Blog series part 3: Lead conversion: Using marketing automation to determine the optimum time to send prospects to sales

By Dodge Communications on December 3rd, 2015

Once you’ve found the prospects (Part 1 of this blog series – Finding Prospects) and nurtured them (Part-2 – Mastering Lead Nurture), you reach the critical stage of converting those leads into clients. But how do you determine the peak time to pass them to sales?

Begin the sales process too early and you could scare them off – and waste the time of the sales rep. Too late, and they may make another buying choice.

That’s where marketing automation comes in. Scores and grades offer a means of evaluating and ranking the qualifications and readiness of a lead and determining which leads are ready to be passed to sales.

Grading. Identifying the factors that make someone a good prospect for your product or services allows sales to focus their time appropriately. Grading evaluates whether a prospect matches an ideal customer profile based on factors such as job title or company size. Defining buyer personas is a key step in establishing a grading model. Evaluating current customers to determine their size and type of organization, and who within the company made past purchasing decisions, will enable you to hone your focus to ideal prospects.

Scoring. Evaluating a lead’s level of interest and intent to buy is based on their interactions such as clicking on an email, viewing a white paper or completing a form. You can assign point values to each activity as buyers move through the sales funnel, with actions that indicate intent to purchase, such as filling out a demo request, therefore scoring higher.

Sales intelligence. The insights gained through marketing automation allow you to provide sales with information on a prospect’s specific interests. Which white paper did the prospect download or webinar did they attend? Which email subject lines generated opens and/or click throughs?

Providing this detailed picture of each prospect’s journey through the sales funnel to sales representatives allows them to have a more informed conversation and address specific areas of interest.

Passing the lead. To paraphrase Kenny Rogers, “You gotta know when to hold them, know when to pass them to sales.” With your lead scoring and grading mechanism in place, you can automatically identify sales-ready leads and send them to sales.

Using your marketing automation tool, you can set a threshold combining grades and scores that automatically routes appropriate prospects to sales reps for follow-up. This threshold can be fine-tuned in conjunction with sales to establish a profile of the ideal sales-qualified lead.

Your marketing automation platform can even be set to funnel prospects with certain interests or characteristics to the most appropriate sales rep. This segmentation can be based on geography, interests, company size or other factors.

Red alert! While a nurturing process may be the norm for the majority of prospects, there will be some cases where the prospect exhibits such a high level of interest and willingness to make a purchasing decision that they require immediate action. These prospects should receive individual follow-up.

Real-time notifications can be used to alert sales reps when a prospect demonstrates a high level of intent, such as completing a contact form. You can also use marketing automation to send an automated, personalized email from individual sales reps.

Knowing when to act on the leads produced by your prospect nurturing program is critical to successful sales. Passing a prospect to sales that isn’t ready entails extra effort on their part; waiting too long can result in the prospect turning elsewhere. Marketing automation can objectively and systematically determine the best time to achieve the best results.

Once you’ve successfully converted your prospect to a customer, another important use of marketing automation is retaining customers and even upselling them through strategic campaigns. Stay tuned for the next blog in this series that will outline best practices on using marketing automation to keep customers.

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