Viewing the Landscape

What is inside sales? It’s sometimes defined as “remote selling,” “virtual sales,” and even “sales in the cloud.” For the purpose of this White Paper, inside sales is the sale of a product or service by individuals or groups who reach prospects by phone or online, rather than traveling to meet them face-to-face.

Queue-based Lead Management

Over the past decade, the use and need for inside sales teams has exploded. In 2011, inside sales became a larger industry and is currently growing 300% faster than outside sales (Source: InsightSquared.com). Furthermore, the inside sales industry is starting to expect a unique set of skills and attributes previously not required from its outside sales counterpart. Not only does this new breed of salesperson need the adaptive, persuasive skills and techniques once displayed by the best outside salespeople, they must also have phone, email, and internet competencies, including social media awareness, and other tech savvy capabilities. As inside sales evolves, it’s important that inside sales managers are equipped with the appropriate tools to arm this group of technology driven salespeople to maximize their potential.

Queue-based Lead Management

Fundamentally, the most important determining factors for sales success are the processes and systems in which leads are managed and worked. A sales organization’s largest ongoing expenses are often marketing and lead generation which are challenging to manage on their own. Yet the statistics show a large portion of leads fall to the wayside because of inadequate lead management systems, poor organizational skills and varied levels of diligence among salespeople. Proper lead management is key, and systems custom-designed for the unique challenges of the inside sales industry are imperative.

A Tale of Two Methods

List-based Lead Management Platforms

At the most rudimentary level, these platforms are digital pieces of paper. The vast majority of lead management platforms on the market today are list-based platforms. When CRM and Lead Management tools started to boom in the early 1990s, they were software adaptations of their predecessor, the piece of paper, which grew into massive repositories for data and information. Since then, they have been dressed up with new gadgets and features to help make the user experience more efficient. However, at their core, they are still lists that require the user to filter through, evaluate and interact with it to find and call leads. Once that call is finished, the salesperson is back to a list and repeating the process. The list-based system relies very heavily on the individual salesperson’s decision making capability and initiative to propel activity forward.

Queue-based Lead Management Platforms

The alternative to the list-based platform is the queue-based lead management platform. At the heart of this type of platform is a virtual or simulated intuition that helps drive decision making for the user. It involves the implementation of a customizable workflow that self-manages your sales team’s priorities, focus, and effort. Queue-based selling is all about presenting the salesperson with the next-best-lead automatically. When a sales call is finished and a call result is entered, the next lead is presented immediately as opposed to taking the salesperson back to a list. Queue-based lead management platforms are designed to allow management to establish a standard workflow that will be followed by all salespeople to increase productivity and quality of contact.

The 4 Keys to Successful Lead Management

In this White Paper we will consider 4 key elements that are crucial when developing a lead management strategy.

  1. Productivity
  2. List Penetration
  3. Management Control
  4. Speed to Lead

Mastery over these elements gives an organization:

  • Increased ROI with fewer resources.
  • Greater clarity over marketing and lead generation decisions.
  • Increases visibility of sales talent and engagement.
  • Less time managing processes and more time managing growth.

We will compare how both types of lead management platforms impact each of these key elements.

1. Increased Productivity

It is important to understand the distinction between increased productivity and increased call volume. While productivity can include an increase in call volume, an increase in call volume does not necessarily mean an increase in productivity. Plenty of inside sales teams are required to hit a daily call quota, but dialing is not necessarily productivity. The question is whether they are calling the right people at the right time. That is not to say that dial volume is not important, but activity for the sake of activity can be unproductive and distracting. Current data suggests the typical salesperson spends too much time hunting, pecking and evaluating who to call next.

  • 45% of companies report that their salespeople need help figuring out which accounts to prioritize.
    (Source: Lattice Engines/CSO Insights)
  • The average salesperson makes 8 dials per hour.
    (Source: Ovation Sales Group)
  • 80% of the average salesperson’s day is spent on non-revenue generating activities, including not knowing where to find good prospects or recognizing them once they find them.
    (Source: TeleSmart.com)

List-based Platform

The traditional manner in which this method is worked is referred to as hunting and pecking. You have your list of prospects, contacted leads, appointments, etc. The salesperson hunts through this list, reading notes, making determinations on whether a lead should be called, and if they want to call it. An incredible amount of time can be wasted manually sifting through these lists and salespeople often apply unfounded biases to their lead selection. It does not matter how many bells and whistles the software has, it is still up to the salesperson to find the lead, click on the lead, evaluate the lead, decide to call the lead, and then to finally call it.

