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Defining the Sales and Marketing Lead Path

Sales and marketing need to agree upon a methodology to determine what leads are qualified and what leads aren't. This is a critical element to successful sales and marketing alignment. You need to come up with a shared sales and marketing definition for what a good lead means.

But what happens when a lead leaves marketing's hands and goes to sales? You need to have a concrete lead qualification path that inside sales reps can follow before they know whether to qualify them and send them onto an account executive, or send them back to marketing.

Marketing-qualified leads (MQLs)

A marketing-qualified lead can be defined as a lead that is defined as "good" by marketing. This means that the lead has hit a specific score or has had an interesting moment, indicating that an inside sales rep should call her.

These are the factors that should determine an MQL:

  • Fit: These are mostly demographic criteria such as job title, industry, geography, and so on. These criteria should define what types of buyers typically purchase your product.

  • Behavior: This indicates a lead's level of buying interest designated by his behavior. Maybe he has downloaded a late stage ebook or datasheet, or maybe he has attended a webinar.

Sales-accepted leads (SALs)

After a lead is sent to sales, your inside sales reps need to accept those leads. This step is often absent from many lead funnels, but it's an important step to pay attention to. Your sales teams need to take your MQL and make sure that the lead is close enough to purchasing to be qualified by sales and ultimately sent to one of your outside sale reps.

According to Sirius Decisions, there are specific reasons an inside sales rep might not qualify a lead. They include

  • Unable to reach: A sales rep can only spend so much time trying to reach a lead by calling, emailing, and leaving messages. If the rep still can't reach a lead and she has met the Service Level Agreement (SLA), the lead can be recycled back to marketing.

  • Inaccurate data: The lead data is not accurate — for example, it includes a wrong phone number, wrong email address, and so on.

  • No Budget, Authority, Need, and Time (BANT): The lead has no budget, isn't the right person to speak with, doesn't have a need, or the timing doesn't quite work out.

  • No fit: A lead's need does not line up with your product or service specifications.

If a lead is unable to be qualified by your inside sales rep, the lead should be recycled back to marketing so it can be nurtured again or removed from the mix.

Sales-qualified leads (SQL)

After a lead is accepted by sales, it needs to be qualified. SQLs are your golden tickets to be fast-tracked to your account executives to begin the sales process. Why is it important to truly qualify a lead? Well, if you send bad leads to sales, they won't close deals and then both you and sales look bad.

According to Salesforce, here is what you should look for when qualifying a lead to send to an account executive:

  • BANT: The lead has the budget, authority, need, and the right timeline to make the right decision.

  • Shows interest: The lead seems very interested in your product or service. She has downloaded a variety of assets, watched a demo, and had a positive interaction with your inside sales rep over the phone.

  • Fits your buyer profile: The lead has many similarities to those that have purchased in the past.

  • Has a sense of urgency: The lead is ready to purchase within a reasonable time frame. He has a sense of urgency about making a decision.

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