Lead qualification best practices for B2B marketing and sales teams

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B2B Marketing and Sales teams should work like trains on different stages of the same journey, with a shared goal: deliver the passengers to their destination.

It is not natural for your Marketing and Sales teams to operate like this. They have a shared goal of building out a pipeline of qualified leads, but they have different methods of doing so.

Often, the Marketing and Sales trains do not meet at the same station.

Marketing and Sales need to establish a handoff where they agree on the definition of ‘lead’ at the point of Marketing handing it over to Sales. Marketing essentially gives up the responsibility of the lead until (and if) Sales hand it back for further nurturing.

When you fail to establish a clear definition of what constitutes a lead, prospects fall into the cracks, as neither Sales nor Marketing give them proper attention. Then, the effectiveness and efficiency of Sales and Marketing as a revenue generation machine falls apart.

Analyse your current lead qualification best practices

How do you currently rank your leads for qualification? Ideally, you should have a system or a set of metrics that allow you to decide if a lead is ready to be nurtured.

If you do not have a lead qualification framework, I recommend asking some questions to get you started:

How much online interest have they shown in your brand? Analysing how your lead has engaged with you online can indicate their interest. If they seem to have engaged with your content, you should send them more emails with content from which they can gain value.

Do they fit your ideal buyer profile? Qualifying leads is more than having someone interested in your product; it is also about ensuring they are the right fit for you. Make up a list of your target personas and decide their titles, roles, industries, etc. 

Have you analysed their behaviour to discern their level of engagement? Monitor how deeply your prospect has shown interest in your services. If they have attended webinars or viewed your pricing pages, they are most likely to have buying intent. You can leverage this data to provide them with educational content and drive further engagement.

What is their readiness to buy? You need to know where your prospect is in the buying cycle or risk providing them with the wrong content. For example, a lead at the beginning of the buyer journey might gain little value from an EDM about product pricing.

Agree on the definition of ‘lead’

To effectively qualify leads, marketers and salespeople need to collaborate on the definition of ‘lead’. Marketing and Sales often disagree on the definition of a lead.

Marketing defines qualified leads based on someone’s behaviour. Perhaps they filled out a form to download an eBook or interacted with your brand on social media. Marketing might qualify these leads through lead scoring, which assigns points to a lead every time they interact with your brand in a specific way. Marketing then leverages this score to qualify the leads in or out and ranks them by priority.

Salespeople qualify leads based on the BANT formula, which examines whether a prospect has the budget, authority, need and time to purchase a product or service.

Leading scoring and BANT rarely produce the same results when it comes to qualifying leads. Lead scoring assigns points to leads each time they complete an action, and when they get to a certain point, they become qualified. Lead scoring is an effective way to gauge someone’s interest, but when Sales receives the lead, they may notice that person does not have the authority to make a purchase; they were only interested in reading your content.

Marketing and Sales need to sit down and discuss the prospects already in the database, the target personas, and the prospects Sales is currently trying to close deals with. You should discuss what makes a bad lead and at what point Marketing should pass on a good lead to Sales. Once Marketing and Sales agree on the definition of ‘lead’, Marketing can generate qualified leads for Sales to follow up.

When Marketing and Sales have agreed on a definition, you should document it. By documenting your agreed definition, everyone in the business will have a specific understanding of a lead and reflect this in their work. 

You will also want to revisit your definition consistently. As your business changes, your definition of ‘lead’ will change. Perhaps you will opt to sit down every six months or once a year to discuss. Either way, you should ensure these meetings occur with consistency.

Make lead feedback part of your sales and marketing culture

Just like you need to revisit your definition of ‘lead’, you will also need to make feedback from Sales to Marketing a part of your company culture. Sales can provide feedback on what they see as not working. Marketing and sales teams should work together to make lead feedback a part of the sales and marketing culture.

Both Marketing and Sales teams can voice any issues they have with the process. It is essential that you communicate what needs to change and how to improve moving forward. A good tactic for getting feedback from Sales is by setting up a meeting with them regularly so that they can express their perspectives about lead qualification and ask questions or voice concerns.

For example, Marketing might measure an ad campaign based on cost-per-action (CPA), but their field of measurement might be the number of marketing qualified leads (MQLs) to sales qualified leads (SQLs). Sales might provide feedback to Marketing about whether the leads fit the criteria that Sales expects.

Have a clear handover from Sales back to Marketing

If Sales cannot get back in touch with a lead, it is time to hand it back to Marketing. Marketing can then nurture that lead by segmenting it into an automated nurture campaign.

For this handoff from sales to marketing to work well, each department needs clear boundaries of responsibility. Marketing needs to clearly define what qualifies as a new lead and what qualifies as a cold lead. Sales need to keep records on new leads to give them back after a sales rep has contacted them. When it comes time for marketing to contact these new leads, they’ll know who is in the pipeline and who is not.

When Marketing passes on a lead to Sales, they should not assume this is the last they see of that prospect. Sometimes, it may be apt for Sales to pass the lead back to Marketing for further nurturing. For example, a salesperson might have an initial conversation with a lead, learn more about them, and send them back to Marketing. Sales might also send leads back to Marketing if the contact goes MIA about the initial sales call.

How Resonate supports the sales process through marketing

It can be challenging to align Marketing and Sales on lead qualification. When you solve this problem, you solve the majority of your problems with Marketing and Sales alignment. The process of identifying qualifying leads in your marketing efforts will guide you on the most effective tactics for securing buyers.

Resonate is a full-stack marketing agency with content marketing experience focused on B2B clients. We are always happy to discuss new ideas with potential clients about boosting sales through B2B Marketing.

RK is the CEO & Co-Founder of Resonate.

RK is Resonate’s chief strategist, thought leader, and IT industry veteran. Our clients depend on RK to advise on their business strategy, channel strategy, and sales strategy. 

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