Is your marketing budget too big? Are your marketing efforts drawing too much interest from qualified prospects? Do you need a way to flush that money down the toilet? I’ve got your answer – don’t invest any resources into your lead intake process.

If you sell to businesses, the overwhelming majority of your target audience will be made up of very busy people. It is, in fact, one of the great challenges of B2B marketing: how do you successfully demand the attention of someone who has so little to give? Well, after you’ve managed to acquire that precious attention, there’s no better way to lose it forever than to botch the phone call or email you receive.

There are lots of ways to do it: you can route your calls through a confusing auto-attendant, or simply to a receptionist who you haven’t bothered to incentivize or even train on how to handle leads. If you don’t have a receptionist or a fancy phone system, you can simply have calls forward to the cell phone of a salesperson or executive who spends 80% of his or her day in meetings. In this day and age, with all of your competitors just a Google search away, you can be certain that these potential clients will just move on to the next company if they encounter any barriers to getting what they need from you.

Alright, that’s enough sarcasm – I think you get the point. If the above paragraph sounds ridiculous, then you’ve probably got it under control and you can stop reading. However, I’m willing to bet that some of this stuff sounds familiar to many of you. I’m not surprised that a lot of companies forget to think about how important their intake process is, but I am continually shocked at how often I run into companies that simply refuse to prioritize fixing it.

Phone Worker

B2B companies must treat their lead intake process as a crucial piece of their infrastructures. Please believe me when I say that a good intake process is truly a sales and marketing asset. Without it, you are (a) throwing away business opportunities that you are paying to receive and (b) making it impossible to evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns, thus making it impossible to calculate ROI.

How you set this up depends on what internal resources you have available to you and how your customers tend to reach out, so there’s no precise blueprint to follow. However, if you make sure your process meets the following five requirements, you’ll be in good shape:

  1. Anyone that responds to inquiries must be trained on how to handle them appropriately (collecting information, setting expectations, setting next steps for sales, etc.)
  2. Someone must be available to receive phone calls at all times during your business hours. This means you’ll probably need more than one person in order to account for lunch breaks, bathroom breaks, vacations, etc.
  3. Someone must be able to respond to online inquiries or emails within 30 minutes, but ideally within 10. While they are often surprised, no prospect is ever upset about you responding too quickly. The prospect may need to set a different time to speak with you, but that’s fine – you’ve already set an appointment.
  4. There must be no barrier between a prospect and a trained responder. It may be completely necessary for your company to have an auto-attendant for phone calls or a general receptionist, but there’s no reason that you cannot put a phone number on your marketing materials that goes straight to your designated recipient of leads.
  5. You must be able to record every inquiry you receive, and you must be able to tie each one to the channel that produced it. This can often be achieved simply by requiring the trained responder to ask the prospect how he or she found you, but it may also be useful to utilize special tracking phone numbers (we use  these guys) and landing pages so you can maintain a database of how often each of your channels is producing conversions. You’ll also want to be able to get feedback from sales as to how qualified each of these leads are – it’s not uncommon for certain channels to produce higher quality results than others, even if they’re all producing traffic of some sort.

Want to crowdsource some opinions on whether or not your intake process is effective? Start a conversation in the comments or on Facebook. I’ll make sure our marketing strategists chime in.

Michael Holley
Simple Machines Marketing