When should you convert a lead?

Were you aware you stumbled into one of Salesforce’s most controversial topics when you clicked on the link to this blog? The age-old question of ‘When should I convert a Lead into an Opportunity?’ is controversial because there are a lot of variables that determine this answer. So I’ll start by giving you the same answer I give to all my clients…“It depends!”

Okay, okay – we can do a little better than that. My answer is that a Lead should be converted when you want a relationship with them OR there is a potential for a sale. This answer isn’t a whole lot better but there is no definitive answer because it takes effort to define a process that your entire company agrees to. I hope my answer helps put you in the right mindset so we can work out an answer for YOUR company. There isn’t a quick fix and it is a critical process to work through. I wouldn’t say there isn’t an answer to the question, it is just that your answer may not work for another business.

My goal in this blog is to give you an outline and a place to start so that you can come up with an answer to “When is the right time to convert a Lead at my company?”

What is a Lead?

Let us start with the basics of what a Lead is. Why not refer to Salesforce’s own definition:

Leads are people who are interested in your product and service. Converting leads to loyal customers will provide success within a business. By managing your leads in a systematic and structured way, you can increase both the numbers of leads you generate and how many leads you convert.

This is a great starting point and I love that they call out “…by managing your leads in a systematic and structured way…“ in their definition because I’m hoping if you get nothing else from this blog, that you understand that lead conversions take a process to answer.

I would like to also add that I think of the Lead object as a siloed section of Salesforce that holds our unqualified people and dirty data. Leads are a gatekeeper of what can be very messy data. People fill out forms, attend events, and a variety of other ways where they end up in your database, but we don’t have a lot of control over how this information comes in. When we make the decision to convert a Lead, we need to ensure someone is confirming all the data is accurate (most importantly they are looking to merge with existing Accounts, Contacts, and Opportunities).

Map out your business process

Yep – it is time to bust out our flowcharts, whiteboards, sticky notes, etc.. whatever it takes to visually map out your customer’s journey. Bring in the marketing, operations, sales team, and any other relevant stakeholders to work through this exercise. We are going to create a flow chart!

Our goal: Identify in the process when is a good point to convert the Lead. Define a process and stick to it. All leadership needs a clear and agreed-upon definition of when to convert a Lead.

Marketing will need to define their Lead Statuses as they work the Lead. Lead Status is a picklist field, if you are new to Salesforce or don’t have a process yet, start with the out-of-the-box (OOTB) fields Salesforce gives you and work from there. Include an unqualified status as Leads will need to be disqualified. Another field that is very important is the Lead Source field. This information, on conversion, will carry to the Opportunity so you can later run reports on what channels work best.

Determine your Lead conversion point

The Lead conversion process is mapped out, the information you want to collect on the Lead is defined, and now we get to determine when, in that process, we will convert the Lead.

Keep in mind we want them to be READY to talk to a salesperson. You wouldn’t ask a significant other to move in after the first date, so don’t convert a Lead after they read one of your articles online. I’m going to put the decision point into the two buckets I often recommend when working with a client (1) When criteria is met and/or (2) Based on Lead scoring.

Lead conversion based on criteria

Convert a Lead based on a set of criteria being met. Are they in the right industry? Have they agreed to see a demo? What region/location are they in? Sometimes a series of specific criteria is enough to decide if we should convert or mark as unqualified. When you read other articles on this topic you are inevitably going to run into the concept of BANT framework – and I don’t see any reason to reinvent the wheel as it is a great starting point.

There are better sources than myself on BANT framework, and I encourage you to explore those if you need to dive deeper. I’ll provide the outline with a few thoughts on how it applies to us.

(B)udget based on their budget, what services does your company provide that fits? Their budget determines which product/service they are likely to purchase or even if it is possible for them to make a purchase.
(A)uthority – determine if the person you are talking to has the authority to make a purchasing decision. This does not mean immediately unqualifying them if they don’t, but learning more about them and how to bring in the team that does. We don’t want to give a demo to the same company five times to five different people before we finally find the right person.
(N)eed – understand what the Lead wants and what your company can provide to match that need.
(T)timing – Timeline can influence their buying process as it can tell us when they are ultimately trying to make a decision. Sales can work backward from the end goal to determine what steps need to happen and when.

All the information relevant to criteria-based lead conversion should be put into Salesforce and part of the lead conversion process. If you learn that someone has the authority to make a decision but it isn’t documented anywhere it doesn’t help us!

BANT framework has its limitations so it is important to note that it is not just a series of yes or no questions to answer or the end all be all. The best way to apply it is that it should be considered as a set of building blocks to start the conversation.

Lead conversion based on Lead Scoring

Lead scoring is a common technique to qualify Leads based on a Leads activity and data quality.

Lead activities are things like did they attend your trade show, did they download a whitepaper, attend a webinar, etc… Each time one of your Leads does one of these activities they can be assigned a certain amount of ‘points’. When they reach a threshold it is time to convert the Lead. Pardot and other marketing automation tools are commonly used for this but a series of custom fields and formulas can also work.

For example, you may set your threshold at 100 points. 20 points for every webinar they attend and after five you determine they are ready to convert. Or 100 points if someone hands you a business card and says “please call me”. You will need to determine different ways Marketing acquires Leads and how many points to assign each activity as part of your lead conversion process.

Data quality is scoring based on the information on a Lead. Is there a certain industry or company size you sell really well to? Assign them more points if they fit specific criteria that make them more likely to lead to a sale.

Determine KPIs and re-evaluate your process

Whenever defining a process make sure to include KPIs and re-evaluate what you’ve done. Run reports off of Lead Source and other key data points to determine if you need to adjust your scoring or decision point. If feedback from Sales is they are receiving too many converted Leads that aren’t yet ready, think about how we can do it better. You should plan to re-evaluate how you have done and make necessary changes. When you re-evaluate make sure you go back to your process map so everyone is onboard and clear about the changes.

I hope this blog provided an outline to get you going in the right direction. If this process still sounds intimidating we are here to help! If you want to learn more about how the Salesforce lead conversion works, be sure to check out our Salesforce videos, for a brief tutorial to learn how.

Brian Colbo

Brian Colbo

Small Business Consultant

Brian is one of our Senior Salesforce Business Consultants, who continuously strive for customer success and the highest level of satisfaction. He has a sophisticated background in supply chain management, sales, and marketing which makes him one of our finest Salesforce business consultants.

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