3 Steps to Fully Optimized B2B Prospect Development

Dan McDade

B2B prospect development – the combination of lead generation, lead qualification, lead nurturing and lead hand-off to sales – is a critical element that many marketing and sales teams are failing.   

Optimized companies outperform average companies by generating up to five times the revenue based on comparable starting places. Their prospect development process is also characterized by:

A higher percentage of leads sent to sales are sales-ready

  • Higher close rates
  • More sales reps make quota
  • Reps are more focused on deal making instead of prospecting
  • Higher ROI on marketing investment

No matter where you are now, there are three specific steps you can take to emerge from a chaotic state, rise above average, and achieve a fully optimized state of prospect development. Let’s take a closer look at each of the three steps.

Step 1. Agree on market, lead definition and message
At the BMA Conference this year, “SPIN Selling” author Neil Rackham said, “Sales and marketing are two functions with an identical mission, so how can they be like ships passing in the night?”

Nowhere is this more evident than in the lack of agreement on market, lead and message definition. Try this experiment: ask the first three sales execs and the first three marketers you encounter outside your office these questions:

  1. How do you define our market?
  2. What constitutes a good lead?
  3. What is it that we sell?

In non-optimized companies, you’ll find a wide variety of opinions. Generally companies define their market too broadly with the result that resources waste time and effort on too many prospects. With missing agreement on the definition of a desirable lead, additional inefficiencies occur. And lastly, messaging on the offer is likely to be defined differently by every marketing and sales executive in the organization.

All members of both groups must agree on – as well as concisely and consistently express – who we are, what we do and why we’re better and different.

Step 2. Measure what matters
While reps at average companies close approximately one in five leads they qualify, reps at optimized companies close almost one-third of the leads they qualify.

Optimized companies surpass results of average companies – to the tune of 150% more closed leads – because they measure what matters. A disconnect happens in average companies with marketing spending huge sums to drive thousands of so-called leads each year, and reps reporting back that they received little value. Why? The emphasis on high volumes of leads at low cost-per-lead resulted in poor lead quality.

In addition to analyzing the actual cost of a qualified lead (not just the cost to generate a raw lead), optimized companies carefully measure lead progression. Incremental improvements in the demand waterfall – from marketing-qualified lead to sales-accepted lead to sales-qualified lead status – can make a huge difference on the top and bottom lines.

Step 3. Deliver fewer but better leads to sales
It seems counterintuitive, but the fact of the matter is sales doesn’t need more leads.

Instead, reps need fewer, more carefully qualified leads that have been consistently developed and nurtured to increase the probability of a closed deal.

A typical monthly pre-optimization marketing report emphasizes hundreds and even thousands of leads generated at a lower cost-per-lead. In response, sales reps set them aside for all-too-familiar reasons: the prospect is not a senior enough decision maker, clear pain points have not been established, or the sense of urgency is unknown. In short, sales is not receiving fully qualified leads that they can productively engage with around deal making.

A marketing report based on optimized prospect development, on the other hand, should be reporting delivery of an efficient and workable number of more highly qualified prospects – fully nurtured and warranting engagement with sales reps.

Companies with optimized prospect development programs possess all three of the following execution elements:

  • A proven process to measure the quality of a lead, as well as the cost-per-lead.
  • A C-level executive to provide the checks and balances needed to keep marketing and sales honest by looking at leads not pursued by reps to see if there are problems around quality or effectiveness.
  • A dedicated team to nurture leads until they are fully qualified and to take leads back if sales is not able to get traction.

Following through on all three steps delivers better ROI on marketing, lets your salespeople focus on what they do best, and helps you close significantly more deals than you did before.

For further reading, download the white paper, Point C: From Chaos to Kickass – 3 Steps to Sales and Marketing Optimization.

Dan McDade is President and CEO of PointClear, LLC, a prospect development firm that helps B2B companies drive revenue by nurturing leads, engaging contacts and developing prospects until they're ready to purchase. His first book, “The Truth About Leads,” helps B2B companies focus their lead generation efforts, align their sales and marketing organizations, and drive revenue. Dan’s blog is at http://blog.pointclear.com/blog/. You can email him at dan.mcdade@pointclear.com.

FREE WEBINAR: Learn more from Dan McDade in a free webinar, "From Chaos to KickAss: 3 Steps to Optimizing Your Sales and Marketing Organization." The Webinar is at 1 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday, Dec. 12. Can't attend? Register anyway and you will be notified when the recording and handouts are available. Register HERE.