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How to Qualify Your Leads and Improve the Sales and Marketing Relationship

Over the years, many great relationships have been immortalised in fiction; through television, film and literature. The star struck lovers that were Romeo and Juliet, Tom and Jerry, David and Victoria Beckham (or are they real?).

But in the eyes of Google, there is no higher searched for relationship than that between sales and marketing:


The relationship between sales and marketing can be a rocky one – and it’s one that has been written about in much detail elsewhere.

In this article we’re going to look at two areas in particular where the relationship between the two can break down:

  1. The quantity and quality of leads

  2. The responsibility for generating high quality leads and prospects

The subject of lead generation can cause particular difficulty and this is in part due to the changing nature of the buying journey.

More of the decision making process is being undertaken by prospective clients long before they pick up the telephone to a sales person, so leads need to be generated much earlier in the process than has happened previously, especially in B2B.

This can mean a potential conflict between the roles of sales and marketing, as traditional responsibilities become merged and expectations aren’t realised.

So what can be done?

Lead Quality and Quantity

One common area of disagreement between sales and marketing is in the volume and quality of leads that are received, and with the changing buying process within B2B, the responsibility between sales and marketing can become blurred.

According to research by Google:

  1. 89% of B2B researchers use the internet during the B2B research process

  2. Nearly half of B2B researchers are aged between 18-34

  3. 81% of non board members have a say in purchase decisions

So what does that mean for lead generation?

It means that leads need to be generated earlier and that influencers need to be targeted as well as the decision maker. This can lead to a longer buying journey and a more marketing led approach to intercept prospects when they are conducting online research.

To enable this approach, it’s common to classify leads as follows. The precise definition and classification can vary between companies, but this template is generally applicable to most lead generation scenarios:

Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs)

These are leads that fulfil the target criteria for a potential client, either by job role, level of responsibility or influence on the buying process.

Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs)

SQLs have met the marketing qualified criteria but also shown a buying intent, an interest in products and services or demonstrated an available budget.

Sales Accepted Leads (SALs)

These leads will have moved on to the next stage of the buying process, which will often be when a member of the sales team has begun to scope out a requirement with the prospect. This is normally the stage before a proposal is drawn up.

This classification can help to set expectations as to the quality of leads and give a much greater understanding for both sales and marketing as to the the status of leads and the funnel through which early stage leads become prospects and clients.

Fresh Source Lead Funnel (3) (1)

Sales and marketing should work together to decide on how their funnel looks and agree on the classification for each level of lead. Suitable actions can then be implemented for each of these stages.

Responsibility for Lead Generation

Now we have mapped out the different lead types, we can assign responsibility between sales and marketing for each stage. Here are some examples:

MQL: Responsibility – Marketing Team

Marketing should generate an agreed number leads matching the agreed MQL criteria through targeted marketing activities designed to bring the right leads into the funnel. Once the funnel has been operating for a period of months, targets can be set for the number of MQLs that will need to be generated in order for the right number to pass through the funnel and generate the number of sales that the sales team needs to hit its target.

SQL: Responsibility – Marketing Team

Once marketing qualified leads have been gathered, it’s then the responsibility of the marketing team to nurture them to a point where a purchasing intent is identified or a demand generated for the products and services that are offered by the company.

SAL: Responsibility – Sales Team

Once a buying intent has been identified, either through a direct enquiry or high engagement with marketing materials and the website, these leads can then be passed through to sales to follow up and identify an opportunity. Once they have identified an opportunity, then it is over to the sales team to close the lead.


The benefit of this approach is that expectations are set between the sales and marketing teams up front, with each knowing their responsibilities for hitting joint targets. Marketing needs to know how many MQLs they need to bring in at the top of the funnel and how many they need to nurture in order for sales to hit their targets.

Although the targets set should be worked towards formally, sales and marketing should work together to learn from the leads that are coming through the funnel and adjust targets and criteria based on what they are seeing happen on a quarterly basis. This will ensure that the system always stays relevant and everyone in both teams remain bought into it.

Once targets are set for each stage of the funnel, it also provides an opportunity for budgets to be set and agreed between sales and marketing based on what they need to achieve each of their targets. This will ensure both teams are working together to agreed targets and should help to ease that persistent issue of sales and marketing budget allocation.


A happy sales and marketing unit is one that is working together to joint overall goals. By mapping in the buying journey for your organisation and attributing responsibility for hitting specific lead targets between both teams, you will have a transparent, effective joint function that is working together for the good of the business.


  1. Design a joint sales and marketing buying journey

  2. Agree on criteria for leads at each stage of that journey

  3. Assign responsibility for generating each of those leads between sales and marketing

  4. Set targets that are achievable for both teams

  5. Keep communication open and don’t be afraid to adjust targets if leads aren’t converting at the expected rate

  6. Use the new process as an opportunity to focus sales and marketing budget where it is most needed to get more leads through the funnel

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