15 Need-To-Know Lead Qualification Stats for B2B Marketers (with Takeaways)
June 5, 2018 | Robbie Richards
You’ve heard the saying, “time is money”.
Increasing sales productivity is one of the most powerful growth levers for any company.
A well-oiled inbound sales machine means reps spend less time working low quality leads, and more time closing sales. More leads in, more revenue out.
But, for many B2B organizations the sales engine is not turning. In fact, almost half of B2B sales reps list lead quantity and quality as their top challenge:
Sales teams are spending too much time working leads that aren’t ready to buy, or don’t have any to work at all. This might explain why only 15% of sales rep time is spent engaging prospects (Alexander Group).
This lead qualification is a major problem for many B2B organizations. Marketing teams to stop measuring success by lead volume, and start collaborating more closely with the sales team to ensure they are delivering the right content to generate demand, nurture leads, and enable the sales reps further down the funnel.
But, don’t just take our word for it. Here are 15 lead qualifications stats and takeaways that might make you rethink your lead generation approach.
57% of B2B companies identify ‘converting qualified leads into paying customers’ as a top priority. (MarketingSherpa)
Takeaway: The days when marketing and sales operated in siloes are over.
Today, marketing and sales teams need to be tightly aligned and a set of shared goals and KPIs to work from (i.e. marketing only celebrates when sales does).
Both teams should be in regular communication about the questions each persona is asking at different stages of the sales funnel. These questions should be driving content creation in the brand awareness, consideration, and sales enablement phases:
There are many benefits to having a symbiotic marketing and sales relationship:
- Sales teams can send a link to every prospect who asks a specific question
- Marketing can create targeted content to fill gaps at pivotal points in the sales cycle
- Articles can rank for specific question-based search terms, which can help build authority and brand awareness
- Sales have all the content needed to close qualified prospects who are deep in the consideration phase of the sales cycle
61% of B2B marketers find generating high-quality leads as their biggest challenge. (B2B Technology Marketing Community)
Takeaway: Before jumping into any lead or demand generation campaigns, B2B marketers need to get crystal clear on their ideal customer profile.
Specifically, there are 3 focus areas:
- WHO are your target customers – basic demographics, job title, location etc?
- WHERE does your ideal customer consumer information online?
- WHAT messaging will help them move through each stage of the funnel?
Only once you are clear on all three of these areas will you be able to drive out an efficient distribution strategy that targets, and nurtures leads across each stage of the funnel.
If you’re struggling to iron out your personas, here is a handy little template from the folks over at Digital Marketer that will help simplify the process:
67% of lost sales are as a result of sales reps not properly qualifying their potential customers before taking them through the full sales process.
Takeaway: Only a small portion of the leads you generate will actually be ready to purchase.
It’s critical that any B2B organization has a structured lead scoring and nurturing system in place.
The lead scoring model should be used to identify who is ready to move onto the next stage in the funnel, and the nurturing campaigns should be the vehicle that moves them from one stage to another.
Getting both the scoring and nurturing components in place is the key to greasing a well-oiled funnel that passively moves prospects from interested to paying customer.
61% of B2B marketers send all leads directly to Sales; however, only 27% of those leads will be qualified. (MarketingSherpa)
Takeaways: Not all leads are created equal.
When it comes to the lead qualification process, it’s critical that you understand the different lead types, and their content needs.
This insight will ensure you are sending the right message to the right people, at the right time.
Here is a quick breakdown of the different lead types to consider:
Prospects: These people fit your buyer persona, but have not expressed an explicit interest in your product or service yet. Identifying the prospects is the first step in the sales process.
Leads: These people are unqualified prospects that are showing signs of interest or buying intent. This is where marketing and sales teams needs to collaborate on, and brainstorm the specific types of behavior that would signal buying intent.
MQLs: These people are Marketing Qualified Leads, or folks who have expressed a direct interest in your product or service. This interest will usually be expressed by actions such as an ebook download. For a detailed guide on defining your MQLs, check out this article.
SQLs: These are people who have shown a strong interest in your product or service, and a clear intent to buy. The label is applied to a prospect that has been researched and vetted – first by marketing and then by sales – and it has been determined the lead is ready to be closed into a paying customer.
