Finding high-quality leads is one of the toughest parts of sales. From Glengarry Glen Ross’s plaintive “the leads are weak” to the modern disconnect between sales and marketing about what a lead actually is, anyway, the underlying issue is that higher quality leads are worth much, much more. 

Thing is, you might be looking in all the wrong places for quality leads. You probably already have some of the best leads you’ll ever get, on hand right now. 

Your best leads are hidden in plain sight, in the places where you look but don’t see: in particular, your email list could be concealing great leads who need special nurturing now, not when they’ve ticked every marketing conversion box. 

Marketing owns the email list until they’re prepared to call a lead sales-ready. But some leads are worth so much they should get special attention right from the start. It doesn’t make sense to leave a $10k enterprise level lead to subsist on a thin diet of drip emails and collateral content until they’ve jumped through all the hoops marketing has set out for them.

Don’t let these people be bored to tears before you jump in. Today’s marketing automation and tracking tools offer effective solutions to replace the spray-and-pray approach to lead scoring and nurture. For instance, the Salesforce Pardot B2B solution can handhold your marketing team through these aspects of lead qualification and management

  1. Score leads based on implicit and explicit buying signals.
  2. Build a blended grading model that grades leads based on how well they fit your ideal customer profile.
  3. Alert sales reps when their leads qualify as “ready.”
  4. Nurture cold leads. 

While martech and automation platforms can lay the groundwork for you to deal quickly with a large chunk of your funnel, you need to pay special (read, personal) attention to those leads you simply can’t afford to miss. Here’s how to identify these high-value leads and jump in right away to capitalize on them...

Find great leads in your email list

Look in your email list for subscribers that should be nurtured by sales rather than marketing.

Use comparisons to identify them, comparing the data you have on them with the profiles you have of your best existing customers, and which should be informing your personas anyway.

Obviously valuable-customer status differs from industry to industry; in B2C ecommerce, “valuable” customers are worth about 15X - 18X “average” customers. Your mileage may vary, and be more closely identified with sales cycle length and contract duration than frequency of purchase, for instance. The point remains: Identifying your most lucrative and lasting customers early on lets you concentrate particularly on them and their needs and start nurturing them promptly. Since they’re both more likely to convert and more profitable when they do, this makes sense.

Your data on your best existing customers should include demographic data, content consumption data, industry or sector, and publicly available information on their business, including their average CLV, revenue, location, and more. It should also give you granular information like which company position or role is most useful to you in your selling process.

While you won’t have the data on leads’ order values (yet!), you can compare the rest. Say your funnel looks something like this in its raw, spreadsheet form:

How did Anna Nova get so sidelined? There are a couple of clues. 

We’ve got one awesome customer with a @gmail address. But that’s Bob’s personal email. Anna’s company email is a @gmail address. That’s suggestive of a smaller business that’s not really off the ground yet.

There’s no data on Nova’s CLV because there’s so little data available online about the company. And they’ve never bought a tool like our hypothetical offering in the past. As well as being the CEO, Anna’s probably the only full-timer. That doesn’t mean their product’s no good or we shouldn’t be glad we’re seeing interest from Nova: it means marketing should keep in touch with Anna while Nova scales. She’s not the VIP lead we’re looking for.

Now, Elena on the other hand, is practically a mirror image of Jane from Redshift. She’s got a similar role, and the company’s similar in all the ways that matter to us. All the indications are that Photon could be a high-value customer that achieves profitability quickly and gets a whole lot out of our offering.

Great. How do you find all this stuff out? Get your false glasses out. It’s time to go James Bond.

What sector or industry do they operate in? 

Easy: their website should tell you.

This homepage is pretty clear about what the company does:

A parallel example from the website of a service: The offer is clear. Whether they can follow up on their promise is another matter.

(Source: Snappii)

You get the point. A quick glance at a decent homepage should tell you pretty much all you need to know about the business. 

But rich snippets in Google mean you usually don’t even have to click:

Self-explanatory, if you ask me. 

Location matters

Again, rich snippets and the content of your prospect’s website (and therefore, your automation software) should be able to tell you. But if your marketing tool is a powerful email system, it’ll use IP geolocation to show you where the server is.


(Source: Mailchimp blog) 

Show me the money – uh, revenue

Revenue can be gleaned by just googling some major companies.

And it’s not just revenue that Google knows about:

However, not all businesses are as happy to throw open their books and tell the world their finances. And not every business is big or visible enough for Google to find it. You don’t want to harpoon a minnow, so how can you ascertain the value of a company before you fork them off onto a “high-value” lead nurturing track?

SimilarWeb or SEMrush will give you the traffic figures on their website. Figure on an arbitrary click-through rate of about 2-3% or look their sector up and use the industry average for the channel (e.g. here’s some figures for AdWords) to which you attribute them. You might figure about a third of those will convert (including micro-conversions), and a third of those will eventually become customers.

(Source: Capterra blog

Then do the math. If Photon gets 50k visits a month and converts at 5%, they have 2.5k leads converting to opportunities, and maybe 225 opportunities becoming sales. 

Now we need to know what a sale is worth.

If you can find their pricing on their website, plug that in: but you’ll have to guess which of their 3-4 plans their customers are choosing. A better option might be to google their product type and price. “SaaS” won’t cut it – that’s the sector, you need to be more specific. Google [price] + [product type] and you’ll get the data you need. If all you get is a bunch of folks telling you their pricing, use Search Tools to search for News.

