How does your company generate leads?

Do you do lead generation online? Rely on sales leads? Use some form of a lead generation system?

Maybe you’re still struggling to answer that question, and that’s okay. According to 2018 data from HubSpot, most companies (65 percent) have a hard time generating both leads and traffic.

Company's marketing challenges

Image courtesy of HubSpot

If you’re ready to make this the year you finally begin drawing in more leads, know that you can’t do it alone. You’re going to need the assistance and cooperation of your marketing team, sales team, and even your customer service representatives. It’s only when these three units work together towards one common goal that your company can enjoy an influx of continuous leads.

Yes, that’s right, continuous leads. You won’t have just small spurts of leads arriving at the sales funnel, then long periods of drought. Instead, your company can always have new leads coming down the pipeline for you to convert.

In this ultimate guide, we’ll tell you how you can achieve those results for your company. First, we’ll go through the lead gen process in depth. Then we’ll introduce your marketers, salespeople, and customer service reps, explaining how each role intersects for conversion success.

Let’s get started.

How Lead Generation Works

Although it might seem like a common-sense topic to cover, we want to start by explaining the process of lead generation in-depth. After all, you could internalize these steps—or think you have—without realizing that maybe you missed one or two. You could have even learned lead gen tactics years back and never updated what you do.

In either case, we think a refresher is in order. Without further ado, then, here’s how lead generation works.

Understanding Leads

To convert your leads to customers, you have to know who and what they are.

When you have a brick and mortar store, some people walk in without knowing anything about you. They take a glance around, don’t ask any questions, and don’t buy anything. Then they turn around and go, never to be seen again.

Leads behave much in the same way. They’ve come across your company, maybe from an advertisement, perhaps even through a friend or coworker. They don’t know anything about you. You cannot convince them to buy your products or services yet. It’ll take a long time before you get there.

We must differentiate leads and prospects as well. Let’s go back to the bricks and mortar store example for a moment. After the disinterested group of people leaves your store, someone else comes in. They make a beeline towards a specific product. They’ll pick it up, look at it, and even ask questions. Maybe they buy it today or they come back for it later.

In this example, you could refer to shoppers of this nature as prospects. When a prospect arrives in your sales funnel, they begin at a more advanced stage than a lead. That’s because the prospect knows more about your company. They have probably reviewed your products/services and perhaps even glanced at your pricing. A prospect won’t necessarily buy from you yet, but they’re readier to do so than a lead.

Luring in Leads

Since your leads don’t know much about you, they aren’t inclined to do business with you. That means the onus of beginning the conversion process is all on you.

Marketers and salespeople use two general methods for luring in leads: outbound and inbound marketing.

Outbound marketing has some years on it compared to inbound marketing. This old-school means of appealing to leads relies on methods like print advertisements, radio spots, mailed brochures, and TV commercials.

Compare that to inbound marketing, which uses the Internet and other modern technology. Said technology includes online product trials, social media advertising, blogging and content marketing, Internet ads, retargeting, email marketing, and landing pages.

This infographic from Invesp found that companies using inbound marketing will spend less money compared to those who favor outbound marketing. How much less? Oh, just 61 percent.

inbound marketing stats

Image courtesy of Invesp

When you think about it, that makes a lot of sense. Inbound marketing relies on many online methods, some of them free. Outbound marketing uses lots of tangible materials, like newspaper or magazine ads and even billboards. None of those come cheap.

The same infographic (of which we provided a chunk above), says most marketers (82 percent) will have a positive ROI by using inbound marketing.

While many marketers favor inbound over outbound marketing then, you can always use a mix of both if your budget allows you to.

Determining Level of Interest

By this point, whether through inbound marketing, outbound marketing, or a combo of both, you’ve started to bring in leads. Your work isn’t done yet, though. Now you have to determine the interest and qualification level of these leads.

Even though some leads may express interest initially, that interest can die off. By doing some work ahead of time, you can gauge which leads may stay in it for the long haul and which ones will vanish.

One such method of gauging interest? The humble lead gen form. In this form, you ask for information such as the lead’s full name, their email address, their state and country, their job title, and even their company name.

In exchange for all this very useful information, you give the lead something in return. Often, it’s a freebie, such as a resources list, curated blog content, or maybe even a short eBook. Whatever you offer, make sure it’s valuable enough that the lead would even want it in the first place. Otherwise, no one will fill out your lead gen form.

Once you have the lead’s email address, you can begin nurturing and engaging with them. We’ll talk about this more in the next section, but it does help you gauge and maintain interest.

Another method you can use is lead scoring. With this, you take each lead in your contacts list and assign them points based on what they do. Did they fill out your lead gen form? X amount of points! Did they respond to an email? Even more points! Maybe they put an item in their cart, but then they abandoned it. Subtract some points!

Based on what matters most to you, each behavior a lead does will net them points. These points can be positive or negative. After some time, you tally up the points. Those with the highest points have engaged with you the most and thus showed the most interest. As for those with the least points? They’re probably not a fit.

Nurturing and Engaging Leads

Next, you begin the nurturing and engagement process. This still lets you determine lead interest if using lead gen forms and lead scoring didn’t produce the clear-cut results you want. Through email marketing, phone consultations, and other direct communications, you get to know the lead.

If the lead wants to continue working with you, they’ll respond to emails, schedule consultations and meetings, and answer the phone. If they lack interest, they’ll either tell you (ideally) or vanish off the face of the earth (more likely).

Through this process, you want to make the lead feel like a valued individual. You’re also gently nudging them towards making their first purchase.

