What kind of lead do you have and how do you know when marketing should pass the lead to sales for follow-up?
Lead generation in B2B marketing is critical. If you have a marketing team or work with a marketing agency, hopefully leads are coming in – but what happens when the quantity of leads surpasses the quality of leads? What it boils down to is knowing if your lead is an MQL (marketing qualified lead) or an SQL (sales qualified lead).
The New Customer Lifecycle
The traditional way of handling leads started when a lead came in through a marketing channel. The marketing team would pass the lead to sales, and sales would follow up to close the deal. This model has changed in the B2B space as digital technologies and marketing channels evolved. For a B2B company with a sales cycle between 4-18 months, the customer lifecycle looks more like this:
- The person learns of a company or brand.
- The person becomes a subscriber by asking for blogs, newsletters, etc.
- The subscriber becomes a lead when they fill out a form on the website (although they may not have provided details like their phone number yet).
- The lead becomes an MQL after they’ve completed a form and offered information like their phone number and company information and goals, indicating they know they have a problem to solve and are ready to learn more.
- The MQL becomes an SQL after being identified as a good fit. By now, they may have requested a demo or free trial of your company’s product.
- The SQL becomes a sales opportunity after the sales rep makes contact and answers questions the person has about the service or product.
- And finally, the sales opportunity becomes a customer after making a sale.
Sales and Marketing Alignment
This model doesn’t fit every B2B company, but the basics remain the same. To move prospects successfully through these stages, you need marketing and sales alignment with set expectations set early on. Problems arise when marketing sends sales every lead that comes through the door because sales then wastes time qualifying leads that don’t belong in the database, leading to discouragement and eventually no longer following up on leads that come from marketing.
It’s not an easy task for companies who have kept sales and marketing separate, but it’s time to call a meeting to set ground rules. With sales, marketing, and upper management accounted for, determine what qualifies an MQL and an SQL. Set expectations for both the quality and quantity of MQLs marketing must bring in – with realistic expectations based on your industry and budget. Also, set up a communication plan so sales and marketing can comfortably talk to each other if needs change.
Document Your Processes
While you define these roles and expectations, you’ll need to document the information in a service-level agreement (SLA). An SLA documents goals, expectations, definitions of MQLs and SQLs, and the processes of handling leads that come in. Revisit the SLA monthly, or even weekly, to review the customer lifecycle and goals.
By documenting processes and expectations, you’re in a better position to turn leads into delighted customers. If you need help, look at some of our services here to get on the right path to generating better-qualified leads.