Welcome back to our blog series on lead management. Last week, we saw a general, big picture overview of the seven key stages that make up the lead management process. This week, we’re going to dive deeper into the first of those key stages: reaching an agreement on the definition of a qualified lead or sales ready lead.

Stage 1: Reach agreement on the definition of a qualified lead or sales ready lead

A clearly defined sales ready lead definition ensures that only high-quality leads are passed from Marketing to Sales. All to often, however, Marketing is working with one definition of a sales ready lead while Sales is working with a completely different definition. It’s important for Marketing and Sales to come to an agreement on what a sales ready lead is so that Marketing will pass on usable leads to Sales.

The value in the common definition of a sales ready lead is alignment between Marketing and Sales. This value cannot be gained without doing the hard work of coming together in the same room and hashing out what is and is not a sales ready lead, which is defined by demographic and behavioral attributes.

A sales ready lead is someone who demonstrates a pre-determined fit and buying readiness based on measurable demographic and behavioral attributes that Sales and Marketing agree on. Again, it is the agreement between Marketing and Sales that is important here.

Examples of sales ready lead definitions include the following:

Demographic Behavioral
Contact name Demonstrate known interest or need
Serviceable address Web page visits (frequency, high value key pages)
Phone number High value form fills (free quote)
Email address Content form fills
Role (owner, influencer) Cart abandonment
New logo or existing customer Attending events (local)
Employee size (flagged SMB) Email/Outbound engagement
Industry Inbound engagement

Behavioral examples: Inbound

Digital body language should be the foundation of your definition of a sales ready lead. Take note of how your customers behave online, from website visits and content downloads to searches performed, email responses and social interactions.

For example, behavior in inbound might include a prospect or a current client visiting your website. An action you might take would be to enroll them in a nurture campaign, but you would not pass them on to Sales just yet.

If, however, that prospect/client were to visit your website multiple times in one week and you note that they visit the same solution pages each time, you would likely do the following:

  1. Increment their lead score.
  2. Keep them in the same nurture campaign.
  3. Alternatively, enroll them in a specific (new) nurture campaign on a related topic – message to that persona, and that location in the buying cycle.
  4. If this is a key account, alert Sales of the activity.
  5. Send as an MQL to Sales.

Behavioral examples: Outbound

Let’s look at behavioral examples in outbound campaigns. When prospects open an email or click on links Marketing sends them, we would not automatically send them to Sales as sales ready leads. Instead, Marketing would simply increment their lead score and switch them to an accelerated nurturing campaign.

If a prospect was to download an asset, however, especially if they were to download multiple assets, Marketing should offer them related content and send them to Sales as an MQL. The same would be true for those prospects who attend live or virtual events and complete forms.

Creating the sales ready lead definition

So how does a company create this unified definition of a sales ready lead? Sales and Marketing must come together in the same room together and discuss it; brainstorm what a sales ready truly means for both departments. Marketing can facilitate the discussion on the value of common lead definitions and provide proof points and value statements as well as examples of digital body language and demographics. In return, Sales can provide Marketing with information about what they are trying to sell and how they are trying to sell it.

Working together, Sales and Marketing can develop and validate the definition (or definitions) of a sales ready lead. These definitions should be reviewed quarterly and updated with key stakeholders as needed. They should be baked into the technology CRM, and it should be ensured they are continuously used by all stakeholders.

Barriers and Accelerators

There are several barriers to accomplishing these goals. Getting Sales and Marketing to work together in the same room can be difficult, not to mention getting Sales and Marketing to agree on behavioral data that matters. Whether or not Marketing can capture the behavioral/demographic data that Sales wants might also be difficult.

In addition, implementing the new sales ready lead definition with Sales and Marketing will be challenging. Both Sales and Marketing will need to be educated on what the new definition of a lead is and what they are doing with it. There will be differences of opinion between different marketing stakeholders, and some stakeholders won’t hold people accountable for doing something with a qualified lead.

To overcome these barriers, there are accelerators. There should, of course, already be a desire and a strong business case for change (to see Marketing contribute to the Sales pipeline). There should also be executive support from Marketing to focus on the quality of sales ready leads over quantity. There should be executive support from Sales to act on qualified leads that are passed over from Marketing. As long as there is agreement between Sales and Marketing on the new definition of a sales ready lead, and as long as executives hold people accountable for new behaviors, you will achieve success.

Next week, we’ll discuss stage two of lead management: seeking agreement on labels and definitions of customer acquisition/retention statuses. In the meantime, head over to our resource hub to learn more about lead management.