As simple as it sounds, agreement on the definition of a sales lead can be elusive.
The lack of agreement results in marketing forwarding to sales large volumes of names with qualifying criteria absent or overstated. After making a few calls to these so-called “leads” and discovering they are not sales-ready buyers, reps in the field realize they are time wasters and rightly return their focus to qualified sales opportunities.
The truth is sales and marketing define leads differently based on their respective self interests. Incented to execute programs that deliver large volumes of leads, marketing defines a “lead” as an interested self-educator or a hand raiser with a question or request for more information.
By contrast, sales requires a “lead” that meets specific criteria and warrants attention from highly skilled and highly compensated field reps. For these resources, a “lead” is a sales-ready buyer or a qualified sales opportunity.
The two groups must identify and agree on ideal criteria for qualified sales opportunities that merit attention from sales representatives. Informed of lead parameters during the planning process, a dedicated resource—either internal or external—will address each and every one of the following when delivering qualified prospects to the field:
- Vertical (SIC or NAICS code)
- Firmographics (revenue, # of employees or # of locations)
- Decision makers/influencers and respective roles in the decision-making process
- Environment (related to each solution—such as “technical environment”)
- Decision maker level of engagement (engaged or referral but in the loop)
- Business issues/pains uncovered and validated
- Decision making process documented
- Budget allocated or process for establishing a budget documented
- Competitive landscape documented
- Sense of urgency or compelling event
Agreed-upon criteria will result in sales and marketing sharing a lead definition framework like that put forth in SiriusDecisions’ Demand Metrics Waterfall:
Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs): Leads deemed ready for handoff from marketing.
Sales Accepted Leads (SALs): Leads where qualification tenets have been met and where sales agrees to work them.
Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs): Leads where opportunities have been identified and sales-ready buyers have been added to the pipeline with a high probability of buying.
When sales and marketing share a clear and concise definition of the criteria that qualify opportunities ready for handoff, each group operates at peak efficiency and supports the joint mission to close more new business and drive revenue.
The next installment in the series establishes the value of market segmentation and testing and makes best-practice recommendations.