Oh, the potential of a sales lead!
It could become the best client. The multi-million-dollar sale. The most loyal customer. The ultimate referral.
Or it could be nothing more than a name on a list.
But knowledge is power, especially in the uncertain world of sales leads. The more you know, the more equipped you’ll be to find and manage quality sales leads.
So let’s take an in-depth look at the important research and data on sales leads.
Generating sales leads
Generating sales leads has become an easier task than it ever was. After all, outsourcing and lists are available everywhere. Generating quality sales leads is another story.
“Quality is about finding the right people at the right time,” said Jen Doyle, Senior Research Manager in the Marketing Sherpa Lead Generation Benchmark Report. “This evolved marketplace and empowered buyer has created a more challenging environment for marketers, and has created a greater importance of not just lead quantity, but lead quality.”
To that point:
- More sales is on everyone’s mind. 71% of sales and marketing leaders say increasing lead-to-customer conversion is their top priority, according to research from Ascend 2.
- The good news: About 90% of those sales and marketing leaders say they’ve had a high degree of success meeting those goals, researchers said.
- Make no mistake, marketing leaders still struggle with finding the leads sales can use: 59% of B2B marketers say generating high quality sales leads is their biggest challenge, a study by Technology Marketing Community found.
- But they’re determined to overcome the challenges: 68% of sales and marketing leaders say increasing the quality of leads is a top priority.
- 55% say increasing lead volume is a top priority.
- 51% of marketers say finding leads that convert is a top challenge, according to the Chief Marketer’s B2B Lead Gen Outlook survey.
- But there’s a price: 52% of companies – of all sizes – say the average cost of one qualified lead is less than $50, Marketing Sherpa researchers found, and …
- … the average cost per acquisition (the price they pay to get a new customer) is less than $100 for about half the companies.
Sales leads generators
Sales leads can come from a variety of sources with varying degrees of effectiveness. Company website, email marketing efforts and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) are the most effective sales lead generators, the Technology Marketing study found.
- More specifically, 53% of marketers say email is their most effective channel for generating leads, the Chief Marketer’s survey found.
- 44% of marketers say SEO and content marketing are prime channels for generating leads.
- But, don’t underestimate the power of a live event – a trade show, webinar, podcast: Almost 45% of sales and marketing leaders say those produce the highest ROI leads.
- Offline lead generation tactics are still useful: 35% of sales and marketing leaders say they’ll increase their offline tactics in the future, and 25% say they won’t change the level of offline engagement – such as direct mail and print advertising.
- Sales and marketing leaders in the Marketing Sherpa benchmark report who plan to continue offline efforts say it’s because they’re most effective for:
- direct lead generation (35%),
- branding (34%),
- direct sales (19%), and
- driving website traffic (12%).
Nurturing the leads
Like a vegetable garden, leads will wither away if they aren’t nurtured.
“With access to more information than ever before, buyers often take more time to explore their options and educate themselves before making a purchase decision,” said researchers in Marketo’s Definitive Guide to Lead Nurturing. “Modern sales cycles can simply be longer, and nurturing your leads shortens the sales cycle because you can be relevant, trustworthy, and engaging throughout that critical period of time.”
- Companies that nurture their leads have a 45% lift in lead gen ROI over companies that don’t strategically stay with their leads, according to Marketing Sherpa research – and just 60% of companies have a lead nurturing plan in place.
- Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads, and do it at a 33% lower cost than their lackluster competitors, according to research from Marketo.
- Still, there are some troubles: 80% of sales and marketing leaders admitted to the Marketing Technology researchers their lead generation plans are only slightly or somewhat effective.
- 21% of marketing leads turn into sales, according to the Marketing Sherpa research.
- Nurturing leads takes time and layers of influence: Almost half of businesses say most of their leads need “long cycle” nurturing with many people within an organization, Ascend 2 research found.
Lead nurturing techniques
- Sales and marketing leaders in the Chief Marketer’s survey say these are most effective techniques for lead-nurture:
- In-person meetings (65%)
- Email marketing (62%)
- Content marketing (58%), and
- Calls from salespeople (43%).
- Leaders say some calls to action (CTA) are more effective than others. Their top-performing lead offers and CTA:
- Whitepaper and eBook downloads (59%)
- Contact us forms (39%)
- Webinars (37%)
- Free trials (35%), and
- One-on-one product demonstrations (28%).
- The most effective way to nurture leads is with personal contact from a salesperson, according to the Marketing Technology study. To optimize the contact, buyers say the salesperson must:
- be highly knowledgeable and able to answer questions promptly (77%)
- contact prospect within his or her desired time frame (76%), and
- be an expert who can relate professionally to they prospect (76%).
Engaging sales leads
Almost 60% of marketers say engaging quality leads is a top challenge, the Chief Marketer’s survey found. They use a variety of tactics to build engagement.
- Engagement is key to closing deals: 54% of marketers say increasing the engagement rate with leads is their top priority, which leads to their second priority: customer acquisition, according to the Ascend 2 researchers.
- 37% of marketers say delivering effective lead nurturing programs is an ongoing challenge, according to researchers in the Marketing Technology study.
- Some online lead generators are more effective than others. Participants in the Ascend 2 study said these online forms generate leads with highest customer conversion rates:
- content download (57%)
- webinar registration (42%)
- survey poll (33%), and
- demo request (31%).
- Content is also a strong lead engagement tool. In the Ascend 2 study, marketers said these types of content generate leads with the highest customer conversion rate:
- research reports (46%)
- video/motion graphics (44%)
- social media content (42%)
- webinars/webcasts (40%), and
- website stories/blogs (30%).
- Building engagement takes different and multiple approaches: 51% of sales and marketing pros include five or more interactions, according a Demand Gen B2B Buyers Survey Report.
- Speed matters: Once leads submit an online form (for a white paper, gated content, enewsletter, for example), companies that call within five minutes are 100 times more likely to connect with the lead and anyone who waited 30 or minutes longer, according to research from Lead Response Management. But just 7% of companies jump on those leads in that time frame, a Drift survey found.
- Harvard Business School researchers whittled it down even better:
- 37% responded to their lead within one hour
- 16% responded within 1 to 24 hours
- 24% responded after 24 hours, and
- 23% failed to respond at all.
Moving leads through the funnel
Fortunately, most sales and marketing groups – the people at the heart of getting and managing leads – get along well. More than 60% say they communicate effectively, according to Chief Marketer’s researchers. But there are some challenges.
- The biggest issues, leaders say:
- Salespeople not following up on leads generated by marketing (55%)
- Marketing not generating quality leads (41%)
- Marketing not generating enough leads (31%), and
- Sales and Marketing failing to act like they share the same goals (27%).
- Almost two-thirds of sales and marketing leaders say a lack of resources – staff, time, money – is what gets in their way of successfully generating leads, the Marketing Technology study showed.
- About half of B2B companies check valid leads before passing them to the sales department, according to a Marketing Sherpa benchmark report.