The relationship between sales and marketing is often a sore topic. Greater alignment between sales and marketing requires developing a well-articulated process, supported by technology, that guides how sales and marketing work together.
The benefit of process and data is that, generally, both are objective. Data doesn’t have any personal feelings about the results of a marketing campaign; process isn’t listening in on phone calls with prospects. Because of this, many organizations have implemented sales accepted lead (SAL) stages into their demand generation strategy.
What Is a Sales Accepted Lead?
According to a 2016 CSO Insights report, sales leaders recognize that the primary challenge for their sellers is a lack of qualified leads. Many marketers out there disagree.
A sales accepted lead is a marketing qualified lead that has been validated by the sales team and will be contacted by a salesperson. You and your colleagues will have to establish a service-level agreement (SLA) to support this process. The SLA will outline the standards a marketing qualified lead (MQL) will be held to when it’s passed over to sales. This means that you won’t hear subjective feedback from your sales team about the quality of your leads. It’ll be a simple yes-or-no process of accepting or rejecting an MQL.
Some examples of why an MQL might be sent back to marketing:
- Sent to wrong salesperson
- MQL data is incomplete
- Not the right type of company
- Hasn’t completed enough lead activities
Your SLA will also establish how you define a sales qualified lead (SQL), which is an SAL who has become an opportunity. All of this creates a feedback loop that enables both teams to improve their success rates. Sales begins to further hone in on what qualities make for a great lead, and marketing understands what sort of site activities signal a potential SAL.
How do you go about getting more sales accepted leads?
How to Fill Your Pipeline with SALs
1. Study rejection as much as acceptance.
The previously mentioned CSO Insights report also found that only 42 percent of MQLs are accepted and worked by sales. That’s a lot of leads being sent back to marketing.
One of the major benefits of implementing SAL stages is that they force sales to give feedback to marketing in the form of measurable data. Sales is on the phone or exchanging emails with prospects and customers all the time. Marketing is, admittedly, having more of a one-way conversation.
This division of labor is a necessary evil for the sake of getting things done, but it also means that sales gains access to insights that marketing doesn’t. These insights will filter down into the MQLs they accept and the ones they send back. Your SAL qualification process should continue to evolve over time.
As you begin to parse out reasons for rejected leads, you’ll be able to start implementing #2.
2. Refine your outreach.
Over time, you’ll gain access to lead data that you could only guess about prior to your SAL process. This will allow you to refine your outreach to target the types of leads and behaviors that usually lead to an SAL (and beyond that, an SQL).
It could be that one white paper is triggering a lot of MQLs, but those leads are quickly rejected due to failing to meet a requirement established in your SLA. That could indicate that it’s time to revisit the title or content of that white paper, the language of the CTA, or how you’re distributing it.
3. Marketing needs to work the leads.
It wasn’t too long ago that a salesperson who refused to follow up on a lead, regardless of quality, would have been quickly shown to the door. Now, with the buying cycle becoming so complex and stretched across a wide spectrum of digital channels, it is no longer a good or sustainable strategy to ask sales teams to nurture leads. It can take up to eight touches to turn a prospect into an SAL. Those touches have to happen at some point in the buyer’s journey—they probably shouldn’t be pushed to the part of the process made up of the most manual, human-to-human interaction.
Instead, marketing should take responsibility for the majority of those touchpoints. Marketing teams should look to new technology beyond traditional marketing automation to nurture leads in ways that assist the existing processes that have been used to transition an MQL to an SAL.
One way to smooth this transition is to leverage AI technology in your marketing and sales enablement stack. At Conversica, we’ve designed a solution that automatically engages and begins to nurture every lead, every time. Marketing can then continue to invest in demand-generation programs, confident that leads aren’t falling through the cracks. Instead, AI is helping move them through the funnel, from MQL to SAL. This can also help improve the performance of your sales team, as Conversica automatically surfaces the most interested prospects. Your salespeople can now enter conversations with confidence.