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The Hidden Value of "Unqualified" Inbound Sales Leads

Tom DiScipio

Director of Client Success, Partner, Speaker, 8+ Years Sales & Client Success Expertise

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The Hidden Value of "Unqualified" Inbound Sales Leads Blog Feature

Published on June 29th, 2015

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the-hidden-value-of-inbound-sales-leads.jpg“Most of these leads are junk.”

“Working these leads just isn’t worth our time.”

Have you heard comments like this during your Smarketing (Sales & Marketing) Meetings while reviewing the inbound leads from the past week or month?

Do you agree? Do you believe there’s such a thing as bad inbound marketing leads?

This question came up during a recent conversation I had with our CEO, Bob Ruffolo. We were talking about the hidden value of certain inbound sales leads—the value that’s often overlooked, ignored, or dismissed.

As inbound marketing professionals, we don’t buy into the traditional tactics of outbound marketing and selling.

We know that anyone landing on our site at any stage of the sales funnel or buyer journey already has a pain that requires a solution—why else would they complete a Google search related to our keywords, read our blog posts, and download our ebooks, right?

My thoughts here relate to the ways we pre-qualify marketing leads for sales professionals and whether our evaluation methods may result in the undervaluing or a quick dismissal of certain inbound sales leads.

Are we leaving money on the table through overly narrow views of what comprises a qualified sales lead? – Tom DiScipio [Tweet This]

I have a confession to make: I was.

I was overlooking the hidden, long-term value of seemingly unqualified inbound sales leads—value that goes beyond an ideal prospect score sheet and a fancy lead-scoring system.

This value doesn’t fit the parameters of well-worn marketing metrics or rating algorithms. Let me show you what I mean...

Don’t Write Them Off

Like most people in a sales role, I was looking for leads that brought me qualified buyers—those with purchasing and/or decision-making power in their organization. I was looking for folks that met all the right criteria—those I was juiced up to call on the phone immediately and knew would make best use of my time.

Heck, they might even work in a technology or software space AND have a product we could really get behind. These were the things that motivated me.

But I was short-sighted.

Inbound lead-generating efforts don’t fail or fall short when they produce non-qualified buyers, I realized. It’s quite the opposite, really.

Think about it: That college student—that marketing communications major with a minor in business who downloaded 5 eBooks last night and wants to have a consultation with us—will never become a customer of ours, we might reason, but what else might he or she become?

In other words, what’s the real long-term value of this unqualified (on paper) inbound sales lead?

It’s good for us to recall Seth Godin’s insight about the sneezers in the organization—lower-level influencers who come to accept and adopt your ideas, solutions, goods, or services, these evolve into your evangelists—the passionate and enthusiastic ones who sneeze and spread your idea-virus right up to the senior decision-makers.

Sneezers may be interns now, for example, but their ability to influence opinions by sharing your content and ideas with friends and coworkers should never be overlooked.

What’s more, students and interns tend to hop around a bit. They will eventually move on to other organizations and can spread your content and ideas there as well.

Two “Unqualified” Sales Lead Success Stories

Bob and I have firsthand experience with this: A manager at another inbound marketing agency subscribed to our content and loved it. A few months later, she left that agency to work for large HR company.

While there, she shared IMPACT with all of her coworkers, who also started to love our content and actively engaged with our brand.

One of her coworkers at the HR company moved on and became the marketing director at a medical training and device company, where he spread our content, ideas, and influence to the senior levels of that organization who (you might have guessed) reached out to inquire about working with us.

What’s more, our original “sneezer,” the one who originally started spreading our name, applied to come join our team. We’re very excited that Brie Rangel will be joining us in 2 weeks. :)

We could have ignored Brie as a contact in our database because she was working for a competitor, but we didn’t.

How could you possibly measure and report the ROI on that?

A Marketing and Sales Lesson

For the Marketer, help your salespeople be more successful by challenging them on unassuming leads: Don’t let them write leads off so quickly.

Many of you work in industries with a lengthy and research-based sales process, so reevaluating inbound leads that may not yet have passed the score or criteria test initially can help to fill their pipeline even further.

For the salesperson (myself included), it’s all about realizing the potential, long-term value of each lead entering your database regardless of lead score. Whether working an evangelist type of lead—someone who could be of future value to the organization— or re-engaging a lead that was previously marked as “unqualified” and came back to the site randomly, the goal is indirectly build your future pipeline.

Key Takeaways

What follows is a short list of some hidden values to help you remember to resist the temptation to disqualify or dismiss an inbound sales lead too quickly.

  • Inbound sales leads that don’t fit your ideal lead criteria can help you convince senior decision-makers that they need your goods or services. --– Tom DiScipio [Tweet This]
  • Call low, then call high: You can follow up with the lower-level person, learn why they took your call to action and try to help them. In so doing, you’ll build trust with that person and earn the right to learn more about the problems and challenges the organization is facing. You’ll then have everything you need to reach out to senior-level decision makers in a strategic way or have your contact set up or facilitate a meeting with them. (2)
  • Even if an organization is not ready to purchase, the continuous sharing of great content and ideas fosters goodwill, provides a key differentiator, and sets you up favorably for future buying decisions. -- Tom DiScipio [Tweet This]
  • Keeping people (at any level of an organization) informed and engaged can educate them about a need they didn’t know they had, leading to a sale. -- Tom DiScipio [Tweet This]
  • Students graduate and interns tend to hop around a bit, cross-pollinating your ideas and influence with current and future employers, colleagues and friends. -- Tom DiScipio [Tweet This]

Need Help?

What did I miss? What can you add to this list? Have you had a similar win? If you're interested in strategizing about how to uncover the hidden value of your inbound leads for yourself or your sales team, please schedule a call and mention that you want to talk to me.

References:

1. & 2., Roberge, Mark. The Sales Acceleration Formula, Chapter 11, Converting Inbound Interest Into Revenue.

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