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How to Make Sure Your Leads Actually Turn Into an Opportunity

On average, just 13 percent of B2B sales leads turn into opportunities, and only 6 percent of those end up as actual deals. If you keep crunching the numbers, you’ll find that fewer than 1 percent — 0.78 percent, to be exact — of all B2B leads become sales.

When you combine the conversion stats with the fact that it takes an average 84 days to turn a lead into an opportunity, it’s not an exaggeration to say that B2B sales teams have a much more convoluted path to reach a sale than their B2C counterparts.

Is it any wonder that sales processes can get a little sloppy? As days pass without visible progress, even the most professional salespeople can get discouraged. With the pressure to meet monthly goals, it can be tempting to go out and find more and more leads to push through the pipeline.

How to Make Sure Your Lead Actually Turns Into an Opportunity

Slow and Steady Makes the Sale

This drawn-out B2B sales cycle means that when a lead moves into its proposal stage and the finish line appears on the horizon, salespeople tend to get a little impatient. Though it might be tempting to adopt a “whatever-it-takes” approach to make the deal, this is when it pays to take your time.

Rather than slashing prices and rushing to close, keep the pace deliberate. Carefully nurture the opportunity, meet again with the prospective client, and focus discussions on how to expand the sale. In the long run, this is what locks down bigger contracts (and bigger commissions).

Not being able to convert enough leads hurts revenue, of course. Perhaps even more significantly, it affects employee morale and retention. And losing good salespeople creates a vicious cycle of recruiting, hiring, and training that keeps teams from reaching their potential.

When salespeople feel that they can’t convert leads into sales, they lose confidence and start to miss their objectives. In turn, commission shortfalls lead directly to turnover. And high turnover rates make it tough to create a sense of team camaraderie.

Train a Motivated Team

A little determination and creativity can go a long way to keep sales teams motivated throughout an extended lead-qualifying period. Training comes first. Ensuring that salespeople understand the unique rhythms of the B2B process is key, especially if your sales team is used to selling to consumers.

Use training to set and reinforce expectations that the team will need to spend more time cultivating leads, staying in touch, and knowing when — and when not — to push. Tools like email drip campaigns and content that supports lead nurturing over time are also important to help keep leads warm and salespeople dedicated.

But even the most dedicated team can lose motivation. Using creative competitions in the workplace can work wonders to keep motivation high for your sales team. The Detroit Pistons’ organization, for example, used gamification techniques to encourage its sales team to sell a new product. Each salesperson seemed to be waiting for everyone else to make a sale first, but adding throughout the office a fun, competitive element in the form of visible, live leaderboards turned the tide.

As soon as the first sale was made, the game was on for the Pistons sales team. Even salespeople who weren’t in the running for the top spot saw the success others were having and pushed the product. Six weeks later, the product was selling, the sales team believed in its value, and sales behaviors had completely changed.

Turning Competition Into Conversions

Consistent, thorough training and creative encouragement through gamification initiatives can help a good sales team become great, but enthusiasm alone isn’t enough. Friendly workplace competitions can be used not only to inspire sales results, but also to push best practices. My company used a Mario Kart-inspired initiative to help drive results and inspire our sales team to look beyond the obvious leads.

At the start, each salesperson received three balloons as a nod to Mario Kart. When a salesperson successfully closed a sale, he or she got to pop another team member’s balloon. To keep it interesting, when employees made a more complex sale, they got to steal a balloon.

The game boosted our team’s energy, certainly, but it also encouraged team members to develop new strategies and think outside the box. Groups of salespeople formed alliances to go after the stronger performers’ balloons, which meant that the leaders had to push for bigger, more complex sales in order to get back in the game. And everyone pushed harder throughout the sales process instead of settling for a lesser sale.

This type of creativity and strategic thinking is crucial if your team wants to surpass the 0.78 percent average for lead conversion into sales. Here are three tips to help your team reach its full potential and convert its leads into actual opportunities:

#1. Call in Real Time

When sales outreach is made within a minute of an online lead submission, conversions rise by an astounding 391 percent. But if outreach occurs an hour later, the boost in conversions is a measly 36 percent.

The instant online world has reduced customer patience for follow-up, which means that timing is everything. The average lead response time is almost 47 hours, which means that your team’s quick response time could put it miles ahead of your competitors.

#2. Apply the 80/20 Rule

The 80/20 rule states that 20 percent of activity is responsible for 80 percent of the results. Spend time studying your results to get to a crystal clear definition of what makes a good lead. The more precise you can get with demographic, geographic, and behavioral attributes, the better.

It’s just as important to define the attributes of bad leads. You want your team to be spending its time on the good leads, not treating all leads equally. With practice, your salespeople should be able to determine a lead’s quality in less than a minute, keeping their attention focused on the most viable opportunities.

#3. Buy Leads With Intent

Before ramping up lead acquisition, take a hard look at your framework. Make sure you know how many new clients you can take on and that you have the right structure in place to make the experience rock-solid.

When you’re ready, buy quality leads with different levels of intent. High-intent leads are hard to come by, not to mention expensive. Incentivized leads can be a waste of your sales team’s time. A good strategy is to have your strongest performers focus on the low- and medium-intent leads.

Take a test-and-learn approach. Try different pitches and offers with the leads of varying levels of intent until you see exactly what triggers the lead-to-opportunity conversion for your offer.

At every step, remind yourself: B2B sales are complicated. They’re complex. They can be tedious and time-consuming. But a refined leads strategy sets you up to outperform the average conversion stats and win the customer acquisition game.

Are you already a B2B sales expert? Let us know your best methods for converting leads in the comments below.

Image: Multicolor Concept – Get Leads on Dark Brick Wall with Doodle Icons Around. Modern Illustration in Doodle Design Style. Get Leads Business Concept. Get Leads on Dark Brick Wall. Get Leads Concept.


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Jason Kulpa is the CEO of Underground Elephant, one of the nation’s premier customer acquisition solutions companies for leading brands. By leveraging proprietary next-generation marketing automation technology, Underground Elephant is able to provide the highest quality, direct response solutions at unprecedented scale. http://undergroundelephant.com/

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