Just because a lead isn’t a good fit for a purchase doesn’t mean you should ignore it altogether. In fact, there are many good use cases for unqualified lead followup.
At the same time, your salespeople shouldn’t spend loads of time working with people who know how to buy. It’s a waste of their time and slows down pipeline growth and revenue acquisition.
So how do you manage these valuable-but-unprofitable leads? It’s an operational challenge for sure—but there’s an art to doing it well. Lead on to find out how to master this important marketing skill.
First things first: make sure you’re qualifying properly
Before we get into the best way to handle unqualified leads, let’s discuss your inbound lead qualification flow—because poor qualification leads to poor lead management. Some common lead qualification gaps include:
- Poor ICP definition. Companies don’t first take the time to understand their ideal buyer, which in turn means they don’t know what to qualify for (or against).
- Lack of data. People and the companies they work for are complex. Without adequate data, you risk missing important insights that could help you better qualify and engage with them.
- Misunderstanding sourcing. Just because a lead comes in from your website doesn’t mean it’s their first engagement with your brand. The customer journey isn’t linear, which means your lead sourcing methods can’t be linear either.
- Ignoring outliers. There are going to be prospects who, for whatever reason, may not align perfectly with your ICP but can benefit from your product. Make sure your qualification process is flexible enough to account for them.
Next step: make sure you’re following up on qualified leads
After you’ve closed the loop on your lead qualification systems and processes, you need to then build reliable processes to follow up on those leads. Two reasons why:
- Qualified leads are, naturally, your fastest path to revenue
- Once you build systems to deal with qualified leads, you can apply those same systems to unqualified leads
Some common features and functionality you should have in place include:
- Scheduling. Skip the “back-and-forth” and reduce drop-off by automatically scheduling a discovery call right after they submit the form, when they’re the most engaged.
- Routing. Based on captured and enriched data, send the lead to the rep with the best chance of closing them (e.g. a rep with experience in a particular territory/industry).
- Automated follow-up. It can take as many as eight touches before a lead engages with a rep. Rather than perform all that outreach manually, use automated follow-up to keep your brand top of mind and drive them toward further engagement.
- Data enrichment. You can’t learn much about a lead from data captured on a website form. Automated data enrichment can pull in the information you need from third parties so you can tailor your engagement to their specific needs and interests.
Now that you’ve filled those gaps: what do you do with unqualified leads?
Once you start qualifying leads, scaling follow-up, and accelerating revenue, then you can start realizing the intangible benefits that come from unqualified lead followup. Here are some of the most common use cases and how to deal with them.
1. Non-ICP potential customers
We alluded to this earlier, but it’s worth discussing in more detail: you’ll inevitably engage with leads that don’t fit your ICP but could be a potential customer. Here’s why:
- You don’t know everything—there are market segments you probably didn’t even consider when you built your ICP and GTM strategy
- You’re starting out with a highly targeted GTM strategy, which means your ICPs are, by definition, focused and limited
- You may, in extreme cases, have missed the mark on your ICP entirely
Engaging with potential customers that aren’t your ICP not only impacts your short-term revenue. If you learn why they’re engaging with you despite not being “ideal,” you could learn key insights about the market that prompt you to either tweak or pivot your strategy.
2. Non-buyer leads
Often leads aren’t unqualified, but pre-qualified. By that we mean that they may become qualified over time. In B2B especially, there are any number of events that could push a lead over the edge.
For individual contacts within companies, these include:
- Promotion (e.g. from influencer to decision maker)
- Department change
- Job change—the contact moves from a bad fit company to a good fit
And at the company level, there are any number of
- New funding round
- Exponential growth
- New leadership & internal stakeholders
- Change in strategy or direction
If a lead has the potential to become qualified in the future (and honestly, virtually every lead has at least some potential), you should keep in touch. And even if these leads never materialize into business, they may serve as a channel for referrals or partnerships.
3. Market experts
There are also contacts who aren’t a good fit but very plugged into the market. They can provide valuable feedback on your products, marketing and sales strategy, and even your business as a whole.
Some examples of this include:
- Consultants who won’t buy but could be a good referral partner or advisor
- Founders and investors who can serve as informal (or formal) advisors—maybe even investors
- Industry experts who won’t buy but can be a good relationship and offer valuable market feedback
- Social media influencers (particularly on LinkedIn) who could help promote your brand via partnership
4. Non-competitive peers
Professionals always work best when they aren’t going it alone. You’re going to inevitably come across peers who will take an interest in your website or product. Even if they don’t buy, these are good relationships to have (especially if they’re not competitive).
Often, peer relationships can lead to:
- Referral business
- GTM strategy and tactic ideas
- Recommendations to mentors, advisors, and investors
- Connections within professional networks & associations
Even though these people won’t end up being direct customers, it’s always a good idea to chat.
Final thoughts on unqualified lead followup
Many of the best insights you’ll get from the market won’t come directly from engagement with customers and qualified leads. By mastering the art of unqualified lead followup, you can gather many insights and connections that lead to intangible benefits down the line.
The only way you can do this, is if you have automated systems in place to follow up with leads—both qualified and unqualified. That way, you don’t have to choose which to prioritize: you can have your cake and eat it too.