Sure, you’re generating sales leads, but are they good leads? The solution might be right in front of you. Here’s how to step up your lead quality.


One day years ago when I was a young account executive in the training program at the fabled J. Walter Thompson advertising agency in New York, the agency’s creative director spoke to the class of about 30 trainees.

James_PattersonThe creative director was James Patterson, who at the time wrote mystery novels on the side and has since gone on to great fame and success as one of the best selling novelists in history.

At the beginning of his hour-long talk Patterson promised that at the conclusion he would tell us all how to make $1 million in advertising by the time we were 30. We listened intently.

At the end of the talk he concluded his remarks and started to leave the big conference room. One of my fellow trainees called out and asked about his promise to tell us how to make $1 million dollars in advertising by the time we were 30.

Patterson stopped, looked at the class and said, “Oh. Yeah. To make $1 million dollars in advertising by the time you’re 30 – write trashy novels on the side.”

It’s not what we expected. It was way too simple. But it worked. For him anyway.

The same kind of logic, applies to generating better quality B2B sales leads.

Endless articles, studies, conferences and books explore the topic of B2B lead generation. And they are chock full of great advice.

But one of the biggest mistakes that companies make in generating leads is skipping over one simple, obvious step – defining what a quality lead is.

Too many assumptions take place when companies define the characteristics of a quality lead (if that step even happens).

To begin to generate quality leads, get sales and marketing in the same room.

Seriously. Sometimes, the marketing and sales people haven’t even met each other. Make sure that the senior people are orchestrating this. For a smaller company that needs to be the CEO.

Talk about who marketing has been targeting. Get sales to describe a sales lead worth following up on (and it can’t be only “someone who is ready to buy.”) Discuss what makes a bad lead and why. Write it on a whiteboard for everyone to see.

But don’t stop there. Consider the demographics of a quality lead such as:

  • Gender
  • Title
  • Specific company
  • Years of experience
  • Problems they have

Also, consider the type of company your lead works for:

  • Number of employees
  • Company location
  • Revenue
  • Number of divisions and products/services sold
  • Geographic markets served
  • Industry (or Industries)
  • Products already owned

And to further define your lead definition, think about where your prospect fits in the buying process by analyzing their BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeline):

  • Budget – can the leads afford your product or service?
  • Authority – Is your lead the decision maker (or check signer)? Do they have the authority to purchase your product?
  • Need – Is your product or service a “nice to have” or a “must have?” Is there a pain that your product or service can solve?
  • Timeline – What is their buying time frame? How does that align with your sales cycle?

Agree on a what a quality lead is and write it down. But don’t carve it in stone because you’ll want to iterate and refine the definition as your lead quality begins to improve.

Once your sales and marketing people have jointly defined and agreed on what a quality lead is, all the other lead generation activities that follow will more easily fall in place.

You’ll be surprised.