Queue-based Lead Management

Queue-based Platform

The salesperson no longer has to hunt and peck, manually filtering through a list of leads. Based on pre-set company priorities and pre-determined dispositions, leads will automatically be queued and presented to the salesperson. Once the lead has been called, the call is dispositioned and based on how that lead is dispositioned (left message, appointment set, etc…), the lead will go back into the queue and will be presented back to the salesperson at the predetermined schedule or interval. No hunting, no pecking, no cherry picking. The salesperson cannot do anything other than work the lead that is presented, and the lead that is presented to the salesperson is the lead that should be called based on priority and value; it is the lead that is “closest to the money” as determined by management.

Compared to the standard average of 8 dials per hour, the average call count for a queue-based lead management platform is 32 calls per hour or a 400% increase (Source: VanillaSoft Customer Survey). More calls are made per hour because there is no confusion on what lead should be contacted next. There is no down-time between calls with salespeople searching through lists cherry picking. It is call after call of the Next-Best-Lead.

2. Deeper List Penetration

Inbound lead generation is one of the greatest expenses for an inside sales organization. Following up on these leads is one of the most difficult tasks for an organization to do well. Consider these statistics:

  • 68% of companies report struggling with lead generation.
    (Source: Lattice Engines/CSO Insights)
  • In 2007 it took an average of 3.68 cold call attempts to reach a prospect. Today it takes 8 attempts.
    (Source: TeleNet and Ovation Sales Group)
  • 80% of sales require 5 follow-up calls after the meeting. 44% of salespeople give up after 1 follow-up.
    (Source: The Marketing Donut)

The average cost to generate a lead is going up, yet the average new lead is getting only 2 contact attempts, and only one follow-up after a meeting. List penetration means ensuring that every lead from every campaign and every source is worked thoroughly and consistently so that marketing campaign performance and lead quality data can be evaluated accurately and the best possible ROI can be reached with the current expenditure of resources.

List-based Platforms

When a list is presented, giving the opportunity to evaluate each lead prior to calling, can actually give salespeople the time to find the perfect reason to NOT make the call. If the salesperson does not make enough calls, overlooks leads, decides to skip leads or just neglects the list altogether, this can create inconsistencies in reporting as well as countless dollars wasted generating the neglected leads. Managers report a significant number of unworked leads in their CRM. The truth is that it’s not entirely the fault of the salesperson. There is no mechanism other than effort and personal organizational skills to ensure that every lead is followed up on. The system does not really help the salesperson do their job more effectively.

Queue-based Lead Management

Queue-based Platforms

Leads are automatically kept in constant circulation, which means no leads are neglected or forgotten. Lead management rules are defined by management and applied automatically based on call results. This ensures that all salespeople are following the best logic. As a result, inside sales teams using a queue-based lead management platform see an average of 7 follow up calls on leads before closing them out (Source: VanillaSoft customer survey). This is because there is less room for individual performance differences or errors, and less reliance on salespeople’s organizational skills and more on their sales skills when speaking to people. In addition, the fact that they are able to make more calls and all leads are worked evenly and without discrimination naturally leads to better list penetration.

Companies make marketing and lead generation decisions based on lead performance, and queue- based selling ensures decisions are being made on the most accurate data possible. Decision makers need to know that the performance data is not skewed because of neglected or forgotten leads, or because salespeople favor one source over another. When all leads are worked based on management’s priorities it is easier to make informed decisions as to the effectiveness of the sales process and lead sources.

3. Greater Management Control

Control is more than sitting in the driver’s seat. Control is having direct influence over steering, acceleration, deceleration, and also knowing where to go. So when we talk about management control, there are two concepts to consider:

  1. Personnel Control: the ability to create a standardized process and workflow that is consistently and evenly implemented on the sales floor by every person on the team.
  2. Marketing Control: maintaining even distribution and attention through every marketing and lead campaign to increase accuracy and visibility on how each campaign performs.

The two concepts rely on each to work effectively. The sales team relies on the marketing decisions made by management to provide leads to work. Management needs to be able to control the effort and productivity of their sales team to be able to make smart marketing decisions. Knowing which marketing campaigns are yielding the best return requires clarity. A recent study shows that an average of 36% of leads that enter your sales floor decay without ever being contacted (Source: Forbes). Why? Salespeople cherry pick which leads to call and this translates to neglect. Salespeople, on average, only follow up with leads 2 times or fewer. There is no constant on which to base an educated decision. Management needs to see more than reports that show call count, close ratios and contact percentage. Management needs to know that all leads from every source and campaign are being worked equally and thoroughly. In order to make the best decisions about budget allocation, the data needs to be comprehensive and accurate.

