Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5

Why It's Crucial to Categorize Leads for Your Inbound And Outbound Sales Reps

One study indicated that 64 percent of field reps' time is spent outside of their core function. That's not smart.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Do the skills that make someone an effective salesperson translate across all situations? Can someone who's a great listener, gives attention to detail and consistently communicates value be dropped into any scenario and still thrive?


Related: How to Maximize Your Online Sales Leads

The answer is not exactly, because not all sales activities and situations are created equal.

But one strategy for optimizing the performance of your sales team is to create separate processes for handling inbound and outbound leads. This will allow you to use your sales reps in the areas where you need them the most, and create positive ripples throughout the functions of your sales team.

Here's how those "separate processes" can work.

Let your salespeople's best skills drive prospect engagement.

Imagine you're the head coach of a team, and you have a strong, 7-foot-tall center who attacks the rim at close range and intimidates opponents in the paint on defense.

However, you decide your team isn't good enough at long-range shooting, so you force players to adapt their individual styles to suit that objective. Your center, meanwhile, has great basketball knowledge and is a hard worker, so with enough practice you're sure he can become a solid long-range shooter. But now that he spends so much time on the perimeter trying to get open, he is no longer able to make the same impact near the basket.

So, what do you, as coach, do? You're taking the center's best skills out of the equation in this scenario, which is akin to what happens when you ask your outbound sales-development associates to wait for and parse through inbound leads.

A study by SiriusDecisions indicated that 64 percent of field reps' time is spent outside of their core function. And certainly through proper training, they can learn to be adept at these tasks, but you won't be taking full advantage of their specific skill set.

Related: What Are Your Sales Reps Telling Customers? Now You Can Figure It Out.

Takeaway: By freeing your reps to practice their core competencies as often as possible, you'll be putting your team in the best position to consistently communicate value to prospects.

Supercharge your team's workflow processes.

Having no separation between or among different types of leads means that every sales opportunity is part of the same workflow structure. When workflow problems invariably occur in these situations, it's hard to single out one area for improvement, because the various responsibilities and processes aren't clearly defined.

Takeaway: When you have set processes to deal with inbound leads and separate processes for outbound prospecting, you can quickly pinpoint hitches in the system and remove workflow impediments.

Fine-tune your distinct buyer profiles.

More likely than not, your typical inbound and outbound prospects are going to be different buyers. Depending upon the specifics of your organization and market, the differences may be slight, or they could be substantial enough to warrant a markedly different approach to selling to them.

Takeaway: When you categorize your leads into inbound and outbound segments, you give your sales-development reps the opportunity to gather more detailed information about the buyers in their pipeline. They can then use this information to flesh out the buyer personas they will be targeting most often, and then develop corresponding strategies for engagement.

Track more specialized metrics.

Any B2B sales leader should jump at an opportunity to improve the quality of his or her metrics, and distinguishing between inbound and outbound leads gives you this opportunity.

If all of your leads are thrown into a single pile, after all, it becomes much more difficult to track KPIs that illuminate real-world sales results.

Takeaway: Ask yourself: Are inbound leads converting more frequently than outbound prospects? Is there a significant difference in the length of the average sales cycle for one category compared to the other? Are your outbound leads much more likely to report high levels of customer success?

These are questions that can be answered only by creating and tracking more specific metrics.

Develop your sales talent across diverse areas.

If you want to consistently develop exceptional sales talent, you have to create an environment for them that is rich with opportunity. Having specialized roles for inbound and outbound sales reps does exactly that because it allows talented employees to progress to new responsibilities, hone new skills and grow with the company.

A new sales hire might show a great deal of aptitude, but might not be comfortable qualifying his or her own leads and cold-calling yet.

Takeaway: You can start them off responding to inbound inquiries, then move them to an outbound sales development position once they've acquired new skills. Next, you can even transition them to a more specialized, closer role once they've demonstrated their acumen.

Empower your employees to reach their potential.

A lot of attention is paid to quotas. But a study by CSO Insights showed that just over 54 percent of salespeople surveyed said they had met their annual goals.

In that context, just saying to your sales professionals, "Here's a bunch of leads. Go make magic happen, and be sure to hit your quotas," you really aren't doing much to enable their success. By categorizing your leads, however, you can give them specific goals that are tied to their specialized responsibilities, then build distinct processes that will enable them to reach those goals.

Related: The 15 Characteristics of People Who Succeed at Sales

By giving them context and allowing them to attack certain leads with a well-developed game plan, you can position your sales reps to deliver an innovative customer experience across every touchpoint.

Entrepreneur Editors' Picks