Can your sales and marketing teams agree on a quality lead?

Posted by Darren Leishman

Sometimes sales and marketing turns into a blame game - are the leads up to scratch, and can the sales team close them? Here’s how to make a quality lead that both teams can agree on.

One of the biggest problems that sales teams have is turning leads into customers. Another concern facing sales consultants is that the time and cost that it takes to turn a lead into a sale is measured. Added to this, any lead not converted to a sale is also considered a negative measurement. Marketing, on the other hand, is often measured on the number of leads generated.

This dynamic can result in marketing teams blaming sales teams for poor results and sales team blaming marketing teams for poor leads.

Our solution to this dynamic is to create a joint understanding of a qualified lead. A good way to create this understanding is to answer the following questions:

What is the lead qualification process?

The diagram below indicates the lead qualification process that will give the best chance of a quick, cost-effective close; in other words, turning a prospect to customer successfully.

The sales funnel | Aligning sales and marketing | Spitfire Inbound Marketing Agency


What is a Buyer Persona?

This is a form of customer profiling. Using marketing research and real data about existing customers, you create a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer.

Buyer personas help marketing and sales (and product development and research teams as well) to internalise the ideal customer we're trying to attract. This description can assist us to relate to our customers as real humans. Having a deep understanding of your buyer persona(s) is critical to driving content creation, product development, sales follow up, and really anything that relates to customer acquisition and retention.

Learn more about developing buyer personas here.

Can you define a Quality Lead?

According to Hubspot, 61% of B2B marketers still send all leads they receive directly to sales while only 27% of those leads will actually be qualified for a sales call.

A quality lead generally has the following criteria:

  • It meets the buyer persona (customer profile) created for a specific product or service. This means that in depth knowledge has been obtained on a prospect such as demographics, buying signals, and contact information.
  • The data collected is accurate and can be verified and validated.
  • The correct pain point has been identified.
  • The authority (buying power; decision making) of the contact has been identified.
  • The sales and marketing teams both agree on the definition of a quality lead.

What is a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)?

This is a status that the marketing team allocates to a lead/prospect once the lead has met certain criteria or in some companies obtained a certain score. Once the score or criteria have been reached, the marketing consultant will classify the lead as a MQL.

The criteria for allocating scores are linked to prospect behaviours and include some of the following:

Does the prospect fit the correct demographics?

  • This is where the customer persona comes into play. Does the information obtained about the prospect fit any of the criteria of our “ideal customer”? A rating score can be assigned to each piece of data that matches – this can give sales an idea of areas that they will have to work on.
  • Information such as a lead's industry, company size and job role are critical to determining how interested and serious they are in purchasing a company's products.
  • Information such as pain points or budget are extremely useful for the sales consultant.

Is the prospect showing a passing interest in a product or are they serious about buying?

Marketing needs to track the digital footprint left by prospective leads.  We need to look at the resources they’ve downloaded, the path they took through the marketing process, and even the engagement they had with those resources

We can allocate different priority scores to various prospect actions, such as website activity or responses to marketing materials. We need to score customers who just have a passing interest in a product lower that one who is showing seriousness about buying.

Some examples of these actions that would add to a lead’s score include:

  • Repeat visits to our website. These prospects hold more weight than a first-time visitor.
  • Downloading an eBook.
  • Attending a webinar.
  • Filling out a form.
  • Displaying a sense of urgency. Prospects that spend a specific amount of time on a pricing page and then revisit that page several times in a fairly short time frame may be displaying a sense of urgency. Some organisations ask “Would you like to be contacted by sales?” on their registration forms to make it easy for a lead to self-identify as ready and willing to talk to sales – right now.

Is the lead ready to be passed to sales?

Lead scoring helps to identify when a lead is ready to be passed on to sales. Each of the actions taken by the prospect are assigned a score based on these activities and how important they are in the journey. The sales and marketing team agree on the scoring system and once a lead has achieved the defined score they are passed onto the sales department.  It is critical that sales and marketing agree to the lead scoring criteria so that marketing know what they are delivering good leads and that sales trusts that the leads are of a high quality when they receive them.  

Each quarter, sales and marketing should meet to determine whether the MQL definition should be modified. For example, if you’re launching a new product or service, you may need to consider a whole new target audience.

What is a Sales Qualified Lead?

Once sales have notified marketing that they accept the MQL, the lead becomes an SQL. It concerns me to call a person an acronym and I often remind sales consultants to consider the person in the process as one who has the potential to become a very valuable customer because we are the right fit. It is now time for the sales consultant to follow the company specified sales process and use the recommended sales techniques and methodologies.

Some tips for sales consultant working with SQLs are:

  • Utilise the information gained by your marketing consultant. This can assist you with your opening call and question preparation.
  • Use the information to prevent you from treating the prospect as someone who has no information about your company at all - continue the conversation.
  • Continue working with the lead’s pain point or goal that had been identified. Prepare questions that will tip the customer from a feeling of complacency with their current situation to a desire to change.

The key to qualifying leads is to ensure there is a clear understanding of the difference between MQLs and SQLs and that there is good clear communication between marketing and sales teams. You know when you are doing this well when a lead is not aware of the transition between the two and the journey from lead to satisfied customer is a short road with no bumps in it.

For more tips and insights to help you align your sales and marketing team, to start generating better quality leads, download our guide to navigating Lead Scoring.

Get your guide to Lead Scoring



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