September 29

Lead Generation Check list – Part 4: Clear and Universal Lead Definition

Lead Generation


This is the fourth installment in an eight-part series I’m calling the ‘Lead Generation Checklist.’ With each post, I’m addressing a step that in my experience helps improve lead generation efforts. For the first post, I focused changing your mindset to focus on conversations not campaigns. In Step Two, I discussed how to align sales and marketing as one team. In Step Three, I discussed how to develop and intensify your Ideal Customer Profile – which is all too necessary when determining how to reach your target market. 

Step Four: Create your very own version of the universal lead definition, apply it to every lead, and leave room for the definition to go through rapid iterations as you close the loop with your sales team.

Inquiries are not leads. In fact, I’ve found that as little as 5 to 15 percent of all inquiries are truly sales-ready. It’s no wonder a lot of salespeople struggle with the issue of inconsistency. Some opportunities are given too much focus while others are simply ignored.

One of the best things I can do for my clients is to guide them through the creation of a universal lead definition. This definition acts as the standard for rating leads. Believe me, nothing fancy is required. A good definition is basic and intuitive. And, it should be something that goes beyond marketing so that everyone agrees on the same definition.

A truly useful definition will be applied to all leads regardless of source – whether it’s teleprospecting, inbound calls, direct mail, webinars, etc. Combine it with the ideal customer profile and you’ll get a consistency that always yields higher-qualified leads.

To get started, hold a meeting with everyone involved from marketing, management and sales to ask:

What makes a good sales lead?

  • How can we raise the bar and give your better more actionable leads?
  • What initiative or need makes this a good fit?
  • What information in necessary to determine if a lead is worth the follow-through?
  • What are the titles/job functions of economic buyers and influencers?
  • What does this company values? What’s its culture like?
  • What are the common business issues?

What information is wanted in order to qualify leads as being sales ready?

  • What are the characteristics of the ideal sales opportunity?
  • What are the questions sales want answered before getting a lead?
  • What info is must-have vs. nice-to-have.
  • Which questions tend to gather the most-needed information?
  • What should we start doing to make leads more actionable?
  • What things should we stop doing with leads that don’t value?

Then, use the consensus definition of lead to:

Delineate “sales ready” verses “nurture” lead statuses.

  • Will there be a time frame to evaluate and implement a solution?
  • Will there be a formal or informal budget in place?
  • Are there specific behaviors or traits you are looking for?

Identify key information the sales person would value in speaking with a prospect

  • What fuels interest and how must we focus on it with the solution?
  • Where is the best entry point?
  • Who is involved in the buying process as it evolves? Should anyone else be contacted?
  • Where’s the funding coming from and who has authority over it?

Then, only send as many sales ready leads that the sales person can effectively handle.

The universal lead definition changes from company to company and sometimes from year to year within the same company. Revisit the definition often, and each time you hire a new employee, make sure they understand it. Publish the definition and integrate it into your organization’s language and culture. It doesn’t matter what your company calls a lead as long as it is meaningful to the sales force.

How many of you feel as though your company could go a step further in defining the definition of a lead?

Related Posts:

How to do lead management that improves conversion

10 Ways to Optimize Your Lead Conversion Rate

Universal Lead Definition: Why 61% of B2B marketers are wasting resources and how they can stop

On Lead generation: Insist on lead quality over quantity

Stuck on words: how can marketing connect with customers better?

About the author 

Brian Carroll

Brian Carroll is the CEO and founder of markempa, helping companies to convert more customers with empathy-based marketing.

He is the author of the bestseller, Lead Generation for the Complex Sale and founded B2B Lead Roundtable LinkedIn Group with 20,301+ members.

  1. Good question on gets to define time frame, budget, and funding?

    In some cases marketing can but I think sales people get to define when a lead converts to an opportunity.

    As marketers our job is to help the sales team sell by driving the sale pipeline and ultimately revenue. If marketing and sales are collaborating or “huddling” like I advocate they will understand what it’s going to take drive better results.

    That’s why I also emphasize the “universal lead definition” because it sets the stage for to build accountability by co-creating the measurements. It ensures a smooth, effective process between marketing, inside sales and outside sales—three teams that too often handoff activities rather than be accountable for results the whole system produces.

    Does that help?

  2. Brian,
    Thanks for the thoughtful post. Are you saying it is marketing’s function to determine time frame, budget existence and source of funding? I’m not sure where marketing ends and sales begins in this definition. Any clarification would be helpful because I will be using this next week in Boston.


    Dale – EchoQuote

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