Once your cadence of monthly inbound leads begins to grow, you’ll start to explore automation technologies to help you manage the increased volume. After all, the process of converting inbound leads to booked calls and demos can be a hard slog – especially for your SDRs.
It’s a great position to be in, but when finding ways to improve efficiency through automation it’s important not to compromise your existing processes and qualification criteria. For example, automating a once manual process may allow you to collect and process more leads at the MQL stage, but will they convert and progress though the sales cycle at the same rate? Or will you end up stuffing the sales team’s calendar with poorly qualified opportunities?
One example is the use of appointment scheduling tools – such as Calendly, Hubspot Meetings, and Appointlet. Such apps allow you to embed a scheduling link in an email or webpage available to your leads after they complete a form fill – perhaps to arrange a demo. Leads can then automatically arrange a time that suits them for a call or video conference with your sales team.
Working with a client in 2020, let me share some personal experience when implementing such tools within the inbound demand generation process.
Case Study | B2B Enterprise SaaS
- The business was capturing approximately 100 MQLs per month via a “demo request” form on its website.
- Inbound leads (MQLs) were subject to some basic qualification by one of two SDRs (use case, budgets etc). If the prospect passed qualification, the SDR would then schedule the demo directly into the sales rep’s calendar.
- Approximately 50% conversion of MQLs to a booked demo. The remaining 50% were either qualified-out, or didn’t respond to the SDR’s emails and calls.
- The business knew that leads had a higher chance of closing if the delay between a lead being captured, and the demo being completed by the sales rep was kept within 72 hours (3 days).
- The current process averaged 5 days.
- By adding an appointment scheduling link to the confirmation page displayed after requesting a demo, leads would be able to schedule a demo directly in the sales rep’s calendar, at a time that suited them – including a same-day demo. This would create less friction in the process, and expedite the time between the lead being captured and the demo occurring, ultimately increasing MQL>SAL conversion rates.
- When prospects requested a demo through the website, the confirmation page was updated to include the appointment scheduling link.
- The SDR would have visibility into whether calendar autobookings were made in sales reps’ calendars, and still try to connect and perform some basic qualification in advance. However, it was acknowledged that in some instances this qualification would simply not be possible (for example, where a same day demo was scheduled and time zones, or out of hours cover, meant there was limited SDR availability).
- If no calendar autobooking was made, the SDR would continue the standard process of manually connecting, qualifying, and booking on behalf of the lead.
The majority of booked demos originated from the appointment scheduling feature (55%), suggesting prospects appreciated the simplicity and convenience of the system.
However, attendance on the demo was below average. Where the SDR had spoken to the lead and manually booked a time, attendance was over 80%. For autobooked demos via the appointment scheduling tool attendance dropped to 57%, (even where SDR qualification had taken place).
The quality of leads passed to sales also declined. Where the demo had been manually booked by the SDR, over 80% of demos progressed to SQL (i.e. the sales team agreed on the use case and created an opportunity). This compared to 64% for demos booked via the calendar autobooking function.
This impacted the progression and closing of deals. Opportunities that originated from the manual SDR process were twice as likely to close successfully, compared to those that came via the appointment scheduling tool (even where SDR qualification had taken place).
Calendar autobooking proved itself to be an effective mechanism to engage leads. Its implementation on the demo request confirmation page (which appears immediately after a form fill) tapped into the perception of immediacy and allowed the lead to schedule the demo appointment with a perceived improvement in the user experience.
An increase in MQL conversion to a booked and calendarized demo came at the expense of lead quality. Historically, ~50% of MQLs were rejected by the SDR due to poor use case or budget fit. However, while some autobooked demos were still engaged by the SDR for qualification, just under half of all calendar autobookings progressed to speaking with a sales rep without any prior qualification. This resulted in leads that would have otherwise been rejected making their way to the sales team.
Opportunities that came via the appointment scheduling tool had a 40% less chance of advancing to the later stages of the sales cycle. This resulted in less time being available for sales reps to progress genuine high-value opportunities.
In this scenario, the business had a strong requirement for qualification prior to a sales rep engaging the lead. Unfortunately, the use of appointment scheduling was poorly implemented due to an existing SDR process that was unable to guarantee all autobooked demos could be qualified prior to the demo date.
Opportunities that came via the appointment scheduling tool had a 40% less chance of advancing through the sales cycle.
The team later decided to iterate on the implementation in the following ways, yielding improved numbers and conversion rates:
Iteration One: While beneficial to shorten the time it takes to get a sales rep in front of a lead, the appointment scheduling tool was configured not to allow same-day bookings. This ensured adequate time for the SDR to connect and run the qualification process in advance. A mild improvement was seen, with a higher percentage of autobookings being qualified.
Iteration Two: The appointment scheduling tool was adjusted to book time into the SDR’s calendar (rather than the sales rep’s). It was acknowledged that this may not yield the target 72 hours metric, but this would be offset by a guarantee that 100% of leads passed to the sales rep would have been qualified by the SDR.
Iteration Two is still live, running successfully (with an average 4 day delta between the lead being captured and the demo happening). It is now the default process.
The key takeaway from this case study is that in some scenarios, manual processes and resourcing must be adjusted to meet the requirements of the new automation technology. In this instance, the drive for speed could not be matched by the working hours of the SDR team, meaning a large percentage of leads went unqualified before reaching sales.
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