Sales Opportunities: 3 Ways to Identify When Leads are Ready to Close

Josh Slone posted this in the Sales Skills, Sales Terminology Category
Reading Time: 7 minutes

B2B and B2C companies alike are investing more and more into lead generation. All in order to increase the number of sales opportunities.

Previously, lead quantity used to be the most important goal. The more leads in your lead funnel — the more sales opportunities you have, right?

But as many companies have seen, quality has become more important than quantity.

With 61% of B2B marketers sending all leads straight through to sales, but only 27% of those leads being qualified, a significant amount of time is being spent by salespeople reaching out to leads who aren’t ready to close.

A lead needs to be identified correctly as ready-to-close before they are even engaged during that final sale step.

Before you jump right into attempting to close a lead, make sure that the lead is actually ready to make a sale — otherwise, you could push leads into a level of the sales funnel they’re not prepared for. Pitching someone who’s not ready loses a deal that could have otherwise been won.

This brings in our key term — sales opportunities. What is that? Here’s a quick definition:

Sales Opportunities: Those leads in the funnel that have shown enough interest to be a potential sale.

To begin with, the lead needs to be qualified as sales-ready. Then, they’ll receive a lead score based on their actions and suitability for close. Finally, they’ll be sales-qualified, and a final conversion from lead to a customer can take place.

Sales opportunities are those leads in the funnel that have shown enough interest to be a potential sale. Click To Tweet

Step One: Is Your Lead Qualified?

You can really split a sales-qualified lead into two camps: Inbound or Outbound. Let’s take a quick look at both.

Inbound Sales Funnel

A sales-qualified lead is someone who has been vetted and is ready to speak with a salesperson. These people have purchasing power, and are prepared for engagement from a salesperson. Before they are marked as sales-ready, however, they have to meet specific requirements.

The level of engagement of your leads will be a big indicator of their position in your sales funnel.

If the lead has just visited your website a single time, or just followed your business on social media —they may not be ready. That said, if they’ve downloaded a product or requested more information, then their engagement level will show they’re ready for a discussion with a salesperson.

The steps a lead goes through to become close-ready are usually;

  1. General or passive lead (they’ve taken/shown interest).
  2. Marketing-qualified lead (MQL) (they’ve downloaded your eBook or some other type of deeper action).
  3. Sales-qualified lead (they’ve returned to your website multiple times, have opened your emails every time, or have downloaded multiple sources of content).
  4. Finally, a conversion, or closed-won. Or, a closed-lost (which better qualifying helps you keep these down).

Outbound

Outbound is actively looking for those who fit into your ideal buyer persona (or ideal customer profile) and doing outreach. Inbound comes to you via marketing/content/seo. You (or your sales team) goes after leads who are pre-picked.

Sales opportunities

If you have not already created an Ideal Customer Profile (or ICP), now’s the time. Your sales team should have a specific idea of the buyer personas that make up your target leads when they’re prospecting.

Specific Firmographic information such as job title, industry, company size and revenue, geography, and rank level (such as Purchasing Coordinator vs. Purchasing Manager) all go into creating that ICP. Once you have the information of the lead, and it matches your ICP, you can find the leads that seem to like what you sell.

Then, it’s just a matter of figuring out if they’re a fit in terms of budget and timing.

Note: Buyer profiles are great for inbound, too. Once leads enter your funnel you can match them up to the profiles and see which ones are more likely to buy. You can then change up your process and segment it to close more deals.

To determine if your lead is qualified, answer these three questions:

  1. Is this lead the primary decision-maker? Or does this lead have purchasing power?
  2. Is this lead ready to buy?
  3. Is this lead the right fit for our products? (Do they have the budget, authority, need, and time?)

Make sure your marketing efforts and your sales efforts are aligned to the same goal and collecting the same information.

Research: A study by the Aberdeen Group showed that sales and marketing teams who worked closely together were able to achieve 20% revenue growth annually. Teams who weren’t working in harmony saw revenues decline by 4% — which means a cohesive plan will increase sales opportunities.

Generate more sales-qualified leads

Are your leads coming up short? Try:

  • Using more specific qualifying questions, like custom questions on sign-up forms or specific questions in your cold email and even on the phone.
  • Scoring your leads early (in the inbound marketing phase) before they’re passed to sales.
  • Splitting your lead funnel by type (i.e., by email marketing, content download, outbound, etc.)
  • Nurturing your leads further via content. For outbound, if they don’t respond, try again in 3-6 months.
  • Revising your keywords to be more specific to your product (inbound). Or, try to add steps to your outbound process, like sending a direct mail piece to go along with your email/calls.
  • You can also fill your funnel with verified leads that fit your profiles, using LeadFuze :).