Sales Opportunities: The people have been fully qualified as a potential customer. They have expressed pain, budget, purchase authority, and are ready to make a decision. They are in your pipeline, and in touch with sales reps. You’re confident about closing them into paying customers.
Closed: People who have paid for your product or service. The next step is to nurture these people to encourage upsells, cross-sells, referrals and product/service feedback.
It’s critical for B2B organizations to clearly outline the different types of leads, and content needs at each stage of the funnel. This insight will help you differentiate the prospects from the SQLs, and help prevent sales team members from working leads who aren’t ready to buy.
Only 3% of your market is actively buying – 56% are not ready and 40% are poised to begin. (Vorsight)
Takeaway: Marketers need to be forward thinkers, building relationships with buyers long before they are thinking of themselves as “buyers” to win in the context of today’s rapidly evolving buyer journey.
Only 25% of marketing-generated leads are typically of a high enough quality to immediately advance to sales. (Gleanster Research)
Takeaway: 90% of the buying process is over before a B2B prospect ever talks to a sales person.
Buyers are more educated than ever before, and there are more stakeholders involved in the decision making process.
This combination of buyer power and stakeholder involvement makes the buying process more complex, and longer than ever before:
As a result, the information needs of your buyers has grown exponentially. Buyers are considering multiple solutions, eliminating inferior options, and returning to consume materials at different stages of the funnel multiple times before making a decision:
B2B companies need to invest more resources into content marketing, lead nurturing and sales enablement strategies to properly engage, educate and give buyers the information they need to realize “problem-solution” fit.
According to Forrester research, only 8% of B2B companies have sales and marketing departments that are tightly aligned.
Takeaway: Up until recent years, the traditional selling process looked like this:
- Marketing would collect leads and hand them over to the sales team
- The sales team would hammer leads with calls and emails in an aggressive attempt to close the sale as fast as possible
The departments operated in silos.
While this “us-and-them” old school mentality might have worked in the past, times have changed. Buyers now have access to a mountain of information to help identify the best solutions for their problems.
Buyers no longer need help in the research phase – they chat with sales when they are ready to buy.
This behavioral change has made it imperative for organizations to break down the siloed walls that once stood between marketing and sales.
Today, sales teams rely heavily on the marketing team to produce content that helps qualify leads, tell a story, communicate value, and ultimately move leads down the funnel from prospect to paying customer.
Organizations with tightly-aligned sales and marketing had 36% higher customer retention rates and achieved 38% higher sales win rates, among other bottom line benefits:
Despite the numbers, misalignment between marketing and sales teams is still a huge problem, and remains one of the top challenges preventing B2B companies from hitting their marketing objectives:
The weakest point in your marketing funnel should not be the hand off between marketing and sales. It’s time to get both sides on the same page.
While sales productivity is typically the responsibility of marketing, marketing does not put a high priority on it — only 4% of marketing resources are allocated to sales productivity initiatives (Docurated)
Takeaway: Marketing teams need to understand their responsibility to drive high quality leads into the top of the funnel, nurture and educate them to point at which they are ready to speak to the sales team.
Aside for lead generation, it is also the responsibility of the marketing team to produce sales enablement assets that allow teams to meet the information needs of the SQLs and sales opportunities.
Conducting a lead generation program without first investing in clean data wastes 27.3% of each sales rep’s time, or 546 hours on average a year per rep (Kissmetrics)
Takeaway: This is an incredible amount of time wasted for sales reps and the worst part is it is completely avoidable.
Marketing data is among some of the most valuable and effective assets any sales company can have. This data gives your the ability to know not only who has shown interest in your products, but how to most effectively reach them.
Which is why it is so shocking to see so many companies without clean data in their lead generation programs. Two of the main ways companies can have “dirty” data is by having duplicate or missing/inaccurate data.
This can lead to sales rep’s efforts being wasted trying to contact prospective clients with inaccurate contact information, or sorting through and deleting duplicate entries.
