In a post on the eConnect Email Blog at the beginning of October, James Trumbly, Director of Business Development at eConnect Email explained how to use an email marketing system to nurture leads. Trumbly discussed how the best lead nurturing approaches to email marketing consists of delivering high quality content to a narrowly targeted audience at regular intervals. In addition, they always provide incentives to opt in to an email list that contains your ultimate offer and leads to a sale.

I’d like to talk about how marketing should approach leads after they’re nurtured by email marketing when the prospect is ready for qualification. In my view, the lead qualification process, like the lead nurturing process, should stay within the marketing department. I also think that marketing personnel should take the additional step of getting on the phone to qualify leads. While this is a function normally left to sales departments, I think Marketing is in a better position to qualify leads- and by doing so will ultimately produce higher quality leads for your sales teams. Here’s why:

Marketing Doesn’t Have Near-Term Quotas to Close Deals
The reality of sales departments is that salespeople live quarter to quarter, and they have to hit a quota each quarter in order to stay in the good graces of their department. While this is a great incentive for keeping your sales team motivated to bring in revenue, that same incentive could be counterproductive in the lead qualification process.  So that is the reason I believe Marketing is better suited for lead qualification.

First off, the marketing department isn’t particularly concerned with hitting near-term quotas. This allows the marketer to engage a prospect in a more open and honest conversation about their needs, purchase time frame, budget and other factors that comprise typical qualification criteria. Beyond that, marketing departments should become more responsible for the quality of leads that they send to the sales team. By managing the qualification process, the marketing team becomes intimately tied to the quality of the lead.

In order to make this work however, marketing departments need to be methodical about whom they hire, how they compensate and how the lead qualification process is managed- and improved. Here are four tips for managing this process:

1. Hire at the Junior Level
In any role, hiring the right person is critical. For the role of lead qualifier, you want someone energetic, competitive and willing to spend time on the phone. You also want them to be junior enough to grow into a different Sales or Marketing role. Beyond that, you want someone that can really drive a phone conversation and has the inquisitive nature to dig beneath the surface to and uncover information from the prospect.

2. Compensate with a Sales-like Pay Structure
The biggest driver in increasing the quality of marketing leads is to tie compensation to the sale. The easiest way to do that is to start them off at a base salary while offering them a commission based on the total revenue of closed deals. You can also add incentives for qualification accuracy such as an additional bonus for a great sales-accepted lead.

3. Decide How to Route Leads
The natural lead category breakdown is to create three buckets of leads:
a.  Qualified leads
b.  Disqualified leads
c.  Leads that need to be nurtured

All of these are fairly self-explanatory but the last one is worth elaborating on. The real opportunity for shifting this role to a marketing department is that you can dedicate someone to nurturing leads with a human touch. As such, there should be an intense focus on the nurturing aspect of lead qualification.

4. Improve Sales and Marketing Alignment
While this is a long-standing issue in companies across the globe, it’s a necessary area of focus for making this model work. Both the sales and marketing departments should have regular meetings about lead qualification criteria. This allows the sales team to fully understand why Marketing is disqualifying certain leads (and to double-check that they’re not disqualifying a few hidden gems). The best way to manage this process is to have both departments meet frequently. Introduce weekly meetings and gradually move to once a month.

While this is not a comprehensive list of what needs to happen, I believe it to be the key area of focus. If you follow these steps, you can create a Marketing team that drives more sales, is more accountable and is better suited to see its contribution to revenue.

About derek@softwareadvice.com:
This guest post is written by Derek Singleton of Software Advice who reports on trends in the B2B marketing industry. In addition to covering topics related to B2B marketing, Derek covers a range of technologies from CRM systems to email marketing.