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Use Lead Qualification Criteria to Align Sales and Marketing Teams

When it comes to marketing qualified leads (MQLs), how valuable are they to your organization? MQLs are those inbound leads generated by your marketing department, usually by encouraging prospect engagement through your website, live events, blog, webinars, newsletter and other marketing vehicles.

MQL lead quality depends on a number of factors. A few of these are:

  • Qualification level of audience — Where were these prospects found by marketing, and how closely are they matched with your ideal customer profile? Lead generation campaigns that are most successful stem from a well-defined customer profile, and utilize precise technology for the engagement of that particular audience. This profile should be honed for consistency through Marketing-Sales Team collaboration.
  • Level of lead nurturing — Are leads handed over by Marketing at the moment a prospect interacts with your site, or are interactions categorized by type and responses customized based on where prospects are in the buying cycle? Prospects that are new to your site may still be grappling with understanding their issues, and only beginning to investigate solutions. Others will be repeat visitors, or have had a higher engagement level with your content, and are likely further along their buying cycle and ready for targeted messaging or a special offer encouraging to look at you over your competition.
  • The human factor – at some point, someone in your organization will need to have a phone interaction with these leads and use qualifying questions to determine how good the prospect is, and whether or not they’re ready to hand them over to an account team. Whether this “pre-sales” function lies in marketing or in sales is up for debate, but this initial conversation is crucial in order to disqualify leads that are not good candidates for your product and will just end up wasting your time.

Many organizations want to know how well their marketing department is doing in generating MQLs, and whether or not they’re really “sales-ready.” How many of those leads is sales able to convert to paying customers, and what is the effort involved in doing that? Unfortunately, benchmarking your performance against other organizations is very difficult. Numbers will vary from industry to industry, and your definition of what constitutes a MQL is likely to be very different from those of other organizations.

Improving the Matching Process

So how can you improve the consistency on the criteria that Marketing and Sales use to turn leads into revenue? The key is to understand how your market works, what are your levers for growth, and how are you doing compared to historical data. To do so, ask Managers from Sales and Marketing the following:

  • What is the ideal customer profile and where do we find that person?
  • Do you have a process in place to get that person to engage with your website and continue that engagement throughout the entire buying cycle?
  • Have your sales and marketing organizations come to a mutual decision about how these prospects will be nurtured along the way – when should key interactions like qualifying calls take place and who should be handling these activities? Have you established SLAs for sales follow up on SQLs?

Mastering the art of converting a MQL to a SQL (sales qualified lead) is not easy, but organizations that are able to execute on this will achieve higher sales numbers and more sustainable long-term growth.

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