A whopping 68% of B2B organizations have not identified their funnel. (MarketingSherpa)
Takeaway: Without a clearly defined sales funnel the lead generation process is fundamentally broken. You are unable to determine where leads are in the buying process, and have no way of determining which content to serve to move them further down the funnel.
All leads end up getting treated equally. And, as we’ve seen, this results in low close rates and lot of wasted time for sales reps.
Once you have identified the main buyer personas, the next step should be identifying and mapping content to each stage in the buying cycle.
A couple questions you will want to answer before defining your funnel are:
- What are the information needs at each stage of the funnel?
- What distribution channels should be used to target each stage of the funnel?
- How will you move leads from one stage of the funnel to the next?
- How will you know if a lead has moved from one stage of the funnel to another?
- How will you identify gaps or leaks in the funnel?
- How will you use sales team insights to feed content at each stage of the funnel?
Just 44% of companies use lead scoring systems. (DecisionTree)
Takeaway: Lead scoring is what greases the cogs in a well-oiled sales engine. If you want to make sure leads arrive on time and are qualified, you need to establish a standardized set of conditions or rules to determine when leads move from one stage of the funnel to another.
It’s kind of like automated quality assurance.
A higher score means the prospect is more interested and intends to buy; lower scores indicate they are not and require more nurturing.
High-performing B2B marketing and sales teams are constantly testing and adjusting the lead scoring criteria to ensure it correlates as closely as possible to conversion rates and buying behavior.
When lead scoring models are too simple or not weighted correctly, the sales team takes the hit. They end up wasting time following up with leads who have been shipped over from the marketing automation platform that are not qualified, or ready to buy.
This probably explains why only 40% of salespeople say they find lead scoring valuable.
An automated lead scoring model can be a catalyst for your sales engine. If you don’t have one set up already, check out this article.
65% of B2B marketers have not established lead nurturing. (MarketingSherpa)
Takeaway: Close to 96% of leads are not ready to buy on their first touch.
An effective lead nurturing program will help you engage, educate and move people down the sales funnel on autopilot. It should be developed in concert with your lead scoring model.
A few ways a lead nurturing program will put you ahead of the majority of the competition:
- Establish contact immediately: speed of contact is the key to connecting with leads. An InsideSales.com study found that 35-50% of sales go to the vendor that responds first to an inquiry
- Become a trusted advisor: People do business with people they know, like and trust.
- Identify pain points: Lead nurturing emails are a great way to learn more about your leads – what challenges are they facing?
- Segment your audience: Use behavior-based event triggers to automatically move leads into message sequences that automate the movement of leads through the sales funnel.
- Close leads faster: Market2Lead found nurtured leads have a 23% shorter sales cycle.
If you don’t have a lead nurturing program in place, it’s time to get one set up. It’s one of the fastest ways to boost sales productivity.
Expertise in lead nurturing results in a 50% increase in sales-ready leads, along with a 33% decrease in its cost. (Forrester Research via HubSpot)
Takeaway: Smart marketers follow the ROI, and stats like these make nurturing your leads a hard tactic to argue with.
A CRM system is believed by 84% of companies to be beneficial in determining lead quality. (Demand Metric Research Corporation)
Takeaway: There are several distinct advantages companies get from working with a quality CRM:
- Real time information to lead data. Knowing the number of lead touch points, the origin of the contact, and the events that eventually led to the sale is all extremely valuable information for the marketing (lead scoring model and content distribution strategy) and sales team.
- It will not only help you keep track of lead data, but it can also drive your lead scoring and nurturing systems. This will ensure leads are given the right type of information at each stage in the funnel.
Only 16% of marketers say outbound practices provide the highest quality leads for sales (Hubspot)
Takeaway: Inbound marketing still reigns as the leader when it comes to quality lead generation. It makes sense when you consider inbound leads came to you, not the other way around.
While inbound marketing is effective, it’s becoming brutally competitive. On WordPress alone, 91.8 million blog posts are published every month.
People are drowning in content. As a result, standing out amidst all the noise and engage your target audience is harder than ever before.
Marketers are being forced to think outside the box, and look at ways to create content that not only engages, but also qualify readers faster. You can see how 28 different B2B companies are using interactive content to drive more quality leads into their sales funnels here.