April 16

How to create your universal lead definition for better results

Lead Generation


Confession: I wish I could flash this across every marketer’s computer screen the moment it powered up:

Warning sales leads

What is a universal lead definition (ULD)?

It defines what a qualified sales lead is to everyone in your organization.

The universal lead definition also:

  • Fits the profile of your ideal customer
  • Has been qualified as sales-ready
  • Spells out the responsibilities and accountabilities of Sales and Marketing
  • Makes Marketing and Sales more efficient

Still, most of the companies I meet with do not have a ULD. An astounding 61% of B2B marketers admit to sending “leads” directly to Sales without qualification, according to the MarketingSherpa B2B Marketing Benchmark Report.

Are these truly leads? Not really. Anyone who expresses interest in what you sell is an inquiry, not a lead. Experience has taught me that only 5% to 15% of inquiries are ready to speak to Sales.

However, as many as 80% of inquiries will be ready to speak with Sales in the future. If you send leads too soon, Sales will discard them, so you must nurture them until they fit your ULD.

What does a universal lead definition (ULD) look like?

A ULD doesn’t need to be complex.

For example, by developing a clear definition of qualified lead one client an $80 billion IT management organization used the following approach”

An inquiry becomes a qualified lead when it met the following lead definition criteria:

  • Fits the ideal customer profile and target account demographics
  • Has interest from the right decision maker contact
  • Has a clear problem or defined need that we can solve
  • Plans to evaluate the solution in three months
  • Plans to make a purchase decision in six months or less
  • Is ready to speak/meet with a sales rep within 2 weeks

The definition above was applied to every lead regardless of where it came from — whether teleprospecting, inbound marketing, webinars or elsewhere.

By creating their universal lead definition and qualifying leads this company increased sales-ready leads by 375% and sales accepted opportunities by 200% without an increase in budget spent.

Why did it work? Because the ULD set the standard for determining which leads should receive the highest priority and optimizing the sales process.

Using a ULD as for lead qualification of MQLs

By having a clear understanding of what the word “lead” means, sales and marketing teams can solve problems such as:

  • Sales leads not being qualified or prioritized
  • Leads not being nurtured
  • Sales rejecting or not following-up on leads
  • No handoff clear lead routing process
  • And more

Complete Guide to create a universal lead definition

So now that you know what a ULD looks like, here’s how you create one :

Step 1: Bring Sales and Marketing together for a meeting. 

Use a leader/facilitator whom both groups respect. The premise is that you’re in this together.

Step 2: Ask Sales this key question:

“For us to be 100% certain that when we send you a lead, you will act on it and provide feedback 100% of the time, what do you need to know? At what point do you consider a lead qualified?”

More on Lead qualification and scoring for better leads

Step 3: Listen to sales input and make sure everyone speaks up.

Every salesperson must participate. And give input.

Step 4: Clarify and continue.

Write a summary of your meeting, including your initial definition, and have another one to clarify what was said. Make sure everyone is satisfied — strong consensus is critical.

Step 5: Publish the ULD everywhere

Your universal lead definition needs to be understood to help your team involved with lead generation to be clear on their target.

Step 6: Close the loop on sales qualified leads

Use regular huddles — face-to-face or voice-to-voice meetings. Don’t count on software to close the loop for you. Sales and Marketing should meet biweekly to ensure the lead definition is still accurate.

Ask questions like, “Was X a lead? Did they enter the sales process? Why or why not?

What else would you like to have known about this lead? What else can we improve? What should we stop doing? What should we start doing?” Is there any follow-up needed?

Read Introduction to Lead Management

It doesn’t take a lot of time or effort to heed my warning, but I promise you, the rewards of doing so — more pipeline, sales, success and better ROI — will make it more than worthwhile.

You may also like:

How to Do Lead Management That Improves Conversion

16 Proven Ways to Get Better Opportunities Now

BNET Interviews Brian Carroll: ‘Focus on Helping, Not Closing’

Five steps to help create your universal lead definition

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. Well, if I could tattoo this post on my forehead, I would.

    I love the ‘Warning’ screen and the emphasis on a ULD.

    If everyone followed your practices, every marketing automation solution would be throwing revenue faster than the sales guys could count it.


  2. Nice post Brian, it’s really very important if the marketing staff is going to qualify their leads first before letting the sales department handle it. Good Lead Qualification saves the compny a lot of time and money, and will help the sales department generate revenue at the soonest time. http://bit.ly/ayeen8

  3. Great post Brian, thank you. I’m curious if you have suggestions on how marketing can effectively find answers to some of the important questions in the example you provided, like:

    – Plans to evaluate the solution in three months or less
    – Plans to make a purchase decision in six months or less
    – Is ready to speak with a sales rep within two weeks

    Do they simply ask? And if so, in what context?

  4. Hi Brian! The criteria for the leads that you listed here is very informative and a great reminder for us. It definitely saves a lot of time and money. Involving the sales people is a great strategy for teamwork which will surely lead to better results. http://bit.ly/ayeen8

  5. I would also say the same thing Brian. Another superb post. And Jeff i would definitely take a print out of this article and then get the xerox of it to distribute among my team members.
    Thanks for defining the term “lead” in its real sense.

  6. Great post, Brian and super tips on creating a Universal Lead Definition. I even printed copies to hand out to one of Find New Customers clients. I suggest a lot of B2B marketers do the same. Print, hand out and discuss.

    Jeff Ogden, President
    Find New Customers
    Host of Mad Marketing TV and Marketing Made Simple TV

    1. @Jeff Ogden That’s great to hear! I hope other marketing leaders do the same thing and use this as a guide to help their team and get clarity on this vital point and define what exactly the word, “lead” means.

Comments are closed.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Related Posts