The 4 Pillars of Lead Quality: What is a High Quality Sales Lead?

opinionThe following is a guest contributed post from William Wickey, Content Marketing Manager at LeadGenius.

You hear people argue about the definition of “lead generation”, but at its most basic level, a lead is the identification data of a person that has either the interest, authority, means, or motivation to purchase a product or service.

This is where most conversations about lead quality veer into a discussion of inbound and outbound. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. Forget about inbound vs. outbound when it comes to lead quality. Lead quality is really a discussion about the data that’s in your CRM — regardless of where it comes from.

In engineering it is commonly said that “quality drives productivity.” In computer science they say “garbage in, garbage out.” As sales and marketing professionals begin to operate more like scientists, “quality leads equal business success” has become their new mantra. Without high quality data, marketing automation systems limp along and CRMs begin to sap more of your team’s time than they save.

Quality is a perceptual and conditional evaluation. A lead is a collection of diverse data points. So what exactly makes a high quality lead?

  1. Depth

A lead is not a single data point. It’s not a name and phone number. A lead is a cluster of relevant customer information. High quality leads combine demographics, firmographics, buying signals, and contact information.

Demographics include a prospect’s basic personal information such as name, job title, and age. But demographics can also go further. To personalize messaging and segment your lists, you want to know not only an individual prospect’s demographic data, but also how they stack up against the rest of your target audience.

What demographics are to people, firmographics are to organizations. Firmographics are company information such as annual revenue, capital events, market share, employee count, and growth rate. A study of over 60 million CRM records by Netprospex revealed that 88% lacked basic firmographic data.

Buying signals are data points unique to a company’s ideal customer profile. In addition to detailing inbound activity, a buying signal is anything that hints at a prospect’s receptiveness to your product or service. This could be the use of a particular technology on a company’s website, new job listings, recent press, business partnerships. This type of data is high value because it reveals your customers pain points, but it is also particularly time consuming to capture at scale. It’s no wonder sales teams report that only 33% of  their time is spent on actual selling. The rest is spent on research, data entry, and busy work — in other words, enriching leads.

Since most modern B2B marketing campaigns are multi-channel, high quality leads have multiple types of contact information. Studies show it takes around 11-17 touches to enable a purchase. To automate and execute a full funnel strategy, you want accurate contact information in every channel you use to communicate with potential customers. Email, snail mailing, phone number, Twitter handle, Facebook profile, LinkedIn are all touchpoints you can use to move a potential customer closer to purchase. With accurate contact information in multiple channels, you can target exactly the prospects you want rather than audience segments that look like them.

High quality leads provide a deep view of both your prospect and his or her organization and the means to get in touch with them.

  1. Accuracy

There’s validation and then there’s verification.

Validation is determining if all your fields are filled in, email addresses are formatted correctly, phone numbers have ten digits, and mailing ZIPs match cities. Out of use phone numbers and email bounces are dead ends for your SDRs.

Verification is making sure data points go together. Email marketing campaigns break down names that don’t match up with email addresses. Sales reps stumble on calls when your CRM says the company’s annual revenue is $2 million, when it’s really $20 million.

Accurate data allows your team to allocate time and resources to prospects with the highest probability of being contacted and being receptive to your message. Without accurate data, you are not only throwing away marketing and sales dollars, you are wasting your reps’ time and squandering potential opportunities.

High quality leads do not contain deficient data points.

  1. Reliability

Accuracy is about data points. Reliability is about processes.

Lead generation is never a one time event. It is an ongoing process optimized for meeting the requirements and expectations of your sales team.

The market is a moving target. A list of 100% accurate leads will not stay that way for long. Individuals are hired and fired. Companies are acquired. New positions are created. Businesses shrink and swell every quarter. Some industries have as high as a 6.5% monthly contact decay rate. This means that at the end of the year nearly half the contacts in their CRM could be inaccurate.

Speed, freshness, and a repeatable process for enriching existing prospects are all key components of a high quality lead generation program.

High quality leads consistently improve based on feedback from your team and how your business goals evolve.

  1. Fitness for Purpose

Sometimes we’re so focused on lead volume we forget the underlying motivation for our lead generation. Our ultimate goal is to generate revenue through new customers, not rack up MQLs and SQLs. The most important factor to consider in a lead generation goal is how it aligns with your overall business process.

Marketing teams are typically responsible for generating as many leads as possible in order for sales to generate customers. Conventional wisdom allows that more leads equals more deals, but what marketers sometimes fail to realize is that sending more and more leads to sales can actually reduce productivity.

Even the warmest inbound leads often lack the critical data needed for a sales rep to close a deal. According to Hubspot, 61% of B2B marketers still send all leads they receive directly to sales while only 27% of those leads will actually be qualified for a sales call.

High quality leads are tailor-made for your funnels.  High quality leads speed up cycle time, increase productivity, and reduce total cost. High quality lead generation programs are reliable, optimized, and tailored to your unique marketing and sales processes.

No matter what your mix of inbound and outbound, lead quality is the key to business success.