B2B Demand Generation

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Generating MQLs is a Great Objective . . . If Everyone Agrees on the Definition

It’s a simple straight-forward model. Marketing’s job is to generate leads and Sales’ job is to close them.  It’s the execution of the model that’s often flawed. Actual execution for many organizations looks more like this. Marketing produces a lot of contacts (Hidden within these contacts are some qualified leads).  And Sales produces a lot of activity (Hidden in their busy calendars is some meetings with closable opportunities). There appears to be a lot going on, but is it as efficient as it could be? Probably not.

Dean Moothart, Director of Client Solutions for The Center For Sales Strategy, says “One of the most common problems that marketers face today is often self-inflicted. They pass unqualified leads to sales.  They may be qualified from the marketing team’s perspective, but the sales team thinks they’re a waste of time. And when that happens, everyone’s time and money is wasted because Sales will just stop following up on the leads that Marketing produces.”

How and why does this happen? It’s simple. Marketing and Sales have different standards for what’s qualified and what’s not. The most common marketing metric used in organizations today is the MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead). It’s intended to identify leads that are most likely to move through the sales funnel. However, there’s not a universal MQL definition. Every organization is different. They have different target markets, decision-makers, budget requirements, etc.

The MQL is also one of the key metrics used to measure the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, tactics, and even team members. It is widely thought that the more MQLs that are generated, the more successful the campaign was. In fact, many marketers’ job performance (and consequently, their compensation as well) is tied to the number of MQLs that are generated. There’s nothing wrong with this unless it’s Marketing who is establishing the MQL definition. Too often marketers are setting the bar as low as possible so they can easily achieve their target metrics. This scenario causes mistrust from Sales and ultimately, missed revenue targets.

To avoid this scenario, organizations should go through a Sales & Marketing alignment exercise. This process should include the following elements:

Shared Language & Goals. Sales and Marketing leaders and representatives from their teams should get together and develop a common language, agreed upon definitions and shared goals. Defining an MQL is a good place to start, but other metrics for sales lead adoption and pipeline conversion should be established and defined as well. Most importantly, everyone should be pointing toward common goals, the most important of which is revenue.

A Well-Defined Hand-Off. To be properly aligned, sales and marketing organizations must have a clean and well-defined hand-off process. When does marketing’s job with a lead stop and sales’ begin? How is Sales notified? What is their first step? Many organizations are building an intermediate step in between sales and marketing. They are leveraging an inside sales or business development team to filter the leads that Marketing produces. It’s almost impossible to accurately qualify a lead based solely on their digital behavior or lead score. Inside sales or business development teams can add human touch to the process and further qualify leads before sales devotes their resources.

Service Level Agreement. Finally, every member of the Marketing and Sales teams need to commit to the language, definitions, objectives, goals, and expectations that have been established and agreed to.  We often establish service level agreements with our clients. These agreements clearly define the goals and expectations of the relationship. They can work for Sales and Marketing as well. They are a concrete way of demonstrating commitment and holding each other accountable.


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