If your lead needs more nurturing, remove them from the list of final, sales-qualified leads. And put them back into a lead nurturing campaign. For outbound leads that don’t respond, put them in an inbound funnel to see if they open/click anything down the road.

These leads are at a level in which they need more engagement, information, and content that makes them want to take action further or engage with the company further.

Step Two: Score Your Leads (inbound specific)

Once your leads have been identified by Marketing and passed to Sales as qualified, it’s time to score them. The idea is that each piece of data that the lead aligns with in relation to your ICP gets a point. And the higher the point-value of the lead the better sales opportunities the leads become.

Set your minimum lead score that a lead must attain to be sales-ready. If you have ten key data points that must be addressed before a lead is sales-ready, set a minimum score (say, 7 or 8 points) that a lead can be before they are sent back to marketing for further nurturing.

Some examples of identifying actions and data that can be scored include:

  • Page views — how many pages on your site has the lead visited?
  • Site searches — have they searched your site for specific content?
  • Email opens/clicks — have they downloaded content from your site and opened it? Have they signed up for your e-newsletter and open it every time?
  • Nature of downloaded content — i.e., has the lead downloaded an eBook or pricing guide that is specific to your company and product?
  • Company-specific information — does their company’s industry, size, and location match your ICP, and will the lead be a good fit for your sales opportunities?
  • Job position — is this person in a position in which they can make purchasing decisions?

During the lead scoring and lead qualification process, narrow down what problem the lead is having that your products are the solution to. The more specific of a product or service you can offer the lead, the more likely they are to trust your salesperson — after all, the salesperson is trying to help their life, not sell them something they’re not already interested in.

The more specific of a product or service you can offer the lead, the more likely they are to trust your salesperson. Click To Tweet

Outbound Note: If a lead responds to your email or clicks-through on the offer — consider them qualified for a call (or at least a personal follow-up email). Also, if they open but don’t engage, send them a personal email.

Step Three: Identify The Sales-Ready (Or Close-Ready) Leads

This is the step in which you bring all of the previous information together.

You have an Ideal Customer Profile, and your marketing and sales teams are working closely together to create a unified message and standard for sales opportunities. Your marketing team (or your cold email) has created engaging content that the lead has taken action on, and based on all the indicators, you’ve marked them as qualified.

The lead has been scored, and now you’re ready to make the next, all-important move: assist the lead in taking that final step in your sales funnel from “lead” to “conversion” (or customer or close).

Research: Roughly 22% of sales-qualified leads are converted into customers, according to Marketo.

That means if you’re targeting leads who are not ready to take advantage of sales opportunities, you’re wasting time and resources that could be better spent targeting action-ready leads.

Three ways to tell if a lead is close ready:

  1. The lead has filled out a specific “contact us” form or has indicated interest in being contacted.
  2. The lead has shown interest by interacting with a CTA, or call to action (i.e., “contact us,” “get my coupon,” “get a personalized quote,” etc.) OR: The lead has interacted with automated content (from an email, a desktop chatbot, or a phone call.)
  3. The lead is in the final buying stage.

The buying stages are:

  • Early — Someone who is aware of your product. But hasn’t taken one of the higher level actions in step 1 or 2.
  • Mid — Leads who have taken an action from step 1 or 2. But whose lead scores aren’t high enough to qualify as sales opportunities.
  • Final — Qualified leads. Have taken multiple actions from steps 1 or 2, who have a qualifying lead score and ready for a call from a  salesperson.

If you put all of the previous steps into action, then you’ve developed a robust customer profile.

One that’s ready for one-on-one engagement with your salesperson. You’ve established the path they’ve taken on your site, you now know the solution your product solves for their problem, and you have their information in which you can bring a product to their attention.

Are you ready to build a custom proposal, or match the lead with the right solution your product offers? Reach out via phone or email to the lead, and try these urgency-related questions:

  • When would you like this problem solved? Is this an immediate need we can help to address?
  • Where does this solution to your problem rank in terms of priority and urgency?
  • Would you like to hear about other solutions that address your needs? or case studies that show how similar companies have benefited from our product?

Above all else

Treat all of your sales opportunities like your best friend. They’re more than just a sale, they’re a valued, integral partner.

A consumer is more likely to make a purchase from a friend or someone they trust. So, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your company has been aligned in such a way that that familiarity and trust has been established.

Josh Slone
About Author: Josh Slone
Josh Slone is the Head Content Writer for LeadFuze. Josh writes about lead generation strategies, sales skills, and sales terminology.

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