Avaya’s ‘Lead Refinery’: Turning raw prospects into customers

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Avaya, the global telecommunications company specializing in telephony and call-center technology, has been through a lot since it was spun off from Lucent Technologies seven years ago. It’s sold off its connectivity businesses, acquired several other companies to support its offerings and itself is currently the subject of an $8.2 billion buyout announced in June by an investment consortium.

After losses in 2002 and 2003, the company’s net income has fluctuated, but there have been gains in revenue to a 2006 level of $5.1 billion. Helping steady the ship is Dennis Head, Avaya senior marketing manager, who focuses on promotion effectiveness as measured by quality leads.

Head calls his program Avaya’s Lead Refinery, similar to the oil refining business in which raw materials go in one end and finished products come out the other. It epitomizes b-to-b promotion effectiveness in its reliance on rigorous lead screening and qualifying.

The company identifies prospects in typical ways—via such efforts as direct mail, seminars, Web sources or purchased lists—as well as internally. The internal effort includes tapping into the knowledge of its 2,000 technicians in the field, paying them for quality leads.

“The conversion rates on those leads are 50% to 70%, far better than any [other] source you can buy,” Head said.

Avaya expends its greatest qualifying efforts on enterprise companies, those with 100 or more employees, handing these off to a customer response center for further screening. Smaller companies, with less expensive (and for Avaya less profitable) telephony needs, get less massaging and are qualified quickly.

“Finally, we route leads to the right salesperson at the right time,” Head said. Avaya’s sales division is complex, with some salespeople working on territories and others working within vertical industries. The company uses a Siebel Systems CRM system for those salespeople to log contact information and provide feedback throughout the sales cycle.

For its channel partners, Avaya uses lead management firm Blueroads, which e-mails qualified leads to reps in particular territories via a process called “the Shark Tank”; several partners in a territory may receive the same lead at the same time, with the lead going to the first partner who elects to pursue it.

“I have been very active in providing weekly feedback to the sales channels to ensure that leads are managed effectively,” said Head. “We consistently track 85% of our enterprise leads with closed-loop sales reporting, and consistently deliver leads that have been rated by the sales force as 70% to 80% qualified during the first 90 days of the sales cycle.”

Head said Avaya also has consistently reduced its cost-per-lead from both a generation and qualification perspective, as well as increased the volume of qualified enterprise leads year over year.

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