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After implementing inbound marketing, you probably noticed an increase in the leads collecting in your database. But your sales team is demanding more qualified leads.

So how do you generate more warm, qualified leads? These four steps will help ensure a successful strategy for creating more sales qualified leads with your inbound marketing efforts—and satisfy your ever-hungry sales team.

Discuss What a “Sales Qualified Lead” Means

Marketing and sales must see eye to eye on what qualifies a lead as ready to be contacted by the sales team, otherwise no one will achieve their goals. For example, the sales team will not be able to close leads who are either unqualified or not far enough down the sales funnel, and leads will be turned off by the salesperson’s misplaced efforts.

Marketing and sales need to agree on what a qualified lead is to achieve synergy. This step alone can make a significant difference. Once you’re on the same page, the right leads can be handed off at the right time.

To make your hand-off process as efficient and effective as possible, consider using an automated process. Learn how to set up a CRM (customer relationship management system) with this free guide.

Develop Your Lead Flow Strategy

Now that you’ve discussed what a sales qualified lead looks like, it’s time to put it down on paper. Create a document that clearly defines your different lifecycle stages, when and how they are handed off to sales, when and how these leads should be followed up with, and any other labeling conventions for leads that you’ll be using in your CRM.

Share this document with all company departments and be sure to make this a living document—changing with your marketing and sales department as your database and company grows.

While the document should be shared with the entire company and suggestions for tweaks and improvements should come from many angles, make one person the document gatekeeper to keep it in order and make any needed updates to the CRM. This document will help you identify, and more importantly avoid, any bottlenecked, mislabeled or lost leads.

Set Up a Simple Lead Scoring System

According to HubSpot, 79 percent of B2B marketers have not established lead scoring. No wonder generating qualified leads for sales is proving difficult for so many marketing teams.

By applying a simple scoring system to your leads, your sales team will be alerted when a lead meets specific criteria. If marketing and sales have agreed on a predetermined value, they’re more likely to be notified when a lead is in fact “qualified.”

Here’s an overview of how to set up your lead scoring system:

  1. Determine point values for the key factors you’ve chosen. Whether it’s job title, industry, annual revenue or number of pages viewed on your website, you need to decide on point values for each of these factors. To keep it simple, consider a point scale of 0 to 100, where 0 means less qualified, and 100 means more qualified.
  2. Score your leads. Now it’s time to rate all your leads, which is usually done by assigning positive and negative attributes to each contact. Positive attributes might include actions like conversions or webpages visited. Negative attributes could be your contact opting not to receive email updates from you.
  3. Set a score threshold for when a lead is sales-ready. Your sales team can be notified when a lead has met enough of your criteria to be sales-ready. This could be a point value of 85, for instance. Work with sales to come up with a point value and transfer method that makes sense to them, whether it’s an email, a notification within your CRM or another indicator.

Above all, this lead scoring system will help your sales team prioritize leads.

Beyond lead scoring, companies should also establish a lead nurturing program so sales can turn prospects over to marketing when they still aren’t ready to buy.

Focus on Lead Nurturing

Earlier, we discussed positive and negative attributes for your leads. Lead nurturing is the process whereby you can increase interest with your prospects using targeted content. Their score goes up with content they open, click or engage with. It goes down when they either do nothing or opt out of emails.

Nurturing is just like it sounds—think of it as a process. For instance, we’ll say one of your leads opted in to receive emails from you. But when they signed up for a webinar, they didn’t show. Maybe they didn’t think it would be the best use of their time after all, but maybe they just forgot. At this point, you could send them a free report or guide to gauge interest.

In this way, you can continue to deliver expected, relevant content on subjects the lead is interested in learning about, increase their score and bring them to the point of being warm and qualified.

A lead who’s just become aware of their problem (awareness stage) may not be ready to buy. This is not uncommon. Many do not buy until they feel they’ve adequately researched their challenge and possible solutions. Leads in this category may be interested in comparisons between your product and your competitor’s product. Or they may just want to learn more about the issue first.

Lead nurturing is key to generating quality leads for sales.

The Power of a Sales Qualified Lead

While it may take more effort and time to garner and develop sales qualified leads, they are more likely to turn into customers and remain loyal to your brand. And the lifetime value of a qualified customer is worth the energy, don’t you agree?