“So what?” you might ask. “Sales reps can prospect and sell. They can find their own leads and convert them to customers. That’s their job anyway. That’s what they get paid for.”
If this was 1997 you would be right in saying so. But not today. Internet technology, social networking, and buyer behavior have all changed and changed a lot. Caveat Emptor (buyer beware) has been replaced by Caveat Venditor (seller beware).
Separating Leads and Opportunities
Part of this change has been a separation between Leads and Opportunities. Matt Heinz explains the difference between a Lead and an Opportunity.
Leads are created via a variety of marketing-based demand generation activities, all aimed at a set of accounts that match your Ideal Customer Profile; call them suspects. The process to manage Leads for these suspects is called Lead Management.
Opportunities are actual sales campaigns managed by a sales executive using a defined sales process that should be mapped to the buying behavior of a potential future customers; call them prospects. The process to manage Opportunities for these prospects is called Opportunity Management.
So how does this relate to sales process? Sales process should, at a minimum, distinguish between Leads and Opportunities. When you separate each, you can optimize the handling of both.
Does this mean that a company must have a separate group of people managing Leads than they doing pursuing Opportunities? Not necessarily. In this blog post we discuss the advantages of centralized vs. decentralized lead management.
What to do if your Sales Process covers both Lead and Opportunities
Since over ¾ of all B2B selling organizations do not use a separate force of Lead Development Reps to handle Leads, we offer the following best practices to help those sales forces whose reps have to cover the complete spectrum from suspect to prospect to customer.
- Use a CRM application to distinguish between a Lead and an Opportunity so each can be tracked
- Give sales reps the tools that enable one-to-many marketing to reach suspect communities (e.g. an agent for automated e-mail marketing or a log-in to a marketing automation tool like Eloqua)
- Provide segmented data from Marketing to individual sales reps to enable effective prospecting to the suspect accounts
Develop a detailed persona that enables the sales rep to contact and dialogue with those at a suspect account
- Develop digital marketing content that is tailored to the early stages of the Lead Management process (e.g. Awareness) and also leverages relevant 3rd party collateral that enables sales reps to conduct light touch, nurture-based conversations
- Train sales reps in the difference between prospecting and selling
- Goal sales reps on the success of both Lead generation and Opportunity closures
- Establish a clear difference between a Lead and an Opportunity using qualification criteria like BANT.
- Ensure the sales managers know how to coach and manage Lead flow separate from a pipeline of Opportunities
Any other items to add to the list?
*SBI benchmarking data repository, 2010