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