on Feb 25, 2019 / by Corey Cantrell

When Should Marketing Hand Leads to Sales?

Not all leads are sales-ready. They may be considered marketing qualified, but they’re not yet sales qualified. When marketing hands over leads to the sales department, it’s crucial that these leads are ready to purchase, so that the sales personnel don’t waste their time on leads that won’t convert.

When leads enter the funnel, they can be at any stage of the buyer journey. They may be aware that they have a problem but don’t know what the specific problem is, they may already know their problem and are looking for a solution, or they’re already seeking for the right company that can offer the best solution. But, do they meet the criteria your sales team has set for a lead to be considered sales-ready?

What Is a Sales Qualified Lead?

A sales qualified leads (SQL) is someone who openly expresses their keen interest in your products and services. They perfectly fit your buyer persona profiles and are confident to reach out to your sales representatives to discuss the next steps. In short, they cross out all the boxes in your sales teams’ criteria for the ideal customer.

How to spot a sales qualified lead:

    • Expresses serious interest
    • Enunciates the need for your product or service
    • Holds authority over the budget
    • The decision-maker in their team or organization is ready to buy

A lot of businesses assume that when a lead responds to marketing materials, that makes them ready to go through the sales process. Au contraire.

Those who engage with your marketing messages (i.e., checking your website and liking your posts) are labeled as marketing qualified leads (MQLs). One of the significant differences between them and sales qualified leads is their readiness to buy. MQLs show interest in your company, but they’re not quite ready to convert yet. Meanwhile, SQLs display an intent to purchase in the near future (if not now) and they have the authority to make the decision.

How to Know If Your Lead Is Sales Qualified

Make sure your marketing and sales team share the same language and understanding when it comes to qualifying leads. SQLs go to you because they are aware of their problem, thought of your product as a solution, and are on the verge of purchasing it.

Here are three tips to help you nurture your leads and pin down your sales-ready leads.

  1. Use lead scoring

Before getting marked as an SQL, most leads are labeled as MQLs first. A lead scoring system makes the job of converting leads easier since it lets you know which ones are most valuable and further along the sale funnel.

It works by nominating point values to various actions (e.g., clicking through lead nurturing emails or attending events) a lead performs in the sales funnel. They are then counted as a valuable lead when they reach a certain score based on the criteria set. This allows sales representatives to keep track and prioritize this group of valuable leads.

The system can factor in leads based on how they align with your brand’s criteria of an ideal customer—referring to your buyer personas, as well as leads extracted from behavior-based data (i.e., downloaded materials, page views, website activity, etc.).

  1. Tailor content where leads are in the buyer’s journey

Creating valuable content based on where your leads are in the sales cycle is vital in nurturing them to be more sales-ready.

Divide your funnel into three segments: top, middle, and bottom. Leads at the bottom are most likely ready to purchase. So use this guide to create more suitable and compelling content.

TOFU (Top-of-the-funnel). Here, your leads aren’t looking for a solution at the moment. There’s no sense of urgency on their side. This is where you can utilize educational content such as blog posts, infographics, videos, and white papers to inject their interest in your products and services.

MOFU (Middle-of-the-funnel). This is the stage where leads are halfway through the funnel—they’re looking for a solution but still weighing their options. They’re more likely to engage with webinars, competitor comparison sheets, case studies, and the works.

BOFU (Bottom-of-the-funnel). Finally, your leads are already decided about making their purchase. It’s just a matter of choosing which brand to work with. This is where sales people bring out the big guns—demos, presentations, and interviews to appeal to them.

  1. Use the BANT System

One popular method brands use to find qualifying SQLs is the BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeline) system.

    • Budget – Does the lead have the budget to buy?
    • Authority – Are they the decision-maker in the company?
    • Need – Does the lead have an urgent need for the product or service?
    • Timeline – When is the lead planning to buy? Are they ready to make a decision?

Businesses use a combination of these or all to help set apart qualified and valuable leads, which the marketing team hands over to sales.

Wrapping Up

Lead generation is not an overnight process. It takes time to find leads and nurture them until they’re sales qualified. Sometimes, you’ll meet with leads who are further down the buyer’s journey and other times, there are those who just aren’t ready to seal the deal.

The marketing team should only pass a lead to sales when they’ve met the right criteria set of an SQL. Otherwise, you’d be pitching to leads who aren’t entirely ready to buy, losing them in the process. It’s all about finding the right timing.

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