bryan-shaw-quote-large-1In almost any organization, Sales and Marketing have the same arguments. Sales wants more leads -- they have quotas to hit, after all. Marketing believes they're sending Sales plenty -- they just want Sales to actually work the leads they're sending.

Every company handles this struggle differently. Most establish a service-level agreement (SLA) where Marketing agrees to deliver X number of leads and Sales agrees to work Y percent of them. Some just let the problem fester, hoping it'll work itself out. Others completely overhaul their organizational process to make Sales and Marketing work together like a well-oiled machine. 

One Fortune 500 company has done the latter. After years of the established SLA that seemed to be working okay, Dell introduced a brand new step into the lead rotation process that helped increase pipeline revenue by 10X. To get an inside scoop on how they've solved a Sales and Marketing dilemma and made customers happier with the Lead Concierge Program, I spoke with Bryan Shaw, Marketing Operations Manager at Dell. Here's what we learned.

Q: Tell us about the Lead Concierge Program. What is it and how does it work? 

BS: In the Sirius Decisions funnel, you look at the top-of-the-funnel stuff, then marketing qualified leads sent over to Sales, then the next step is a "sales accepted lead." But just because Sales has accepted a lead, doesn't really mean that they've worked that lead.

There's a lot of research to support that it takes multiple attempts to contact a lead. Think about yourself -- when you receive a phone call from a sales rep, you probably hang up your phone immediately. So how do you make sure Sales is actually contacting a lead?

What I'm trying to focus on at Dell is bringing in full-blown lead qualification called the Lead Concierge Program. Every single online inbound lead -- regardless of whether it's a lead-gen form or customer support -- will get some love from a person on my team. Anytime someone fills out a form on our website, someone on my team responds personally and immediately to that person and says, "I'm here, I'm talking to you. I received your request. You can talk to me about anything you want as I further qualify you."

So let's say the customer has filled out a form that says they want to buy 10 laptops. About an hour after they've filled out that form, someone on my team will respond and say, "Hey, I saw you filled out a form. I'm forwarding you on to a sales rep -- here's their name. While you're waiting for Sales to contact you, keep talking to me about what you're look for from us." We're getting more information to qualify that lead and continue the conversation so we're handing off warm, legitimate conversations for Sales to follow up on. 

Q: How did you end up with this approach? These must be automated emails ... right?

BS: We went for the all-or-nothing approach. The first approach was everyone who filled out a form on Dell.com gets these automated emails and then automatically go to Sales. A couple things happened when we went the automated way. A lot of junk got through since about a third of our online leads are irrelevant or invalid emails. They're often tech support or consumers, not commercial-type leads. When those leads would go directly to Sales, Sales would say "These are junk." They wouldn't follow up.

In the second approach, we decided to not automatically rotate the leads and cleanse the lists before sending them to sales reps. But then it'd a take a couple of days before a sales rep would even see these leads -- the leads had decayed. 

Now, we've found a happy medium. We automate all of those leads in rotation, but we don't send them straight to Sales -- we send them to the Concierge first. The Lead Concierge Program brings manual touches to automation before being routed to Sales. 

Q: How's the process working for you so far?

BS: The concierge program was implemented in 2011, and our pipeline was very very low for online leads. By implementing the Lead Concierge Program, we saw immediate, ridiculous improvements. We're talking pipeline revenue in one quarter was ~$3 million, the next ~$20 million. Since then, we've been expanding the program globally. For example, we've expanded to Latin America and seen instant success. We've seen that region's pipeline revenue increase by over 100% for online inbound leads. I know correlations don't always mean causation ... but damn. The ROI was obviously very big here if your pipeline is increasing by 10X. This little bit of investment had a huge increase to the business. 

The Lead Concierge Program is beautiful, but it still needs improvement. It's been a progression over years for online, global leads, and I'm going to be pushing more to do this for offline, event leads. We're trying to accomplish a holistic customer experience from end to end. The program itself is easy -- obviously the people we're talking to are interested in talking with us, and we're interested in talking to them, and delivering the conversation to Sales. 

But there are other things we can look at before sending the lead off to Sales. Let's track their web presence. Let's look at which events they've attended, which emails they've received. Do they raise their hand or not to hear from us? All those types of things that promote a holistic view of the customer. We want to deliver that information to Sales and say here's the conversation you should have instead of saying here's a bunch of names, call 'em, and here's some stuff we think they may be interested in. 

The goal at the end of the process really should be that the customer and the sales rep are equally excited to talk to each other. If the sales rep isn't willing to make six phone calls, they're not as excited to talk to that person as a customer. Throwing in the Lead Concierge program drives a positive customer experience and supports a better bottom line.

What do you think of Dell's lead rotation process? Would it work at your organization? 

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Originally published Apr 1, 2014 11:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017

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Passing Leads to Sales