Sales & Marketing Agreement on Leads
The marketing team’s lead generation and subsequent handoff of those leads to sales probably causes more conflict between the departments than any other aspect of the sales/marketing relationship. How do we resolve this conflict between sales & marketing?

The following three steps will help define a service level agreement (SLA) between sales and marketing. At the end of this conversation, sales & marketing will have laid the groundwork for productive lead nurturing, qualification and handoff.

Step 1: Define a Qualified Lead Together

Everyone has their own perspective on why sales & marketing don’t always agree. Sure, maybe it’s the DNA of the people in those organizations. Sure, maybe it’s the difference in how success is measured. But let’s move a step beyond that, into the relevant difference here: how sales & marketing view a lead.

Sales and marketing are like two squads on the same football team. Marketing sees their job as getting a lead onto the field, just like a football, placing it on the 20-yard-line, bringing it to the 50-yard-line and then passing it off to sales.

Sales sees it differently. Often they’re overwhelmed with the number of unqualified leads that marketing sets up for them. Continuing the football metaphor, sales would love to get the ball 30 yards from the end zone and take it in for the score every time. Instead, they feel that marketing is setting them up with an 80-yard run every time.

The best way to resolve this is to do 2 things:

  1. Agree on what kinds of firmographics and demographics make up the pool of possible leads
  2. Agree on what activities (touch points) those people must go through to be qualified

Step 2: What is a Qualified Lead?

The first step in breaking down the barriers between sales and marketing is to define what a lead is. Look through past wins, losses and closed-no-decisions to determine what demographic and firmographic characteristics make up the majority of opportunities. Among other things, take a look at:

  • Role. What is their business function within a company? Do you target C-suite executives? Do you rule out students? Who are the decision makers and who are the influencers?
  • Industry. What kinds of companies are you targeting? Do you do more business with aerospace & defense than banking & finance?
  • Geography. What regions do your leads come from? Are there regions that are hot for you? Are there countries you don’t do business in and you’d like to exclude or diminish?
  • Size. How big is the organization? Are you targeting companies by employee count, revenue?

Clearly, you’re going to want to make sure that all of the important demographic characteristics of a lead is information you have access to. If you aren’t asking the right questions on your forms then that’s an appropriate place to start.

Step 3: Lead Qualification Rules and Routing

Now the fun part. What does a prospect need to do to become a qualified lead? First, let’s dissect the anatomy of a lead nurturing process.

  • An unknown person comes to your website through organic search. She visits 3 pages, stays for 4 minutes, then leaves.
  • She comes back two days later, fills out a form for content (now you know her name, company, industry and email). She reads a couple of whitepapers, signs up for a webinar and leaves.
  • You send her an email with some additional content. She clicks and visits your landing page.
  • She attends the webinar she signed up for earlier.
  • You send her a triggered email asking if she’d be interested in talking with a salesperson. She doesn’t respond, but she does click through the email to a product page on your site.
  • She has amassed enough points through your lead scoring qualification process (now a marketing qualified lead) to go to a sales associate for telephonic qualification, at which point she may become a sales qualified lead.

The above scenario is even more complicated than it looks, with points attributed based on a number of criteria, including:

  • Number of web pages viewed
  • Time on site
  • “Critical” pages viewed (Product pages, not Career pages)
  • Repeat visits
  • Email opens
  • Email clicks
  • Content registrations
  • Webinar attends
  • Etc.

All of these activities will have point scores associated. Amass enough and a prospect becomes a marketing qualified lead.

In order to get this right, marketing needs to sit down with sales and determine how to move a prospective lead through the lead conversion funnel. To do this, you’ll need to make decisions about what content is right for prospective leads throughout the process (here’s a hint: whitepapers before webinars before case studies before datasheets).

Of course, there need to be ways that a prospect can bypass normal channels to become qualified. If she requests a demo, more information, calls or sends an email she should become immediately qualified.

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Sam Boush

Sam Boush is the founder of Lead Lizard. His expertise is in marketing automation and lead management, with fluency in Marketo, Eloqua, Pardot, HubSpot and many other marketing automation software vendors. He has worked on all sides of marketing automation for many years, including at a major software organization and as a consultant for more than a dozen leading companies.

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