What Do You Mean When You Say That?

Several months ago I was meeting with a Director of Marketing Operations and we were reviewing their corporate lead qualification process.  As he explained how they qualify leads, I asked him if sales and marketing agreed on the definition of a lead.  He was quick with a “yes” and even showed me a document that listed all of the various definitions.  I was pretty impressed and pleased to see they had progressed to this level. 

My next meeting was with the company’s Director of Inside Sales.  During the course of that conversation, I made mention of the shared lead definitions that they had developed together with marketing.  He responded with “What definitions?” 

This is a scene that plays out all too often with companies:

  • Marketing qualifies leads based on their view of the world
  • Marketing sends what they define as “qualified leads” to sales
  • Sales rejects them, saying they are not qualified

This scenario serves to underscore the importance of Lead Qualification as part of Lead Management. Lead Qualification will be the focus of this 4th post on Defining Lead Management.

Most B2B marketers qualify leads at some level.  However, few have taken the important step of developing and documenting a formal Lead Qualification Model.  Even fewer have developed a Lead Qualification Model jointly with sales. Yet research continues to indicate that companies that do indeed have a documented Lead Qualification Model achieve…

  • Marketing and sales alignment
  • A higher quality of lead being sent to sales
  • Increased close rates
  • Overall improvement on lead generation efforts

You don’t have to read too many B2B marketing blogs and websites to determine that “lead scoring” is a hot topic.  More and more companies are looking to implement Lead Scoring models, and the increased adoption of marketing automation systems provides an easy way to develop one.  However, rushing too quickly into developing a Lead Scoring model is putting the cart before the horse.  Lead Scoring is simply a numerical representation of your Lead Qualification Model.

Building and automating Lead Scoring without first building a Lead Qualification Model is like framing a house without blueprints.  If you want to improve your Lead Generation results, then you must first create a Lead Qualification Model. 

The Lead Qualification Model starts with creating Lead Qualification Definitions. In this phase, seek to include all phases of the buying cycle:  Inquiry, Response, Lead, Prospect, Marketing Qualified Lead, Sales Accepted Lead, Sales Qualified Lead Closed Deal, etc.  Conduct joint sessions with marketing and sales to develop and agree to definitions for each of these terms.

Next, develop a profile of your ideal customer.  This is also a joint effort between marketing and sales.  Determine what quantifiable traits make up the ideal customer.  Criteria such as size, location, industry, audience, etc. should be identified and documented.  Once you have the customer profile developed, use the same criteria to develop an ideal prospect profile.  These profiles are the basis of your overall qualification model.
Once the definitions and profiles are confirmed, proceed to working to define the criteria that should be used for Lead Qualification. This too is a joint exercise between marketing and sales. The objective is to create standards that will allow everyone in the organization to identify when a lead should be qualified for routing to sales, which leads should be nurtured and which leads should be discarded.

It’s only after these steps are complete that you should begin to develop the Lead Scoring Model (assigning numerical values).  This is where you apply numeric point values to BANT criteria (Budget allocation, Authority or role in the decision making process, Need for product or solution, Timeline), criteria used from your customer and prospect profiles, and behavior or interactions of the buyer. Behavioral components include items such as the number of campaigns prospects respond to, what events they are attending, what assets they download, etc.

So you see, Lead Qualification is more than Lead Scoring. It’s a systematic, defined process developed jointly by marketing and sales.  Companies that develop this kind of Lead Qualification Process as part of their overall Lead Management strategy significantly increase their ROI on marketing and sales activities.

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