I used “custom apps” as my product category and got a price range of between $100,000 and $500,000:

Crunch the numbers and you get revenue of $2,250,000 and $11,250,000. If that stacks up favorably against your best customers that’s one more tick in favor of making Photon a “VIP” lead that gets priority nurturing.

For those who’ve been there before

One of the best ways to know if a business is interested in your offering is to find out if they’ve used a similar tool. Datanyze will let you check out their history of using tools like yours and show you when their contracts or subscriptions expire.

(Source: Datanyze blog)

This is way more than just knowing if they’re prepared to spend money on similar tools to yours. Because you can catch a high-value lead right when their existing contract is about to expire. If I’m hanging around an email marketing site and my contract with my current email provider is up for renewal, what do you think my motives might be?

Hand-crafted leads? Better not!

The cool thing about all this is that it really works. It’s thorough, effective – and too late. Leads need to be responded to fast. Every second of your time, your sales team’s time, marketing’s time, it’s all precious. This stuff should form part of your lead qualification process. But you can’t put every subscriber through such a time-intensive qualification process.

Besides, you need a way to qualify and nurture leads who haven’t even opted-in to your email list yet. You need some way of triggering a high-value alert and maybe forking these leads into a separate segment.

That’s where Leadfeeder comes in – it’s a Google Analytics-powered lead gen tool that tracks website visitors, records their browsing behavior, identifies the companies they likely work for, and passes all the info to your CRM in the process. With data shared across departments, multiple teams can then establish and stay in contact with likely-VIP leads while you do further qualification without the clock ticking on.

(Source: Leadfeeder

We’re a lot closer to finding the best leads and treating them as VIPs right from the start. Thing is, they’re not the same as other leads. They haven’t been personally marketed to, they’re much higher value and the contacts we qualify (like Elena) hold notoriously busy positions, but probably with the authority to make significant purchases and a big voice in companywide decisions. Emails that go “Hey, {firstname}, have you heard about our AMAZING offer?” are probably not the way to go here. 

So what should you do? 

Did you know? Over a third of sales leads don’t ever get followed up on. Really! Even though response time is a hugely important, make-or-break metric. Contact them as soon as possible. Shoot the initial (brief and personalized) email triggered by data from your integrated marketing solution; simultaneously carry out more sophisticated qualification. Get your nurturing process going.

Reaching out to VIP leads

A ProOpinion survey found that 42% of marketers believe targeting the right people is the “most critical action” that facilitates sales. Therefore, lead qualification and nurturing should be a process, one that treats high-value, likely-to-convert subscribers basically like sales leads from the get-go, with some modifications.

Your email follow-up flow could look something like this: 

1. Contact Immediately, Offer Resource

Send it... right now. The sooner the better. 63% customers choose to do business to the first company to respond (according to data from Lucep).

Reach out to high-value leads as quickly as possible, establish a personal relationship by emailing them from a named, personal business account at your company, and offer them a useful resource. White papers, case studies, or really high-quality ebooks, all that good stuff. This can be a lead magnet that the sign up for, but it doesn’t have to be. Resource quality and fit with their interests is most important. 

2. Touch Later, State Value Proposition

Send it… about a week after email one.

Reach out to the person and ask them what they thought of your resource. Mention that you’re often told by your clients that they have X problem, and how you work with them to solve it. 

You’ll be sending a few less of these because some of your auto-identified contacts won’t be fully qualified, but these should still be curated, templated and polished by hand.

3. Touch Again, Asking for Feedback

Send it... one week after email two.

Most sales pros give up after one to three touches. Most prospects require up to 12 touches, however, so don’t be too surprised that we’re talking about a multi-email flow here. Ask about their pain points, make reference to your previous emails, and encourage them to reply. Anything that gets a dialogue going is good.

4. Offer Another Resource

Send it... one week after email three.

Offer another mid to bottom funnel resource – remember, you’re asking for the focused attention of someone who’s really, really busy, so you need to be offering the kind of solid, condensed value that they want.

5. Tell Your Story

Send it... one week after email four.

Take the opportunity to tell your leads the story behind your company. What inspired your founder? Run through the narrative that brought you to where you are, and take the opportunity to restate your value proposition. Normally, your brand story is top-of-the-funnel material, but you’re approaching an experienced and busy person here, remember? Take it in reverse, and show them when they’re ready. 

For all your VIP lead nurturing emails...

  • Make them as simple as possible
  • Don’t rely on standard marketing email templates. Deliverability is more important, and so is readability. Simple emails that render fast and easy on the biggest variety of devices work best.
  • Include an offer of a demo somewhere in the email text.
  • Solicit responses. Ask questions, request feedback – get them talking.

VIP leads need a specialized nurturing process designed to quickly move them towards your sales team’s area of expertise, so begin treating them as “high-value” the moment your first-touch alert turns green!

Rohan Ayyar fits into dual roles at E2M, a digital marketing agency where he’s involved in web analytics and creative content strategy, and at Moveo Apps, where he steers the UX process with a focus on conversions. Rohan is an avid blogger, with posts featured on Fast Company, Business Insider India and Entrepreneur, amongst others. Follow him on Twitter @searchrook.