As any sales person can tell you, just because it’s a lead doesn’t mean it will be a sale. The quality of that lead has a huge impact on what will happen at the end of the line. The problem is, of course, that for many high-value, complex products, the time lag between a lead and the ultimate sale can be so long that it is very difficult to identify what worked and what didn’t. By that measure a lead on a website is probably not a key performance indicator.
So what does a company do if it wants to use a website to increase qualified leads? We recommend going one step deeper and tracking the number of leads that make the cut after qualified by an internal sales member. Salesforce, which is our CRM tool of choice, calls this step an opportunity, so we call it the opportunity conversion rate.
The reason that opportunity conversion rate is such a useful metric is that opportunities are a source of rich feedback for the sales process. Internal sales teams are the meeting point between sales leads and the external sales team. Their position as a negotiator between leads and sales staff creates a real understanding of what a lead is, and how either it or the sales process can be improved.
You can move the needle on opportunity conversion rate by either changing the nature of the leads you get, or changing how they fit in their sales force.
If you want to change the nature of the leads you get, this will probably require a change in the keyphrase markets you’re targeting and the content of the website. Leads of poor quality can give the marketing team insights into how to improve the website so that better qualified leads are brought in through that channel. The better qualified the lead, the higher the opportunity conversion rate will be.
Although this may seem like the easier path, the truth is that a good website reflects essential understandings of the market a company is trying to reach, and is a process that often takes a surprising amount of time. A more short-term solution can be to modify the sales process so that the vetting of leads from the website better reflects what those leads are.
For example, a sales team might be configured to manage well-qualified, late stage leads, perhaps from referrals or through specific government contract processes. In this case, the leads coming from the website might be far too early, because they came from technical buyers and researchers trying to identify options for their executive team to assemble budgets. In this case, the sales team might be trained to qualify these leads and send them material that will provide deep answers about the product and its capabilities, with a plan to do a follow-up in a month. These changes could reduce the number of unqualified, early-stage leads taken on by the sales force, which would in turn give them more time to hunt down and close more mature deals.
Ultimately the best metric is one that can be easily measured and is closely tied to the marrow of the business goal, so once the strategy for improving the sales process has been identified, the KPI can push into web-based metrics, which are fairly clear, easily collected, and closely tied to the outcome of marketing efforts.