Marketing groups also help their firms’ salespeople improve their conversion ratios by scoring the leads they send them. Lead scoring is a process by which marketing personnel rate the leads to indicate whether a lead is hot (ready to buy now), warm (going to buy soon), or cold (interested but with no immediate plans to buy). As you can imagine, someone who has had a conversation at a trade show with a company representative, seen a demonstration, and answered questions about her budget, authority, need, and time, is close to being a prospect already. The more hot leads you put into the sales cycle, the more conversions to prospects and customers you can expect.
Lead scoring is not just a function of asking questions, however. A potential customer who visits your company’s Web site, downloads a case study about how a product solved certain problems for a customer, and then clicks a link on a follow-up e-mail to watch an online demo of the offering has shown a significant amount of interest in the product. True, the lead has not answered questions concerning BANT. The buyer’s behavior, though, indicates a strong interest—a much stronger interest than someone who clicked a link in an e-mail and only watched a portion of the demo.
When should marketing pass a lead on to sales? If the lead was generated at a trade show, then the salesperson should get the lead immediately. The people and organizations designated in Leads generated through other means, however, might be targeted to receive additional marketing messages before being passed along to a salesperson. Closed-loop lead management systems provide marketing managers with the information they need to know when to pass the lead along and when more marketing conversations are effective.
Improving conversions is not just a matter of finding more hot leads, however. Marketing personnel can improve salespeople’s conversions by providing materials that help buyers make good decisions. Advertising, a company’s Web site, activities at trade shows, and collateral can all help, and in the process, improve a sales force’s conversion ratios. To be sure, some educated buyers, once they have more information about a product, will realize they don’t need or want it and will go no further. But this is better than their buying the product and becoming angry when it fails to meet their expectations.