• Automation qualified leads (AQLs) represent opportunities to prospect in target accounts
  • Many organizations treat AQLs as if the only person they are allowed to contact in the AQL’s organization is the person named on the lead
  • Best-in-class organizations improve conversion rates by getting out of voicemail hell and finding a live human being to talk to early in the process

The adage about not seeing the forest for the trees is used to signify that an individual has failed to comprehend the totality of a situation because he or she was myopically focused on a small part of the whole. This applies to telequalification teams that treat the person named on automation qualified leads (AQLs) as the only possible contact within a target account.

The Situation

My observation from talking to dozens of telequalification teams over the past three years is that the most common approach to qualifying AQLs goes something like this: An individual is captured as a lead in a marketing automation platform and, after some amount of content consumption, passes a scoring threshold and is sent as an AQL to a telequalification rep to call. That rep typically operates under a service-level agreement (SLA) that dictates a call within a short window of time upon receipt of the lead. In the most productive organizations, the SLA also includes a prescription concerning how many times the revenue development rep (RDR) will call and email the prospect over a certain length of time. For example, these followup cadences may include six phone and four email attempts to contact that individual in three business weeks. If the prospect does not respond during that period, the lead is marked as Did Not Respond, Not Interested, Disqualified or something similar.

So far so good.

The problem is that, in most organizations, RDRs make all their contact attempts to the individual named on the lead – and only that individual. They treat the lead as if the only person they can talk to is the person named on the lead.

Our view is that if a prospect is worth calling at all, it is because that lead is from a company that the seller is potentially interested in selling to. Unless you know for certain that the buying committee in that company is a committee of one, assume that there are multiple people who are knowledgeable about a buying process, and that they form a buying team, each member of which may be an entrée to the organization.

If an RDR expends all his or her contact attempts on one individual, without at some point trying to reach someone else in the organization who can shed some light on the potential buying process, it is very likely that the RDR is missing out on potential opportunities simply because the one person whose name is on the lead is too busy to respond, on vacation, uncomfortable talking on the phone, etc.

Considered in this light, treating the individual named on the lead as the only one you are allowed to call starts to look like a wasteful strategy. By getting out of voicemail early in the cadence, even if just to speak to a receptionist, an RDR may do some discovery concerning the prospect’s schedule, vacation status and other important factors. The RDR may also learn that there are alternative contacts with whom to speak. This extra effort early in a cadence ensures that RDRs don’t expend time and energy trying to contact prospects who are not in a position to respond. Sometimes, but certainly not always, this extra effort results in discovery of additional contacts and information that can help streamline the process of qualifying the opportunity.

To be sure, this extra effort produces nothing in many leads. But we have seen clients reduce their average number of attempts to reach a prospect substantially after implementing this simple change.

Additional benefits

The evidence is clear that RDRs spend very little of their working days actually speaking with prospects. In most cases, they spend an hour or less during each day talking to a live person. It is very difficult to become proficient at greeting prospects effectively, explaining who they are and the reason for their calls, asking qualification questions and delivering value propositions when they rarely have the opportunity to practice. By focusing on getting out of voicemail and reaching someone, RDRs get more practice talking about who they are and what they are about, and that’s a good thing in and of itself. This additional practice also reduces the tedium that is part and parcel of this difficult job.


One result of getting out of voicemail and reaching a live person is that RDRs will discover additional contacts for which records must be created in the systems of record. Organizations should already have workflows and rules in places to govern this process, but certainly must put them in place before emphasizing this additional prospecting effort. Organizations will want to ensure that newly discovered contacts are coded such that they can be credited to the source of the original AQL.

The strategy described above can be summed up in this way: organizations will be more effective when they treat AQLs as invitations to prospect within the accounts from which the leads come, rather than treating an AQL as an invitation to make contact attempts directed at a single individual. By taking this approach, your organization can become more efficient at reaching the person named on the lead and will find opportunities that would otherwise have been missed when taking a more constrained view of the prospect.