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During the first couple of decades of the 20th century, Henry Ford revolutionized manufacturing through the use of the assembly line. He created a disciplined, ordered process for building cars & trucks that was significantly more efficient than the disorderly approach others were using. On the assembly line, parts are added to the automobiles in a sequential & logistically planned sequence. Utilizing this approach, Ford developed efficiencies and uniformity of output resulting not only in cost savings, but also predictability. He found that his approach facilitated faster, more efficient increases in the number of vehicles he could produced. Similar principles can be of significant benefit when applied to the lead generation process for your sales team.

The lack of a defined process allows marketing generated leads to go undeveloped and sales opportunities missed. While the process for building sales leads is not as rigid as building an automobile, the discipline of defining and executing a lead generation process has the potential to produce significant ROI for your organization. Just as companies built products before Ford’s assembly line, you can continue to fill your sales pipeline without a defined disciplined lead generation process. The downside is that your organization’s growth rate and return on investment are likely to be significantly lower than if you invest the time & resources to develop your own “lead assembly line” or nurture process.

For example, “leads” generated through trade show participation generally require further qualification before passing to the sales force. Too often, after a trade show, the already busy sales team is tasked with qualifying and following up on the high volume of “leads” produced from the event. This equates to stopping work on another segment of their lead assembly line to cast more parts for the build process.. While the sales force may be well intended and start to work through the inadequately qualified leads, they lack the time and resolve to make the extra calls. As a result, the leads go stale and do not become active in any portion of the sales pipeline– or worse they are loaded into the sales force automation tool and just sit there. As this process repeats with subsequent shows & events, the sales team learns that too often the leads passed to them from these events are unlikely to produce opportunities and therefore are a waste of their time. A similar case can be made for leads generated online, from direct mail, or from webinars.

The answer is to build a lead generation process that clearly defines how all generated leads move through the marketing portion of the pipeline before they are passed to the sales team. This begins with a clear consensus definition developed by Marketing and Sales of what is a qualified lead that is ready to be passed to Sales. Marketing then defines and builds the execution steps that move the “raw” leads through the qualification process. As the leads move through this lead generation process, they are monitored until they reach the level of qualification that was defined as “sales-ready”. Marketing then measures and tracks the lead generation process to insure effectiveness and efficiency. Continual feedback from Sales on the readiness of the sales ready leads is used to adjust the lead generation process for maximum efficiency.

The result is an effective lead generation process that produces qualified leads that the sales team can convert. Just as Henry Ford, you will have built a process that is highly efficient and sustainable with increasing return on investment.