A lead is a lead, right? Depends – are you in marketing or in sales?
SAL – Sales Accepted Leads is the bridge between Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) and Sales Qualified Leads (SQL).
No, I am not splitting hairs nor am I indulging in semantics. Clearly defining and understanding the implications of MQL, SAL and SQL are critical to the success of B2B lead generation.
Assigning a numeric score to business sales leads based on a predefined set of rules, takes away the subjectivity out of qualitative ranking like Hot, Warm and Cold leads. Quantitative lead definitions reduce the friction between sales and marketing.
B2B marketers are being held a lot more accountable (as they should be) for their contributions to a company’s revenues. This is more so for industrial marketers because generating a steady stream of high-quality sales leads plays a far more important role than other B2B marketing objectives such as branding, thought leadership and/or community building.
These days, respect for B2B and industrial marketing is spelled as M E T R I C S.
And that goes beyond producing marketing activity reports for upper management. They want to know how much revenue was generated from all that marketing activity. Being able to prove marketing’s value with empirical data is the best defense against the C-Suite’s charge of “show me the money.”
Defining qualified leads
- Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL): A lead that has achieved a certain score based on a predetermined set of criteria and is ready to be handed off to sales
- Sales Accepted Leads (SAL): Leads accepted by sales for follow up actions
- Sales Qualified Leads (SQL): Leads that convert into opportunities – either wins or losses
SAL aligns sales and marketing
At first glance it may appear as though it is just a matter of assigning numerical scores to leads and the hand off to sales should happen automatically by using marketing automation software. Dig a little deeper and it will become obvious that there’s a lot more involved than “set it and forget about it.”
SAL is what brings sales and marketing together in attaining the Holy Grail of B2B lead generation – a unified definition of a qualified lead. Sales and marketing will continue to bicker without this agreement. And a bulk of the leads generated will fall through the cracks. Oh, what a waste! (See my earlier post, B2B Lead Generation without Lead Nurturing is Doomed to Fail)
Best practices of lead scoring and management require at least the following:
- Sales and marketing must work together in defining what constitutes a qualified lead for their particular business
- Lead scoring must be based on both profiling of the best prospects (company size, industry classification, job function, etc.) which Sales knows best and visitor engagement (site activities) for which Marketing has access to analytics and reports
- Sales must agree to undertake all follow up actions before rejecting a MQL (If a salesperson is too busy then the system must route the lead to someone else)
- Marketing must be willing to adjust scoring rules based on feedback from sales to refine lead scoring for optimal results (closed loop system)
I don’t want to create a false impression that every manufacturer, distributor or industrial company needs a sophisticated marketing automation package to get the best results from their lead generation efforts.
Let’s say you are a manufacturer or distributor that sells to a niche market. Then it is likely that you deal with only a handful of leads and not hundreds of them at any given time. Your needs may very well be satisfied by a simpler manual system made up of a Visitor Identification program (Caller ID for the Internet) and outbound telemarketing to fully qualify your prospects. Results can be tabulated using Excel spreadsheets for tracking and refinements.
Of course, it would be unmanageable to scale up such a manual lead scoring and tracking system as the volume of leads increases.
A good lead scoring and management system should be flexible enough to adjust for exceptions. For example, a site visitor with a very high level of activity (several pages visited including pricing information, downloaded white papers, and viewed online demos) would score high on engagement. However, this may be an integration consultant instead of an end-user. A phone call or progressive landing pages may be needed to unearth this additional information.
Your system needs to be able to adjust for this low profile score. This may not be a lead you want to send to sales right away but instead put him/her on a nurturing track that does not require a lot of your time and resources.
Even though we B2B marketers like to think of marketing as more science and less art, lead generation is not an exact science. Human intervention and interactions are the oils that grease the wheels of B2B lead generation.
The key takeaway here is that you may be making a very costly mistake if you treat all your leads the same, put them in a common bucket and toss it over to sales to qualify and close. You are going to need some form of SAL if you want to maximize your lead generation ROI.