In the ongoing battle between sales and marketing, leads are often the major casualties. Marketing claims sales doesn’t follow up on its leads and sales claims marketing only sends over garbage not worth any follow up.

Who’s right?

We’re going to dig into some statistics provided by Sirius Decisions and ask the simple question, “Why?” Here is the data:

Twenty percent of leads are followed up by sales.

Eighty percent of leads are never followed up by sales.


Twenty percent of those same leads never purchase anything.

Eighty percent of those same leads buy within 24 months (usually from somebody else) – if they are nurtured.

That’s a big IF!

The finger pointing begins and our ongoing battle rages. Is sales correct? Let’s look at the possibility sales is correct, and assume for a moment our “leads” are really not sales-ready. Identifying the problem is the first step to fixing it. There’s a straightforward fix, and you can implement it in your demand center in a matter of weeks.

Step 1: Get on the same page

You absolutely must work with sales to determine what will be considered a sales-ready lead. You cannot do this on your own because, in order for this process to work, sales must agree on the definition. Marketing cannot define it for sales, so collaboration is essential. However, that agreement must be stated in objective, quantifiable terms, not just the subjective “sniff test” (which actually doesn’t stand up to its own sniff test). What should those objective characteristics look like, given your sales organization is unique?

These objective characteristics should be broken into two categories: Profile and Behavior. For B2B marketers, profile is the combination of demographic and firmagraphic characteristics of the ideal prospect, such as company size, title, and department. For B2C, profile will consist entirely of the demographics of the individual. Behavior is the digital body language expressed in online buying behavior. Has the prospect visited certain web pages, downloaded something or engaged in click-to-chat?

Once sales and marketing have agreed to the profile and behaviors that comprise an ideal lead, you can move on to Step 2.

Step 2: Put a ruler on your lead

Simply stated, how will you measure your objective criteria? Again, Sirius Decisions has created a model you can easily adapt to your criteria. Its co-dynamic model assigns values to both profile and behavior characteristics to create a score you can use to evaluate the sales readiness of a lead.

I also recommend adopting the Sirius Decisions Waterfall terminology for describing “leads.” If everything is a lead, then nothing is a lead. By specifically describing a sales-ready lead by a different name that every other “lead,” you provide clarity in your communications to the sales team. Once you’ve defined your measurement system and labeled your sales-ready leads accordingly, you can move to Step 3.

Step 3: Act on this information

Some data points are actionable and others are not. For example, there isn’t a lot you can do to get your prospect promoted from Manager to Vice President. However, you can create content designed specifically for your manager to pass on to his superiors, thereby creating the potential for additional contacts entering your system. This is called an Audience Acquisition Nurture. There’s that word: Nurture! Well-designed nurture programs have very specific goals, and the tactics and content should be designed to meet those goals.

Nurtures are NOT about sending repetitive sales-oriented content out to large, untargeted groups of prospects. That strategy does not work, and I have a very specific name for them: opt-out campaigns. Because that’s what they do, get more people to unsubscribe from your communications than respond to them.

These three steps will effectively eliminate the “Your Lead Stinks!” argument from sales. How can salespeople complain about leads sent to them exactly as they requested? This is where the objective criteria and measurement comes into play. If they ask for VP and above in IT who have downloaded trial software, and that’s what you send them, the question then becomes why did sales agree to that definition of “sales-ready?”


You must identify the problem before you can fix it.

You must agree with sales on the definition of a “sales-ready” lead.

Your definition must be in quantifiable, objective terms.

You need to act on the information you have.

So, let’s say your marketing team has agreed to a sales-ready definition, and there is still a problem with passing leads to sales that they still don’t believe are good enough. You have fallen victim to Cause A, the sales argument that they are not receiving enough lead volume. Like any other problem, Cause A can be fixed.