You're losing inbound leads with a delayed response time — here’s how we reply in under 3 minutes

Posted April 28, 2021

Harmony anderson headshot

By Harmony Anderson

Senior Director of Demand Generation & Events at Outreach

This article is part of our Outreach on Outreach content series, in which we showcase our own revenue team’s use of the Outreach Sales Engagement Platform to help you drive success at your own company. We share workflows and strategies, backed by original research and data from the results of our own experiments and customer base.

The clock starts ticking as soon as a lead engages with one of your marketing campaigns.

Timing is everything. If you wait longer than five minutes to respond after engagement, your conversion rate could potentially plummet by 80%. But the average response time for B2B companies (those that bothered to reply at all) was a massive 42 hours—almost two full days.

At Outreach, we have designed an efficient inbound lead workflow. It’s highly automated to our sales team, so follow up actions with appropriate content rarely fall through the cracks—and each stage is coupled with detailed reporting. Our response time from a lead filling a form on our site to a rep reaching out with a personalized email is no longer than three minutes.

If you want to know how...

Read on.

What is an inbound lead workflow?

Looking to better connect your marketing and sales funnel? Let’s start at the beginning.

An inbound lead workflow is a process put in place across your GTM team using your marketing automation software, your CRM, and your sales engagement solution. It operationalizes how you generate, qualify, and take action on leads from marketing campaigns in a timely manner, with the right content—ultimately driving pipeline and revenue for the business.

At a high level, ours looks like this:

Outreach inbound lead workflow

To understand what’s happening to each lead from marketing campaigns and how to have the biggest impact on revenue, we focused on four key areas:

  1. Creating well defined lead lifecycle stages and clear definitions of status within each funnel stage
  2. Documenting all the sources and behaviors a lead can take when entering our marketing funnel along with how we prioritize and score each lead
  3. Building an efficient lead routing and sales follow up process, defining what actions should be taken and enabling the owner to accomplish SLAs (Service Level Agreement)
  4. Defining which leads should fall out of the funnel versus which leads should continue to be nurtured and by whom.

Defining Lead Lifecycle Stage & Status

What do we mean by each lead lifecycle stage? What’s an MCL or MQL? What determines if an MQL is in open vs working status? What’s the difference between a sales qualified lead and a sales accepted lead?

Here are our working definitions of key stages within our lead lifecycle:

  • Marketing Captured Lead (MCL): A lead who has engaged with a marketing campaign for the first time by filling out a landing page form, registering for a marketing-hosted event or participated in a sponsored program. These are cold, not yet qualified leads that will be nurtured by marketing prior to being sent to sales.
  • Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL): A lead we have deemed qualified enough to send to sales for follow up. To become an MQL, they must have converted on multiple marketing campaigns or be part of a prioritized account and have a persona within our defined buyer group. (We also closely monitor the status of each MQL from open to working and actions that have been taken against qualified leads, adhering to SLAs set between teams.)
  • Sales Qualified Lead (SQL): An MQL has agreed to set up an initial meeting with our team and an opportunity has been created. An opportunity is moved to SQL once the initial meeting is held but has yet to be qualified to move forward with by an AE.
  • Sales Accepted Lead (SAL): An SQL that has been qualified by both the SDR and AE and is moving on to the next stage of the sales funnel. The AE on the Account has held the meeting (or multiple meetings) and has qualified the opportunity as meeting the requirements of the buyer, timing, scope and tech need in order to progress through the funnel.
  • Closed - ReEngaged MQL: An MQL that has either gone unresponsive to outreach from our sales team or has been dispositioned in a status that should be nurtured and re-qualified over time. These leads still serve as an opportunity for our team to generate pipeline. Reasons could include bad timing for purchase or no allocated budget at the time of prospecting.
marketing funnel example

Defining your stages is the foundation to developing your inbound lead workflow and avoiding a “leaky funnel” situation. You have to:

  1. Determine the objective of every stage and corresponding CTA
  2. Define the difference between each stage and team owners
  3. Clarify lead dispositions between each stage—from top of funnel to closed revenue
  4. Ensure that each stakeholder within marketing and sales approves

Lead Scoring & Qualification Strategy

Second, it's important to document all the sources and behaviors a lead can take when entering the inbound funnel in addition to how your team would want to prioritize and score each lead. At Outreach, we score leads not only on the lead source and digital behavior but also the firmographic details within the account (Account-Based) and the demographic details on the lead (Persona-Based).

Our lead sources and digital behaviors fall within five main sources: website requests and page actions (demo/pricing/contact us), content, events, co-marketing and content syndication. Defining each type of engagement will also help you to determine the most efficient way to follow up with leads.

To evaluate each engagement, here is a snapshot to our lead scoring model based on the activity:

An image illustrating an inbound lead workflow process. The diagram is set against a white background with various colored sections and arrows showing the flow. It starts with "Inbound Lead" at the top, leading to stages like "Qualify," "Nurture," and "Engage," before reaching "Close" at the bottom. Each stage is represented by a distinct color and icon, making the workflow easy to follow.

