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5 Steps To Defining & Categorizing Leads

If you want to acquire high quality leads, and leads that have a higher chance of conversion, you have a lot of work to do internally and externally. The best thing you can do is have a qualification and categorization strategy that moves your leads from one bucket into another. In general, most organizations need to qualify their leads using stages.

Marketing qualified leads (MQLs) are the lowest level – they are leads that have shown some level of engagement or at least interested in your products or services. This means that they are a genuine lead. They then move onto sales qualified leads (SQLs) where they have passed the point of qualification pre-set by your sales function, and they have moved toward being active customers.

What is a qualified lead?

A qualified lead is a predetermined point at which marketing determines that a particular lead (these are usually qualified individually) can be handed onto the sales function. Sales and marketing have to work together to determine what exactly this means. Without a shared opinion, it can be difficult for either team to fulfill their goals – and they won’t be able to win over leads.

For your sales and marketing functions to work together to define and categorize leads, you have to first agree on what that definition is. Put it down in writing and ensure that everyone fully understands it. How can you do that?

Step 1: Start With Buyer Personas

If you already know who your target audience is, use those buyer personas to start building a well-defined list of qualifications of what a lead is. You can look at behaviors, budgets, company types, and other details to make this determination.

Step 2: Use Anecdotal Information

If you successfully deal with leads on a regular basis, there should be anecdotal information about the customers that came from leads. Get information from both the marketing function and the sales function to see what leads worked and which leads didn’t.

The marketing team should take the forefront here. They are the ones that see the highest number of leads, so they have more inside information about the types of leads and clients they see. Once they have had input, then sales functions can come in and tweak the definition of a sales qualified lead using their criteria.

When looking at the definitions, make sure to use your existing customer base. Use information such as demographic, company size, location, buyer role, and industry. What will make something a qualified marketing lead or a sales qualified lead will vary depending on your needs.

Step 3: Determine the Qualifications

When people are on your website, social media sites, or even just doing searches, they are leaving digital breadcrumbs behind. These show you what they are interested in, how urgent their problem is, and even how much they are willing to spend. By observing these buyer behaviors, you will start to understand the criteria for which actions qualify a sales lead and which qualify a marketing lead. Once again, this will differ depending on your business and what your leads tend to do.

Sometimes it is as straightforward as them filling out a form to be contacted with more information. Other times, it is a bit more complicated. Perhaps they have spent time comparing your product to someone else’s or they have watched videos on your website.

Step 4: Determine Whether Marketing Can Deliver Leads to Sales

Now is the time to reflect on what you have done already. If your scope is too narrow, marketing might not be able to pass enough leads through the pipeline to sales. This is critical and can cause bottlenecks. Now is the time to fix any problems that you see – but you should also note that if you do encounter problems, this is the area you want to look at first.

In some cases, sales will need to be a bit more lenient on what qualifies as a sales qualified lead so that they can carry some of the burden.

Step 5: Reflect, Review, and Revise

At a preset time (we suggest every quarter) your sales and marketing functions should meet to determine whether your qualifications and categorizations for leads should be modified in any way. You can change them based on performance, new products, new goals, hiring and firing, new technologies, or any other changes to your pipeline.

The hardest part of the process is getting a process at all – but to have to go through it again every year, routine check-ups can help to keep both teams on track, helping them to work together.

At MRP, we have the technology to help you with qualifications you already have and help you to determine new criteria for those qualifications. If you are ready to get started with information that was previously inaccessible to you, contact us today.

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