The Top 5 Common Mistakes With Inbound Lead Routing

What happens after a lead comes inbound?

Just because a lead converts on a piece of website content doesn’t mean he or she is necessarily a hot prospect, ready to buy now. The chances are greater that an inbound lead will close, but pursuing each and every single inbound lead is not always worth the time. How a marketing and sales rep spends their time is crucial to their success. That’s why it’s important to establish a clear and well-thought-out protocol for handling inbound leads.

However, we see many salespeople making mistakes with inbound leads that cost them time and money. As a lead comes in and goes through your sales funnel, mistakes along the way jeopardize your chances of closing. Let’s walk through the five most common and costly mistakes with inbound leads.

1. Not Delegating the Responsibility of Inbound Leads to a Specific Team or Department

In order to build an effective sales development machine, you must implement a process for dealing with inbound leads. If you’re like most companies, you have a dashboard for all untouched inbound leads, and they’re all up for grabs. But if everyone is responsible, then no one is responsible.

Who should own the inbound leads?

Every organization is structured a little differently, so the first line of response could actually be Sales, Marketing, Operations, or even Sales Operations. The bottom line is that there needs to be a clear cut process in place.

In order for a process to work effectively and efficiently, there needs to be a Service Level Agreement (SLA) between all the teams that touch your inbound leads, namely sales, marketing and account management.

Once an SLA is in place and responsibility is delegated, a proper follow-up process can be effectively implemented so that no opportunities are missed.

2. Not Properly Qualifying Inbound Leads

You must establish and clearly articulate criteria for what is considered a qualified inbound leadWe already talked about scoring leads with qualifying criteria in the previous section, but don’t forget this needs to happen with inbound leads too.

Simply put, is this inbound prospect a good match for your product/service or not?

If the answer to these three questions is “no,” then put the lead into a marketing drip campaign; there’s no use following up at this point. However, if the answer is “yes,” then it’s time to pass the lead onto Sales.

If the answer is “maybe”, this could be because you don’t have all the information to confidently make a decision. From here, you can choose to put that lead into a marketing drip campaign and offer additional valuable information to progressively profile the lead until you can qualify him or her. It’s probably worth segmenting these leads with the information that you do have and put them in specific dip campaigns based on your target personas for your best chance of nurturing them into buyers.

Alternatively, you can manually do background research and qualify him or her.

Beyond some of this general demographic information, we can start to assess some of the psychographic and behavioral factors. That’s the beauty of inbound – you have a little more information to add color to the prospect. (More on this in mistake #3).

3. Not Conducting Proper Research Before Reaching Out 

Now that you’ve qualified the inbound lead and passed him or her along to the sales team, it’s important for the sales rep responsible for the follow up to do more research. Another big mistake we see sales reps make is reaching out blind. Sure, you may know what company the person works for, but do you know what that company does?

This is where digging into some of the psychographic and behavioral factors really comes in handy. Here are some questions to ask for uncovering psychographics and behavioral factors:

  • What type of content did this lead develop on?
  • How long has this lead been in your system, and what other content have they viewed?
  • What is their referral source?
  • How are they currently solving their problem? (If you’re using a service like BuiltWith or Datanyze, you can see if they’re using a competitor, thus giving insight to whom you’re selling against.)

Just as with traditional prospecting, it’s very important for a rep to perform proper research on an inbound lead before reaching out.

4. Not Personalizing Follow-Up Communication to Inbound Leads 

If you weren’t able to get in touch with that inbound lead immediately, no problem. Though your chances of connecting may drop, if there’s one thing that we know, it’s this: persistence wins.

There’s a lot of focus on creating and sending effective emails to sourced prospects, but salespeople don’t often take those same principles and apply them to inbound leads. The reason you’re reaching out is a given: they requested some information and you’re following up with them. However, they still want to connect with a human, so you must personalize your messaging. Automation kills rapport — no matter what.

You can even take some of your best-performing email templates, do a little re-tooling, and use them with inbound leads. For example:

Hi {{first name}},

I noticed that you {{action}} {{piece of content}}.

I wanted to reach out because we help companies [one-sentence value proposition]. We’ve already helped {{customers}} achieve i

Do you have 15-20 minutes on {{date}} to explore how we can help {{company}} do the same?

Thanks, {{your name}}

To get more examples of outbound sales emails you can re-tool and tweak for inbound leads, check out the Cold Email Generator.

5. Not Following Up Correctly

Though there’s no golden rule for the number of follow-up attempts or a follow-up tempo you should make with sourced prospects, any smart sales rep knows persistence is important. But most reps don’t think of applying this same mentality to inbound leads as well. Effective follow up strategies can and should be used for managing inbound leads too.

There are 4 critical factors for successful follow up:

Number of touchpoints: We advocate for 7 or more touches for each prospect, even with qualified inbound leads.

Channel Diversity: Go beyond phone and email by adding social to the mix. But don’t overlook some other less conventional ways to get in front of your prospects, like direct mail, fax, conferences and industry tradeshows, door-to-door, etc.

Time between touchpoints: We recommend being a little more persistent early on, then tapering off if the buyer hasn’t responded. We’ve seen great results sending the second touch a day or even 12 hours after the first.

Content of touchpoints: Sending “just checking in” and “just following up” gets really old really fast. Instead, offer value by providing new insights, educating your prospects, sharing relevant news or reemphasizing business value.

Here is an example of a workflow that has been effective for follow up with inbound leads:

  • Day 1: Call and email
  • Day 2: Email and Twitter (favorite a tweet)
  • Day 3: Twitter (Follow and retweet)
  • Day 5: Email and LinkedIn (connection request)
  • Day 7: Email
  • Day 10: Call and email
  • Day 17: Email and Twitter (tweet at or retweet)
  • Day 21: Blog and/or LinkedIn (comment of content)
  • Day 28: Call and email

The bottom line is when you’re following up, you must continue to offer value at each touch.

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