It’s often said that timing is everything, and that’s demonstrably true when it comes to sales. In fact, in 2016, Harvard Business Review published a study from a sales technology company that found if a sales team waited longer than 5 minutes to follow up with a person who had completed a webform, their ability to connect with the prospect decreased by a factor of 10. The study also found that only a tiny fraction – 4.7% – of companies were able to respond in that 5-minute window.

We did our own follow-up study in 2017, focusing on B2B
companies, and found that they weren’t doing much better. Only 7% of the 433 companies we tested were able to respond to leads in 5 minutes or less.

The problem is that buyers get distracted. If you don’t engage them in the moment, they move on to the next thing.

Despite this reality, which is driven by massive changes to buying behaviors and preferences, most marketers still approach filling the sales pipeline the old way – with MQLs (marketing qualified leads). After decades of using this metric to justify its business value, marketing isn’t eager to give up this familiar approach.

But even the most revered models have to retire someday.

Over the last few years, it has become clear that – with the explosion of digital consumer behavior in the B2B space – not all traffic sources or leads are created equal. Therefore, not all MQLs are created equal.

Sources range from people who visit your website to attendees at a sponsored conference to people who downloaded one of your white papers from a third-party website. Unfortunately, the MQL approach doesn’t account for the fact that website visitors are expressing a much greater interest than prospects from other sources.

Even if they don’t convert via a webform, website visitors are almost always higher-value prospects. After all, these people made it all the way to your virtual front door, and now they are knocking to come in.

This realization forces us to reconsider the traditional MQL-driven model of measuring marketing performance. In today’s market, no buyer or salesperson is really interested in MQLs.

Your buyers certainly don’t want to become MQLs. Buyers want solutions to their business problems and answers to their questions. They know that filling out a web form will only get them drowned in marketing emails and annoying follow-up calls from inexperienced SDRs. Not fun, and definitely not worth whatever is behind that form.

Your salespeople don’t really want MQLs either. They may work with them because that’s the status quo, but they’d much rather be having real conversations with real people at the accounts they’re trying to land.

So, if no one’s really interested in MQLs, what should you be focusing on instead? Conversations.

The “conversation-ready” lead is the new standard for effective lead generation.

Savvy marketers are leading the charge as the industry shifts away from the traditional MQL-centric model to newer models that are more effective in today’s markets. These new strategies focus on generating conversations instead of clicks. They provide new ways to connect with members of a target account’s buying team in a more influential and “human” way.

We are well into a game-changing transition from the world of the MQL to a world in which conversation-ready leads are the primary marketing currency. The game is no longer just about numbers. Today’s marketing landscape is about engaging customers in a more authentic ways that build trust and – ultimately – stronger relationships.

In this report, we explore what it means when conversations become the primary metric for leading demand generation teams. In our experience, it changes everything.

Your buyers don't want to be treated like MQLs.

Treat your buyers like people. Here's how conversations are transforming the marketing funnel as we know it (and what you can do about it).

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