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Most companies involved in lead generation spend a considerable amount of time thinking about, well, lead generation, with an emphasis on generation.

Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is that far more organizations have mastered the art of generating leads than have mastered the science of converting leads into sales.

Sales, of course, are ultimately the name of the game. Leads generation for lead generation's sake doesn't generate revenue, and without revenue, it's hard to build a successful business.

So how can companies make the most of their leads? Here are five steps for translating leads into ROI.

1. Validate leads.

Bad leads cost time and money. As such, it's important to do whatever you can to validate leads before they reach your sales staff.

From designing detailed-enough lead forms to using third-party services that try to verify contact information, there are numerous ways to reduce the number of bad leads you generate and to filter out the bad leads that slip through.

2. Score leads.

Not all leads are created equal. Some are hotter than others, and some have the potential to be much bigger than others. Establishing a methodology for scoring leads according to their potential is crucial to prioritizing leads and maximizing opportunity. 

Multiple options exist for scoring leads. In some cases, establishing a homegrown methodology makes the most sense. In other cases, adopting a lead scoring service that has developed its own methodology can be beneficial.

3. Segment.

Scoring leads is important, but what you do with the scoring is equally important. Once you have scored a lead, consider segmentation. Here, much will depend on the structure of your sales organization. You might segment leads by region, industry, company size, or some other criteria.

However you segment -- something that you should evaluate carefully -- the goal is the same: trying to ensure that a lead gets to the person in your sales staff who is best-positioned to convert a specific lead into a sale.

4. Follow up quickly.

Although some leads will be hotter and more attractive than others, and thus worth prioritizing, any legitimate lead that you determine is worth responding to should be followed up as quickly as possible. In sales, the early bird often catches the worm and sales organizations that are proactive and nimble by habit typically fare better than their less eager competitors.

5. Ditch poorly-performing lead sources quickly and often.

Many companies spend too much time worrying about lead volume. Which is somewhat understandable: even though logic tells us that quality matters more than quantity when it comes to lead generation success, there's something uncomfortable about a pipeline that doesn't seem to be as plentiful as it could be.

Putting that discomfort aside, however, is crucial to generating ROI. It's important to constantly evaluate the productivity of your lead sources and eliminate sources that fail to consistently deliver quality leads that you can convert into sales.

Patricio Robles

Published 18 January, 2013 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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