All leads are not created equal. Sending every inquiry generated from your marketing efforts to a salesperson, wastes their time and creates a poor customer experience.
Leads can come from a variety of sources and activities, including phone calls by the company or telemarketing professionals, digitally via the Internet or emails, through advertisements, tradeshows or events.
Let’s look at a few different types of leads and how they differ:
- Leads from list providers
- Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL)
- Sales Qualified Leads (SQL)
LEADS FROM LIST PROVIDERS
Many companies purchase raw “leads” from list providers based on a set of criteria for their ideal lead persona. This is a quick way to begin building your prospect database but they are just “lists” not “leads”. It takes a lot of time to cold call and to qualify these contacts. Also, depending on the list source, the company and contact information may be outdated or inaccurate.
Most companies lack the internal staff to dedicate the time and effort needed to make consistent cold calls on a regular basis. And most of these companies prefer to let their sales team focus on closing instead of chasing new business.
But there is an alternative. A professional telemarketing company can be an effective resource for cold calling to qualify, gather actionable business intelligence and set appointments with these contacts. Telemarketing agencies employ experienced staff that does cold calling as a profession and as a dedicated resource they are not distracted by other activities and daily responsibilities.
Raw contacts shouldn’t be mistaken for leads. Real leads have some type of activity context, whereas, raw contacts do not. There are plenty of list sources for contacts and good reasons for using them. The key is converting them to actionable leads.
MARKETING QUALIFIED LEADS (MQL)
Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) are leads that have typically come through Inbound channels, such as Internet search, emails or content marketing, and have expressed interest in a company's product or service. At this point, these leads have not interacted with sales teams.
MQLs are more interested in your product than other prospects based on specific demographics, activities or behaviors. Qualifications can include expressing specific interests through downloading white papers or literature requests, identifying job titles, website activity such as viewing specific pages or many other factors.
Some marketers consider a single form submission to be a lead but that is not usually the case unless the lead is asking for an immediate follow up to purchase or to talk about your product or service.
Marketers who use marketing automation and lead nurturing to further profile the contacts that enter their databases can uncover buying intent which produces more highly qualified leads. By using lead scoring, marketers can assign specific scores to explicit and implicit attributes to automatically determine which leads should be routed to the sales team as Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs). This increases the productivity of sales reps by keeping them focused on the leads that have the highest likelihood of converting.
MQLs aren’t guaranteed to buy your product, but identifying them early helps move them through the sales funnel to become a SQL.
SALES QUALIFIED LEADS (SQL)
Sales leads come from either marketing lead-generation processes such as trade shows, direct marketing, advertising, Internet marketing or from sales prospecting activities such as in-house cold calling or using a professional telemarketing company. For a sales lead to qualify as a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL), sales prospect qualification must be performed and evaluated.
Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) are leads typically followed up through phone calls by professional telemarketers or salespeople to obtain the appropriate qualifying criteria. Qualifying criteria can include Budget, Authority to purchase, Need and Time-frame (BANT).
Additionally, a SQL has demonstrated intent to buy a company's products and has met an organization's lead qualification criteria that determine whether a buyer is the right fit. A SQL is applied to a prospect that has gone past the engagement stage and is ready to be pursued for conversion into a full-fledged customer.
The most critical differences between qualified and unqualified sales leads are in terms of buyer fit and intent. Lead quality often varies but if you cultivate them through lead nurturing they are more likely to turn into buyers.