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Apples… Oranges… Sales Leads…

image I sit in a lot of meetings-. I’m sure you do too. Being a marketer, most of the meetings I participate involve both marketing and sales. This can be very interesting. One thing I have been struck by recently is how often I hear marketing folks talk about the success of their marketing campaigns and programs while the sales teams are grumbling about how marketing isn’t delivering viable leads. This dynamic occurs frequently in my discussions with partners. What’s the disconnect? Can it be fixed or is marketing destined to speak Greek while sales speak Swahili? If you were to ask a marketer, a sales person, and an executive within your company what a qualified sales lead is (Go ahead. Try this. I dare you), they would have a wide range of definitions. Wouldn’t it make more sense if sales and marketing had the same definition? If there is agreement from the start of what a qualified lead is, then marketing stands a better chance of generating leads that will be valuable to sales. And sales people will be more likely to follow up on those leads, turning them into actual deals. Isn’t that a win-win?Lead definition is different for everyone. Definitions need to be tailored for your company’s specific business taking into consideration your overall business objectives, target markets, market segments etc. General questions that need to be answered to determine what a lead is to your company include:• What does your ideal target company look like -employee size, company type etc.• Who is the target audience within the target company -A business decision maker or technical decision maker title?This is essentially your ideal customer profile. But not all customers meeting your profile are actually qualified leads. Here is where additional criteria come into play. These can include:• Does the prospect have a need or an application for your product or service? • What is the prospect’s role in the decision-making process? • What is the prospect’s timing for purchase or implementation? • What is the status of the prospect’s budget? • What is the potential size of the opportunity? From a sales perspective, qualified leads must meet additional criteria. In addition to having a business problem that your products and/or service can solve, truly qualified leads must meet other conditions. • The prospect must have an established project in play. • The prospect must have or believe they can find budget to buy a solution to address their business problem or they are in the process of developing a budget. • The prospect plans to purchase within a reasonable period of time. • The prospect must have the power to get your sales manager in front of the final decision maker. This may look very straightforward but it takes effort to sync these criteria across sales and marketing and to determine appropriate marketing actions to qualify leads prior to handing them over to sales. There are a couple of resources that I find particularly useful related to lead definitions: SiriusDecisions has a lead spectrum outline that provides standard definitions that can be the basis for your specific lead definitions. Just add your specific sales and marketing criteria. This and more information about lead generation can be found in “œLead Generation for the Complex Sale”, a terrific book by Brian J. Carroll.This may seem like a mundane task, but with marketing and sales in alignment on lead definitions, debate on lead quality will be reduced. More discussions can be centered on developing a steady stream of leads that sales can turn into new business. Isn’t that what we’re all after? Give it a try. Go ahead. I dare you.

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