Why It’s Important To Define What Makes A Sales Qualified Lead

Posted by Brooke Hazelgrove

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When you can define what makes a lead qualified for sales, it makes the marketing process seamless and intuitive

Do you tend to run things according to a rigid checklist or do you prefer the freeform approach when it comes to dealing with the big and small shenanigans of life?

Now, either of those approaches is okay, but how well do you go with integrating your approach with the habits of everyone else? Do you tend to over- or under-communicate?

When it comes to liaising between sales and marketing, it’s vital that you’re both on the same page when it comes to passing marketing leads over to sales. When sales and marketing are both able to agree on what the characteristics of a sales qualified lead look like, there’s no miscommunication on when a lead is ‘ready’, or even what ‘ready’ looks like. One team can pass the other a lead whose progress and understanding is known to both parties.

But that does bring a question into thought. What makes for a sales qualified lead? When will they be ready for that sales call that will close them into a customer?

What Defines A Sales-Qualified Lead Anyway?

The readiness of your leads to be handed over to sales are determined by two factors, both of which can generally be measured: ‘best fit’ and ‘level of engagement’.

Best Fit

‘Best Fit’ refers to how well your lead fits within your company’s Buyer Persona. This is a fictional character who doubles as your ideal customer - they’ll have all the right attributes and habits that will match the product or service that you offer, and you’ll market yourself to them. Sure, the leads you actually attract are rarely going to completely fulfil every aspect of the buyer persona, but they should match up with most of the predetermined qualities and characteristics. The information you’ll have that indicates the fit of your lead to your buyer persona is going to be information that you’ll have gathered when your lead converted, as well as information that you will have gathered during the process of lead nurturing.

Pretty soon after you gather this kind of information - job title, industry, company size, geography - you’ll be able to tell whether this lead fits well with the kind of customer you want, and react accordingly.

Level Of Engagement

‘Level of engagement’ needs less explaining than ‘best fit’. It’s simply your lead’s level of buying interest. This factor is determined using your lead’s activity on your website and response to your marketing campaigns. It takes into account the online behaviour of your lead - through website activity, email response rate, offer downloads, and social media activity. It’s important to keep tabs on your lead’s level of engagement with your business so your sales team can approach them at the right time.

The two of these factors sit more as quadrants than as checkboxes, and when graphed against each other, can give a good idea of where your leads are at, and which of them are the most sales-qualified.

Graph the fit of your lead to the persona against their level of engagement and you'll get a good idea of which of your leads are enthusiastic and fit the persona at the same time.

Of course, your leads aren’t going to stay in just one field as they interact with your company. They might seem to poorly fit the persona because you just don’t have a lot of information about them yet, or it might be that they’re not properly engaged in your website because they’re yet to see the offer you have that will change their mind. Be aiming to push your leads towards the ideal state for sales qualification.

As you get to know your leads better, you'll want to push them further towards the best fit/high engagement quadrant.

Once you’re able to qualitatively understand where your leads are at, you’ll be able to further tailor your lead-nurturing campaigns as well, leading your ideal customers into the right frame of mind to close sales.

The important thing that you want to establish for both of these factors is a solid idea of how well they fit and how engaged they are. If you can put a number between 1 and 4 to each of these criteria, then both your marketing team and your sales team will be able to agree and understand where your leads are at and act accordingly.

How Do I Manage A High Volume Of Leads In This Way?

The challenge that might crop up here is probably one that’s already on your mind - ascertaining where your leads are at and how engaged they are is a high-energy task, and if your business is handling a lot of leads, then that’s a time commitment you might not be able to make.

Fortunately, there is a way to keep up with this high-quality attention while managing a large quantity of leads. HubSpot’s marketing software give your company the ability to learn more about how well the lead fits to your buyer persona, as well as how engaged they are with your website, and alert your team when the time is right for a lead to be contacted.

Progressing Profiling

Progressive profiling is an intuitive tool that helps you gather information from your lead much like a conversation with a real person would. As your lead fills out more forms, the information requested progresses from basic (eg. name, email address) to more specific information (eg. company size, geographic location). Progressive profiling allows for the conversation between your lead and your company to extend beyond a standard introduction, and helps your marketing team understand the lead better over a period of time. This also allows you to keep the forms on your landing pages short, and minimises the risk of scaring off a lead by presenting them with an enormous form.

Lead Scoring

Remember how we were talking about putting a number on how engaged a lead is with your business? Lead scoring does that for you. Lead scoring uses a points-based system to record the level of activity a lead is involved in on your website. Did they share something of yours on social media? The system awards points. It would likewise be able to react to activities such as downloading new offers, or visiting your pricing page. Lead Scoring with the HubSpot software is customisable, so you’ll be able to tailor the points awarded and activities that would generate scores to what your business offers. Once your lead accumulates enough points, the system notifies your team so you get to work with leads who are already interested.

Subject To Seasonal Variation

You’ve probably noticed by now that I haven’t put a concrete number on what a sales qualified lead looks like. That’s because the goals of one business differs to the next, and your needs and numbers will be something that you’ll know better than anyone else. For one business, having 25 pageviews and 3 form conversions is enough interaction to warrant a call from sales. This number will be different for different businesses, and that’s okay. What’s important is that this number is established by sales and marketing alike, so that both know what the other means by a ‘sales qualified lead’.

Being able to correctly ascertain the sales readiness of your leads will save you time and energy, and when this information is known and shared with your sales team, then you’ll be working together towards the same goal. For marketers and sales alike, the job is done when a lead converts to a customer, and both teams are involved in the lead reaching that point.

Key Takeaway

There once was a time when the marketing and sales departments were on opposite sides of the camp, but that’s no longer the case. Both teams are needed to nurture a lead through to a closed sale, so it makes more sense to have both teams agreeing on the very basics of their jobs.

Sit your marketing team and your sales team down together, and work out what a sales qualified lead for your business looks like. How many pages have they visited? How many offers have they downloaded? Your sales team should be able to help out by listing the characteristics and observed behaviours of their easiest-to-close leads. After that, it’s a case of reverse-engineering those leads. Qualify to both teams what the sales-ready lead looks like.

After that, work through the quantity of your lead base by applying progressive profiling and lead scoring. This will help your marketers by keeping tabs on the status of your leads and sending out automated alerts when the leads reach an ideal state for further nurturing or passing on to sales.

Ultimately, for your marketers and your sales teams to be on the same page with determining and reacting to these factors is important. It allows your teams to work together, and you’ll be reaching perfect leads at the right time by doing so, enabling you to close more sales and secure ideal customers.

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Topics: Inbound Marketing

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