List-based Platform

The implementation of company and management policies on lead workflow lies in the hands of the salesperson. Management creates policies, but in the end, the salesperson either follows the policy or does not follow the policy. Enforcement relies almost completely on rewards or punishment after the fact. Management will implement a new marketing channel or lead source, but in the end the salesperson will decide to call those leads or not. Every metric that you measure has to be questioned. Do your salespeople know how to prioritize their leads? How many calls are your salespeople making? Are they making the right calls? Are your salespeople following up on the leads the appropriate number of times? Even the slightest variant or inconsistency in how the leads are worked could create inaccurate results that can create a false positive perception of a particular marketing campaign over another. In this type of environment, management is never in control, they are simply guessing the best they can.

Queue-based Lead Management

Queue-based Platform

The queue-based lead management platform implements a customized workflow as laid out by management. Once the routing filters and disposition values have been created, it is immediately and automatically implemented across the sales floor. There is no question whether a sales person is working leads as they should be worked, because the system enforces management’s priorities.

A recent survey revealed that inside sales teams using a queue-based lead management platform see a decrease of 30% in lead decay rate (Source: VanillaSoft). Why? With a queue-based lead management platform, there are simply fewer processes to manage and greater control over those processes. When management has greater control over the process and no longer needs to micro- manage the execution of that process, it frees up time and energy for management to focus on big picture tasks. Furthermore, when every lead is worked the same way every time, it creates clarity over marketing decisions and gives management true control.

4. Speed to Lead

There are two factors to consider when evaluating speed and both are essential in reaching a healthy Speed to Lead:

  1. Speed to Response: This is the time between the online submission of a fresh web lead and the first contact attempt by a salesperson.
    • Web leads are 9 times more likely to convert if the initial call attempt is made within 5 minutes of submission.
      (Source: InsideSales.com)
  2. Speed to Contact: This is the timing, frequency, and quantity of call attempts needed to make contact with a lead.
    • 50% of sales go to the first salesperson to contact the prospect.
      (Source: HubSpot.com)

Call the lead immediately, and be the first company to make contact with the lead. Seems like a fairly simple task, right? Wrong. Not only do less than 1% of sales teams call fresh leads within the first 5 minutes, an average of 36% of leads are not even contacted at all (Source: Forbes). Over one-third of an organization’s lead generation budget is wasted because of poor distribution and lead management.

List-based Platform

This is another area where human action (or inaction) becomes a big problem. Recent studies reveal that only 16% of sales groups contact their new leads in 8 hours or less (Source: InsideSales.com). There are some list-based platforms that attempt to address this issue by integrating features that distribute leads to the first available salesperson. While this method does promote a faster initial contact attempt, other areas of performance suffer greatly because of the inherent limitations of list-based platforms. During periods of high lead volume, salespeople can elect to not make calls in order to be ready and available to take new leads. This can unevenly distribute leads amongst the sales floor to those that know how to work the system. In addition, the temptation to wait and snag the new lead reduces the amount of calls that could be made to existing leads.

Queue-based Lead Management

Queue-based Platform

When a fresh Web lead is received it triggers the preset filter and sends the lead to the front of the queue circulation and to the next available rep. On average, 50% of all real-time web leads are contacted within the coveted first 5 minutes (Source: VanillaSoft). This is because when a salesperson is logged into the queue, they will receive call after call based on the priority of the lead. When a new lead comes in, it can be assigned to a specific salesperson in a specific order, or get assigned to the next available rep. If a salesperson logs out of a queue to try and be available to take new leads, they won’t be available for the system to assign that lead to them. Essentially, they will be forced to continue working all leads and the system will prioritize new leads as they come in. This ensures all leads are worked efficiently and thoroughly, and maintains the speed to contact on new leads.


Queue-based selling is a revolutionary approach to lead management for inside sales teams. It improves front-line operations all the way to executive decision making. It can improve the quality of the sales process while increasing productivity at the same time.

Take your sales successes and leverage those proven methods. Ultimately, Queue-based selling provides the tools to scale best practices across your sales team. The name of the game is to find the best work- flow, messaging and practices and then ensure everyone can take advantage of them.

Queue-based Lead Management