The Lifecycle of a Lead

Five potted plants showing the development of growth

Even with inbound strategies for marketing and sales becoming increasingly popular, a good outbound lead gen campaign is uniquely valuable. There’s simply no substitute for a person-to-person interaction when it comes to converting market-qualified leads (MQLs) to sales qualified leads (SQLs).

As indispensable as it may be, building a great outbound program is neither a simple nor an easy undertaking. It requires a lot of creative thinking, diligence, and time.

VSA manages the entire lifecycle of converting MQLs to SQLs for most of our clients. The conversion of a typical lead usually looks something like this:

Long before an SQL is an SQL, it’s just another row on a calling list — a single point of data amongst thousands. When VSA loads the list into our custom CRM system, the records are pulled up at random. Sooner or later, this record moves to the top of the stack.

The BDR who first pulls up the record dials the listed phone number — and the call goes to a generic voicemail that doesn’t even identify the company. The BDR Googles the company to verify that this is indeed the correct number. Then, they leave a note on this record that the number was dialed, but no one answered the phone.

Thinking that she may have called during the receptionist’s lunch break, the BDR schedules the next callback for later in the day — let’s say, 2:30pm.

At 2:30 the next day, our CRM automatically shuffles the record to the top. A different BDR calls, and — lo and behold — they reach a gatekeeper.

There’s no name on the record, but the BDR knows that he’s generally looking for the person responsible for the company’s budget. While talking to the gatekeeper, the BDR asks for the name of the CFO. The gatekeeper gives a name — Julia Smith, for example — but senses that this is a sales call and refuses to transfer the BDR to Julia’s extension.

The BDR moves on to the next record, but not before editing it to identify Julia Smith as the DM. The next time the record comes up, a third BDR sees Julia’s name and reads previous BDR’s notes, which indicate that they encountered a tough gatekeeper.

Rather than facing this gatekeeper again, she decides to see if she can find a direct extension for Julia on the company’s website. It just so happens that she does.

The BDR dials and, while the phone is still ringing, quickly punches in the extension number. Once again, the call goes to voicemail — but this time, it’s Julia’s.

The BDR leaves a brief message — just enough to mention the company’s name and possibly pique Julia’s interest. After hanging up, she adds Julia’s extension number and email address to the record. She then sends an email to Julia and marks the next callback for early in the following week.

When our team gets this far, their progress sometimes slows down. The next several calls might take us nowhere except to the DM’s voicemail. In these situations, we keep plugging away, hoping that eventually the prospect will answer the phone, reply to one of our emails, or hear one of our messages and call us back.

And sooner or later, most of them do.

A few weeks later, Julia Smith returns our call. A BDR answers the phone and quickly pulls up Julia’s record on our CRM, where they’re able to access all of the notes and information that the team has gathered. The BDR thanks Julia for calling us back and engages her in conversation.

Finally, we’ve reached the last stage in the lifecycle of the lead: the BDR makes a compelling case for how our client’s offering can help solve a challenge that Julia encounters regularly, and she agrees to an appointment. While scheduling the appointment, the BDR makes sure to ask Julia for her cell phone number. After all, we don’t want our client to have to make as many attempts as we did just to get her on the phone!

Occasionally, we get lucky and schedule an appointment with a prospect the first time we call — but more typically, converting an MQL to a SQL involves a process similar to the one described above.

Good things rarely come easy — it takes grit, guile, and gumption to convert a lead!