Not all leads are created equal

New year and a new set of goals come into play as we forge our way forward intending for this year to be better than the last.

Irrespective of when your financial year ends, January is still the month where businesses are most likely to focus on the activities that will support their growth for the months to come. This means once the plans have been drafted attention will turn to sales and revenue generation.

Whether you have internal sales teams or have opted to outsource the function, one of the key activities in business development will be lead generation to ensure you keep the sales pipeline flowing giving you confidence that sales will result at the end.

Now here is the rub, a sales lead is a catch all term that can have different interpretations depending on what your expectations are and there lies the problem.

Let me explain, technically a contact name with an email address could be considered a lead but it is nowhere near as desirable as having a prospect that is primed for a conversation with a sales rep - yet the two fall under the lead category.

It’s for this purpose I wanted to share the different types of leads there are which will help you determine your lead generation goals and will enable you to set your expectations with those assigned to develop leads for you.

In the main they are:
  1. The Unwitting Lead
  2. The Marketing Qualified Lead
  3. The Sales Qualified Lead

1. The Unwitting Lead

The unwitting lead is not an industry term but one I’ve adopted for this example. This exists at the very basic end of the lead spectrum and is effectively a contact that has been merely identified as a lead. Here you will only have rudimentary information such as a name, email address and perhaps a mobile number. Typically you will acquire this information from a company specialising in selling data unless you assign someone to research this for you specifically.

Although the lead will be known to you, you will not be known to the lead so your only marketing option is to email them. The problem with this is that it’s a complete stab in the dark and chances are, even if the email gets through to their inbox having by passed their spam filters, they are more likely to blanket delete it along with all their other unsolicited emails.

I'm not saying it doesn’t work but the chances are slim and may require intensive nurturing to get them to a stage where they are ready to engage with you and that is without even starting a debate on GDPR implications.

2. The Marketing Qualified Lead

A step up from that is a Marketing Qualified Lead, often abbreviated to MQL.

This is defined as a lead who has indicated interest in what a brand has to offer based on marketing efforts or is otherwise more likely to become a customer than other leads. An MQL has taken the first steps to becoming a customer and is primed to receive additional contact.

Now this is where things are getting interesting and you can begin engaging with the prospect. However just because interest has been expressed doesn’t mean it will go anywhere as there could be numerous factors involved in the decision making - much of which you will not be aware of and will certainly have no control over.

Although categorised as more likely to convert into a customer there may still be a lot more nurturing required so at this stage you can label them as lukewarm.

3. The Sales Qualified Lead

Finally we have Sales Qualified Leads or SQLs. This is a prospective customer who has been qualified and deemed ready for the sales team to contact and close a sale. Your sales team can answer specific questions and provide one-on-one time.

Assessing the three different types I’m confident in betting that I know which one businesses would prefer to work with therefore concluding that in fact not all leads are created equal.

So why does this matter and what does it mean?

As mentioned earlier it’s all about being clear in terms of your expectations with those you’ve assigned the task of lead generation.

Whether you have internal capability or have decided to outsource the role we all have to be conscious of budgets and ensure we assign the right value to the right activity - especially during these challenging economic times.

It’s with this in mind whoever you engage to do this for you need to be clear on the quality of the lead you require for the resource you have available. Therefore due diligence is required to assess lead generation performance.

Maybe even consider what hand off criteria you require to progress the lead into a sales conversation or appointment.

This will take some effort to develop initially but you will reap the rewards in the long term in terms of the time and money you will save on appointment no shows and other disappointments resulting from your lead qualification process.

If you would like to have a conversation to discuss your lead generation or business development strategy then simply complete the contact form here. Alternatively take the FREE Sales Effectiveness Scorecard which will report on your lead generation performance