no mercy. Those fundamentals are lead progression, prospect progression, and opportunity progression.

Today I will expand on lead progression.

Lead Progression

Lead progression, the first element of the Sales Cycle Triad, includes identifying, assessing, assigning, responding, selling, tracking, and nurturing leads. From this rather massive and even intimidating array of activities that define the process of what you actually ‘do’ with a lead, your primary task is to determine which aspects of the process are working, and which are not. If one aspect falls short, then the entire process suffers and ultimately, so does your bottom line.

The lead progression process is no longer (if it ever was) as simple as, “Marketing generates leads and Sales contacts them.” The ‘quality’ of leads is of paramount importance no matter how, or who, winds up doing the ‘processing’. Consequently, you need to move beyond merely knowing which aspects of the process are working. You now need to know why and what affects the outcome.

As mentioned earlier, lead progression includes many elements, from the initial identification on through to the all-important nurturing phase that keeps you on the front page of a prospect’s agenda. I would like to offer an exercise you can accomplish in an afternoon’s time that will help to surface and illuminate areas in need of improvement, and ideas for exactly how to improve them, which will ultimately reveal the emerging components of success you can build on.

The first step in the exercise is to define “just what exactly is a lead?”  There is no right or wrong way to define a lead. Indeed, there are many approaches and they depend on the framework of your industry-specific marketing techniques or tactics.

Begin by asking the obvious questions such as:

  • What defines a lead, or the varying levels of lead quality?
  • Which leads are ultimately worthy of your sales teams’ time and effort?
  • Do (or should) your process change based on the quality of the lead?
  • What are the primary factors that govern or regulate these degrees of lead quality and how each category is handled?
  • Have you examined what types of leads produce the best outcome?
  • Which marketing strategy generates the highest quality leads?

If you find the answers to these questions somewhat unclear or still a bit elusive, your first plan of action becomes obvious. How can you find out?

The important thing is that you have a clear and comprehensive definition, and that it is shared and agreed on by both sales and marketing. Take a minute now, to answer the following question.

1. What is the difference or distinction (for your organization) between a lead and a prospect
A lead is someone that:
A Prospect is someone that:

Next, is to ask and answer more detailed questions about how leads are processed:

2. How should you decide what to do with each lead?                           Enter your answers here
[table id=1 /] 3. What will the lead follow-up process look like?                          Enter your answers here
[table id=2 /] 4. What will the lead follow-up process look like?                          Enter your answers here
[table id=3 /]

How leads are handled, defined, processed, measured and progressed sets the stage for the rest of the sales process. Without dealing with this critical facet of the sales-lead triad effectively, the subsequent pipeline components of prospect progression and opportunity progression will generate lackluster results at best. It is absolutely imperative that the lead-process itself has been clearly defined and agreed on by both sales and marketing, and that everyone knows exactly what is expected of them. Everyone must be reading from the same script.

Leads are what turn into prospects, and prospects are the primary building blocks for opportunities and ultimately, revenue. Therefore, if you want to build your prospect pipeline to its fullest operational capacity, it is nowhere near good enough to just let the lead process take care of itself. Your success will rest on the one critical objective that all your efforts are designed to serve: to spend the greatest amount of your time and energy having meaningful conversations with high quality, sales-worthy prospects. Anything less, as far as fundamentals are concerned, is just a business-killer.

Author, Nancy Nardin is the foremost expert in sales productivity tools. As President of Smart Selling Tools, she consults with many of the top sales productivity software vendors as well as end-user organizations looking to select the right tools. Click to get Nancy’s What & When weekly digest with invitations to complimentary webinars and informative publications. Follow Nancy on Twitter @sellingtools or subscribe to her Tool Talk blog. Nancy can be reached at 916-596-3035. To schedule a free 30 minute consultation.