In a perfect world where sales and marketing are aligned and speak the same language, a lead is a lead. Unfortunately, very few of us live in that perfect world. Most of us live in a world where the word lead means completely different things depending on if you are in marketing or sales. Often the main difference between the definitions is where the lead is in their buying process.
A Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) is a lead that has been scored based on specific behaviors or levels of engagement with the company—visits to the website, downloads, requests for information, or even job title and is ready to be handed off to sales. Usually this means they are in the initial stages of their buying process, normally the problem identification or early information gathering/research stage.
A Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) is a lead that has specific questions and is ready for some quality time with your sales department. It is a lead that has been associated with a specific opportunity by sales, meaning they have been further qualified as a potential customer for your business. A SQL has entered the sales pipeline where as an MQL has not.
And this is where the conflict arises. Because the definitions are skewed based on the desired outcomes of the different people involved, the two sides view the other as not doing their job. Marketing thinks sales isn't closing the leads provided and sales thinks marketing is providing junk leads. To solve this internal friction between your revenue generating departments, a shared understanding of the lead generation process needs to be developed.
1. Both sales and marketing must work together to define what is a qualified lead for the business and when is the point in lead nurturing that the lead is transitioned to sales. This should be driven by sales, since sales knows first-hand what these customers look like.
2. Marketing must develop a predictive process that is based on both the profile of the prospects that match mutually agreed to definition (information sales has) and also the activities that signal that the lead is ready to enter the sales pipeline (metrics marketing has access to).
3. Sales must agree to follow-up on all MQLs transitioned to sales. If a sales person does not have time to follow up on a lead it needs to be routed to another representative. Sales teams are the ultimate research tool for marketers and failure to follow up on leads impedes ongoing refinement of the definition and predictive process as the market changes.
4. Company leadership must ensure they are promoting a culture of collaboration where marketing and sales communicate on a consistent basis, not just at quarterly sales meetings or in the midst of a revenue crisis. This ongoing communication will cause each department to perform better over time. Marketing will continue to develop better leads as they refine their lead nurturing and predictive process; and sales will better understand who their ideal clients are and what motivates the purchase decision as they discuss their experiences in the field with marketing.
Changing the interaction between sales and marketing with intent of improving lead generation is not an overnight event. It is an ongoing process that needs to be managed by leadership where both teams are held accountable and share each others successes.
How have you encouraged collaboration between sales and marketing in your company?