Converting Leads

Your lead just completed their first order with your company, buying a product or service. Congrats! With continued nurturing and engagement, you can hopefully get the lead to repeat this behavior. You can then convert them to loyal, buying customers.

The process then begins all over again as more leads enter your sales funnel.

Leading the Way

With our explanation on lead gen done, we now want to talk about how marketers, salespeople, and even customer service reps all progress the lead gen process.

Marketers in Lead Gen

Lead marketing couldn’t happen without a dedicated team of marketers, that’s for sure. Whether they rely on inbound or outbound marketing, it’s your marketers who make things happen. From content marketing to email marketing, social media, and everything in between, your marketers have a flair for promotion.

They know how to make the best impression on leads and customers alike. They’re sales-oriented yes, but they’re not salespeople. They work with salespeople often and know when to defer to them, though.

Instead, we’d say marketers are goal-oriented. They’re aware that the leads entering the sales funnel won’t know a lot about the company, its products, or its services. It’s the marketer’s job to fill in the gaps while making it more enticing to learn about the company. For instance, take the lead gen form. This form asks for a lead’s personal information, such as their email address and company name. As we mentioned, the lead gets some valuable freebie in return. That makes them more likely to fill out the form.

Your marketers will work towards converting leads from the beginning to the end and then back again. They’re largely in charge of nurturing and engagement, sending out emails and other content that keep the lead or customer coming back for more. They’re also experts in promoting just the right articles and posts so the audience stays interested. Speaking of expertise, they can navigate the minefield of social media adeptly.

Salespeople in Lead Gen

Marketers don’t work alone. They’re often doing tasks in conjunction with a sales team. These salespeople are the ones who will promote the sale of a product/service to a lead. Their work in the lead gen process begins in the early stages of the sales funnel.

While they don’t necessarily bring in leads as a marketer would, they provide invaluable scoring. For instance, in marketing, there’s a term known as the sales-qualified lead or SQL. An SQL starts with the marketing team, yes. A company’s marketers will use lead scoring or another method to vet the lead and their fit for the company and its products/services.

An SQL then moves on to the sales team. It’s the job of the team to put the lead through yet another round of qualifications. Here’s what it looks like.

marketing team hierarchy

Image courtesy of LeadFuze

As the above chart shows, there are different levels of qualification. If a lead seems engaged with some sales material, they’re considered a sales-accepted lead or SAL.

Salespeople will use various metrics to take a SAL and make them into an SQL. For instance, they’ll talk with the SAL to determine if they’re prepared to make a purchase. They also want to figure out if the SAL is a good fit for the product/services of the company.

If the SAL gets through, they’re deemed an SQL. These highly-qualified leads have a higher likelihood of converting.

In that regard, then, we’d say salespeople play an incredibly important part in the lead generation process.

Customer Service Reps in Lead Gen

Although they don’t get talked about nearly as often as marketers and salespeople, customer service reps are crucial in lead generation. They work in more of an outbound capacity, making and receiving phone calls daily.

In marketing, there’s both cold and warm calling. Many professionals dread making a cold call, in which you reach out to a lead without having made prior contact. You never know how the lead will react. They could express interest if you’re lucky. Much more likely, they could hang up or speak curtly on the other end. It’s a gamble.

With warm calling, there’s less of a risk. A marketer or salesperson will have already reached out to the lead, often via email. The lead replied and showed at least mild interest in the products/services. Thus, when warm calling, there’s a better chance of the interaction going positively. The lead will probably want to talk more about pricing, specs, and other information on the product/service.

Besides just making calls, customer service reps also receive phone calls all day. They can answer the questions and concerns of leads or customers. At the very least, they can redirect the lead/customer to someone who can help.

Today, customer service reps may also chat online, including answering messages on social media or doing a live chat on a company’s website. It’s important to have real-time answers to customer/lead queries as these come in. These improve the reputation of the company in the eyes of the lead or customer. Since customer service reps can’t work 24/7, they’ll often be aided by chatbots who can step in after hours and on the weekends.

Putting the Pieces Together

As the above three sections proved, marketers, salespeople, and customer service reps each have unique, integral roles in the lead generation process. One cannot work without the other, or at least not efficiently.

If your company has focused more on sales than marketing or vice-versa, it’s time to change that. Put equal attention to your sales team, your marketers, and your customer service reps. Each of these three departments, when working together, can earn you the kinds of leads your company needs. These leads may arrive more qualified and thus readier to buy.

It’s very necessary that your salespeople, marketers, and customer service reps all have clear lines of communication with one another. This prevents crossed wires. For instance, it’d be a shame for a salesperson to disqualify the lead but the marketer never gets the memo. They then begin marketing towards this lead, who may feel confused at best and aggravated at worst.

Clear communications also prevent job overlap. It’s not uncommon for the sales and marketing teams to work with the same lead. If both teams do the same job at the same time, they’re wasting time. Not only that, but such a mistake costs your company money, too.

When your sales reps, customer service pros, and marketers can communicate with each other easily, they can pass along valuable information and intel on leads and prospects. This allows each respective team to do even better at their job, thus increasing the chance of conversions.

Conclusion

Every company needs leads so they can work to convert them to customers. Still, lots of businesses aren’t quite sure how to create a steady flow of leads. By understanding the lead gen process from start to finish, you can begin to identify any bottlenecks that could hold your company back from success.

You might also want to review your sales team, marketing team, and customer service representatives more closely. Each team plays a very significant role in converting a lead to a customer. If there’s not enough clear communication among the three teams, mistakes can happen. This impedes progress and potentially loses you a valuable lead.

If you’re struggling with lead generation, know this isn’t uncommon. Hopefully, this guide has provided you with ideas and information for turning your situation around. Good luck!

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