Different companies have different criteria for what a qualified sales lead should look like – and even within a single organization, Sales and Marketing may not agree on how to qualify leads. What some marketers consider a sales-ready lead would merely be considered an inquiry to others. This discrepancy lies at the heart of many sales and marketing alignment issues and fuels countless debates about lead quality.
Qualifying Leads by Fit
The definition of a lead is subjective and has everything to do with an organization’s lead management process. But the most critical differences between qualified and unqualified sales leads are expressed in terms of buyer fit and intent. Take, for example, the leads your organization generates at a trade show. Their quality often varies, and many aren't leads at all – at least not initially. People who just stopped by your booth to grab a free pen probably aren't hot leads you want to send over to your sales team. But if you cultivate them through lead nurturing, some could turn into buyers down the road.
Some marketers consider a single form submission to be a lead. But the quality of the leads that come in through web forms is as diverse as the marketing programs that generate these leads. So, one best practice in lead management is to start by defining what constitutes a qualified sales lead and get buy-in from sales and marketing.
Why Intent Matters
Now, just because someone is the right fit for your solution doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a qualified sales lead. Take the example of trade shows. Many companies don’t differentiate the casual booth visitor from the serious buyer who stops by the booth. If Marketing simply sends all trade show leads to sales for follow-up, they’ll probably make life more difficult for the sales reps. In this case, Marketing has done nothing to validate the true intent of each buyer. By sending an email follow-up to each lead and analyzing the Digital Body Language that follows, Marketing can pare down the list and send only the more qualified leads to Sales.
How Technology Can Help You Qualify Sales Leads
Technology can streamline or automate the processes of separating qualified sales leads from inquiries and cultivating latent demand. Lead Scoring allows marketers to assign specific scores to explicit and implicit attributes in order to automatically determine which leads should be routed to Sales. Marketers who use lead nurturing to further profile the contacts that enter their databases and to uncover true buying intent can produce more qualified leads and increase the productivity of sales reps by keeping them focused on the leads that have the highest likelihood of converting.