We also add layers of qualification to account for firmographic details (Account) and demographic data (Lead). For example, decision makers (those with titles within our defined buyer group) qualify with fewer engagements than individual contributors. Finally, we qualify leads from target accounts (those the sales team already prioritizes) faster within the funnel.

activity score for accounts example

All leads start in the MCL stage. Prior to deeming a lead as marketing qualified and sending to sales for follow up according to the defined qualification strategy, we run numerous marketing-owner nurture programs through both email and paid channels to create both awareness and engagement. These programs are segmented by source, persona and market segment based to optimize conversion rates from MCL to MQL. When an MCL achieves a certain lead score, they become MQLs and move to sales for prospecting.

Your lead scoring and qualification strategy is completely dependent on your business, your audience, and the marketing channels you’re using. However, every team has to start by prioritizing each of the actions and behaviors a lead can take through your funnel and defining who are the personas in your specific buying group. Don’t be afraid to make changes once you establish your scoring and qualification terms—and, again, ensure that each stakeholder within marketing and sales approves of your qualification strategy.

Routing MQLs for Sales Follow Up

You can’t build an efficient inbound lead workflow without the operations behind lead routing and actionable enablement for the sales rep. Once a qualified lead is ready to be sent to sales, we need to establish the ownership for who is following up with each lead and with what content.

At Outreach, we categorize our marketing qualified leads into two main workflows: high priority and all other MQLs. High priority workflows require the fastest response time as they are the highest intent behaviors such as a demo or pricing request. Leads sourced from content, webinars, events, etc. flow into a separate workflow that utilizes personalization based on their recent engagements with marketing programs.

High Priority Workflow

Remember: we automatically categorize high-priority requests as MQL. When a lead requests a demo or pricing on our website, an email will automatically be sent on behalf of the assigned sales rep owner within Outreach no more than three minutes from the form fill.

There are options to process this follow up to only one minute, but we purposefully slow down part of the operational workflow to allow for correct sales rep routing and enrichment of the lead. By delaying for a few minutes (two minutes, to be exact) we can ensure the owner routing service completes and use third-party data sources to enrich contact and account data for accurate segmentation. Although we’re losing a few minutes, our prospects are gaining a personalized touch in their inbox.

high-priority lead workflow

Sales reps are notified of this high priority engagement and an email is sent on their behalf. Additional phone and email tasks are automatically added for follow up—all within their day-to-day task workflow in Outreach.

Content, Webinar and Event MQL Workflow

For all other MQLs (from sources like content, webinars, events and co-marketing programs), we continue to automatically add the lead to an Outreach sequence. However, we assign a task for the sales rep to manually activate the 1st follow up email step.

The template within the 1st email step enables the sales rep with two different options to personalize follow up; it’s typically either persona based or content specific to the last marketing campaign engagement. More often than not, the sales rep elects to follow up specific to the last marketing campaign engagement inserting a pre-written snippet created by the marketing team.

MQL snippets are created at the launch of every marketing campaign. They can be added to emails to personalize sequences, and are typically 3-4 sentences long:the name of the content/webinar/event, links to reference, pain points and a main CTA. Sales reps are enabled to easily find these snippets by synchronizing naming conversions through lead source detail fields mapped from marketing automation to CRM to a prominent field in Outreach.

Lead inbound workflow

This workflow relies on all the standard operating procedures we put in behind the scenes. Before a campaign goes live, we build out comprehensive launch processes, covering not just things like promotion and lead capture, but also post-MQL follow-up content and scalable naming conventions. With marketing snippets and follow-up templates in place when leads start rolling in, sales reps can focus their attention on selling and meeting their agreed SLA.

Re-Engaging and Re-Qualifying Leads

Last, the most important part to establishing a closed-loop inbound lead model is to ensure operations are set up to continue touch points on qualified leads, regardless of engagement levels or objections. This meant defining which leads should fall out of the funnel versus which leads should continue to be nurtured (and by whom).

Reminder: the Closed - ReEngage stage is an MQL that has either gone unresponsive to outreach from our sales team or has been dispositioned in a status that should be nurtured and re-qualified over time. These leads still serve as an opportunity for our team to generate pipeline. Reasons could include bad timing for purchase or no allocated budget at the time of prospecting.

Create closed dispositions (such as unresponsive, bad timing, or no budget) that allows your teams to segment either marketing nurture programs or sales sequences to stay top-of-mind with the lead and reach out when they are in a purchasing stage.

graphic showing the path of a marketing lead

Build your own inbound lead workflow

No, this isn’t an easy initiative to take on—and we have certainly made mistakes and learned a lot along the way. Below are our three top tips for creating a seamless and sophisticated marketing funnel.

  1. Always partner and gain buy-in with your sales leadership team to make sure they are aligned with every single stage of your inbound lead funnel. This includes stage qualification, scoring, follow up accountability, and reporting. Even changes throughout the year need to be approved.
  2. Continually audit your workflows and process to make sure there are no gaps or errors in your operations and logic. What seems like a small issue can be catastrophic to your inbound lead handling down funnel.
  3. Start small and be agile to scale your workflows and don’t be afraid if you need to recalibrate your scoring strategy over time. Start small with segmentation and then build to ensure you have the foundational reporting in place to make these expansion decisions.

Stay tuned for the next Outreach on Outreach, where we’ll learn how always-on conversational intelligence is revolutionizing sales onboarding.


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