When should opportunities and leads go back into the nurture pool and get a new owner?
How long do you think someone can hold on to seats they “hold” or reserve for others in the movie theater or at a concert or game? When does the right to hold seats expire? When does the game start? After 30 minutes? Most people have a good intuition as to when a friendly, productive “hold” to help a family sit together turns into inappropriate squatting on seat real estate. How does this translate to “squatting” opportunities in the sales pipeline?
Most sales pipelines have at least some opportunities that were created longer than 3 months ago and are still supposedly being managed by a sales executive. If they are actively working these opportunities, this is, of course, fine. What happens if, for some reason, these opportunities are in a holding pattern for the wrong reason?
- There is no good marketing nurture program, so as an alternative, the Sales team keeps the opportunity alive, so they don’t lose visibility.
- Sales hold on to the opportunity because they don’t really know if it’s qualified and hope to get that answer magically over time
- Sales sit on the lead since if this customer buys, it could become a great deal, even though it’s not really concrete today.
As a rule of thumb, I don’t believe opportunities should get older than six months. After that, it’s a good practice to go back to the qualification part of your funnel and evaluate your opportunity review criteria. For example, if you use BANT:
- Budget - Is it clear that the economics of providing a solution for the customer needs will allow them to make the investment that matches the price point of our solution?
- Authority - Are we still speaking to the right person? Especially when an opportunity grows older, it’s important to be realistic about the power that your contact within the project organization has.
- Needs - Do we understand the prospect’s use case well enough? Has it changed? Is the “pain” big enough for them to move? What’s the prospects’ challenge, and is our solution really compelling enough? If so, why don’t they move faster? Have their needs changed since the original qualification?
- Time - Based on the age of the opportunity, the timeline must have changed. Building on the “pain” and “challenges” of the prospect, is it clear what they stand to gain from proceeding? What are they missing out on as we speak? How can you get a good grasp on the actual decision timeline, and is it concrete enough to keep managing the opportunity by one of your sales executives?
I don’t like it when the sales team is “sitting” on opportunities that are not moving. Marketing needs to take accountability and start nurturing them as leads, and when they again become “marketing qualified” (MQL) because they fill out a demo request form, or perform a certain amount of online actions, they can go to the SDR team again for qualification. There is something to be said for giving the lead back to the original sales exec that owned it before after it is qualified again. This is not always the best, though. While there might be a relationship, this did not necessarily lead to a win before, so either based on that or capacity in the sales team, it might be good to assign it to a new sales executive the second time it becomes an opportunity.