When Is the Right Time to Pass a Lead to Sales?

Any connoisseur of a good steak will tell you that there is nothing right or wrong in determining how “well done” a steak is. It’s a matter of the consumer’s personal taste. Even as a self-proclaimed expert in the grilling arts, I know that my preference for how well done a particular steak will not satisfy the palates of all for whom I cook. As marketers, we are faced with a dizzying array of choices when it comes to scoring, routing, nurturing, and managing the flow of leads from our campaigns to the sales team. Despite all of the wonderful tools and technology afforded to us, we still cannot assume that we (marketing) know the right time to pass leads to sales. Like chefs in a gourmet restaurant, the last thing we want is a plate sent back from an unsatisfied patron.

Most marketing automation systems today provide lead scoring and lead routing. It’s been long argued that the best approach for building a successful lead management model is to follow the red-light/green-light philosophy and to keep the model simple. Green goes to sales while red stays in a marketing nurture program. But how do we as marketers know when the right time to classify a lead as green, or in many vernaculars, SQL (sales qualified lead)?

When grilling a steak for a group of people, you’ll get different opinions on when it’s “done.” Some sales organizations that are “lead poor” will shout that any lead with a pulse should immediately be passed to sales. They want it “cooked” rare. Other sales teams that are “lead rich” will be much more selective with leads they dedicate valuable selling time to. These sales teams prefer those leads which have spent a bit more time on the coals. Unfortunately, if marketing passes leads without direct input from sales or if they create SQL’s based 100 percent on sales’ near-term needs, then both models have a high likelihood of failing.

Here are a few tips you should follow when designing a lead management model in your organization:

  • SQL/MQL Definitions Meeting: Marketing should schedule a meeting with all members of the sales team and present to them all of the data points that can be scored by the MAP (Marketing Automation Platform) and explain these data points to sales in detail. List out the data points in categories such as website visit, demographic, campaign response, etc., and then have sales vote on which of the data points are more or less valuable.
  • Qualified Lead Review Meeting: This should include all members of sales and should be an in-depth review of the last 20 to 50 leads that qualified into opportunity stage. The review should focus on the demographic profile of the lead and the marketing-related actions these leads had taken prior to becoming a lead.
  • The Digital Cocktail Party: Have each member of your sales team describe what things they would want to know about a person they met at a business cocktail meeting.
  • Know Your Customer: By this I mean marketing must understand the sales team and their needs related to leads. Have an honest discussion with sales about the state of leads and define if sales is “lead poor” or “lead rich.” Don’t give in to demands of sales in lead poor environments. The inclination will always be to keep sales happy and to pass as many leads as possible. This is a recipe for indigestion!

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