Improving the quantity and quality of a sales lead isn’t a simple task. Just ask any sales or marketing expert. However, a 2011 study by Aberdeen Group, a market research firm, demonstrates that investing in demand generation optimization and developing key performance indicators to measure the quantity of leads converted can pay great dividends.

Aberdeen surveyed 4,141 marketing and sales executives worldwide to identify key trends and initiatives designed to improve lead management and sales effectiveness. The results from the survey were not totally surprising; however, the performance differences between laggard companies and best-in-class companies were significant.

  • Best-in-class companies forecasted sales from leads generated by marketing to be 50 percent versus 2 percent from laggard organizations.
  • Best-in-class companies closed 48 percent of marketing-generated leads versus 2 percent for laggard organizations.
  • Best-in-class companies experienced 20 percent YOY growth compared to 3 percent decline among laggards.

Moving from laggard to best-in-class status requires investment and can’t be done overnight. It requires close collaboration between sales and marketing, a process that has been difficult if not impossible for some organizations. To get started with this transformation, it’s best to assume that your firm falls into the laggard category (even if that’s not true.)

Aberdeen suggests that there are three key steps which can move laggards up the scale.

  1. Test your marketing content. Thirty-six percent of industry-average companies test their messages to determine what motivates prospects to respond. Testing allows you to quickly zero in on those messages that resonate with buyers and allows for more consistent delivery of the “right messages.”
  2. Review and track campaign performance. Reviewing key performance indicators may seem like basic “blocking and tackling,” but according to the study only 27 percent of laggards fully review campaign performance versus 60 percent of best-in-class companies. Take the time to determine key success factors for your firm and build a simple KPI dashboard to track your performance.
  3. Rank and score inbound leads. Building a lead scoring methodology will help you determine which leads should be turned over to sales and which leads need continued nurturing. One of the chief complaints voiced by sales teams is that the leads provided by marketing are not qualified. Marketing and sales need to agree on what constitutes a qualified lead, and if a lead provided to sales is determined to be not fully qualified, then the sales team has an obligation to return it to marketing for further nurturing. (Only 29 percent of laggard organizations had a lead-scoring process in place.)

Once you have achieved an industry average position and feel comfortable with the process, you can take the next steps to move to best-in-class status.

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Dan Hudson is the co-founder and president of 3forward and has a B2B sales and sales leadership background of more than 30 years. He can be reached at dan.hudson@3forward.com.