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At What Point is an Orphaned Lead “Fair Game?”

At What Point is an Orphaned Lead “Fair Game?”

September 21, 2022

Every sales manager can relate to having salespeople squabble over “orphaned” leads. With the dramatic increase in touches required before actual engagement, and so many different lead sources thanks to the internet, trade shows, apps and social media, who owns a lead and how long it is protected is an issue

First, sales managers prefer that outside salespeople hunt and develop new relationships rather than work stagnant leads in the CRM. But these salespeople might keep their own spreadsheets and have a preferred way to manage contacts in the “name” or “lead” stage, even if they have entered it into the CRM. The sales manager who sees aged names figures, “If these were going to close, they would have already!” So, they’ll put them on a drip campaign to try to warm them up, or flat-out assign to another rep, stepping on the toes of the original salesperson.

And this is where some arguments occur. A salesperson might insist they are making regular contact with a six-month-old lead they brought in, so demands “hands off” the prospect. At the same time, the sales manager might not see any real activity updates in the CRM. Naturally, he or she will want to take over the lead or assign it to someone else so it doesn’t go completely cold. (And a voicemail or generic blast email does not count as “activity.”)

So, what is fair? At what point is a lead “fair game” for another salesperson, who did not originally bring it in, to pursue?

Best practices for orphaned leads

A clue is given above. Notice the sales manager wanted to reassign a lead which had no meaningful activity in the CRM. Had the salesperson kept up with their data entry, they could have made a strong case for keeping the lead, no matter how old. So, rule number one is: everyone updates the CRM or risks losing their leads. Say it with me, “The CRM is the bible.” If it is not in the CRM – it did not happen.

Next, you need to establish the time when leads are considered “orphaned” based on the last activity date. In some organizations I have consulted, their policies ranged from a couple months to a year—or no orphan policy at all and the leads just sit untouched forever. I’d suggest two months max for a lead to remain actively untouched before reassignment to those with high close ratios in the vertical.

As long as everyone knows the rules upfront, there shouldn’t be much friction around this. It’s not unreasonable to expect meaningful sales activity and forward momentum on every lead every couple months at minimum—even prospects would agree!

If squabbling over leads is a recurring problem, your sales organization might have bigger issues, namely in your marketing and prospecting efforts. If outside sales hunters are flush with new prospects, they’d likely not worry too much about stagnant leads because they are too busy making money with the fresh ones.

I’d consider doing the following:

  1. Establish the mindset of: “We Win and Lose as a Team.” The number one goal is new revenue to the company, always.
  2. Ensure the CRM software is being used for every lead, or find out why not? (Might need a less complicated system)
  3. Assess your salespeople using the Predictive Index to make sure you have the right people.
  4. Invest in sales training for the sales staff. This includes research/prospecting, time and task management, internal and external communication skills. Our previous articles discuss the WCS (Winning Complex Sales) technique.
  5. Review your marketing plan and sales funnel and tweak where necessary. (Do you have a written sales process, which everyone can follow with EVERY lead?)
  6. Establish clear policy and timelines for orphaned leads
  7. Have a good team culture and communication. And a sharp sales manager to work through the weird situations which aren’t black and white. They will happen!