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Anyone who works in a marketing or sales role can tell you at a high level what a qualified lead is: A prospective customer who matches the company's ideal buyer profile in terms of need, budget, timing, and other factors.

Okay, so far so good. But taking it one step further, what are those ideal prospect characteristics at a particular company? Um ... This is where you might run into trouble.

According to CSO Insights' 2014 Sales Performance Optimization Find More Analysis report, only about half of organizations have a formal definition of a qualified lead that both Marketing and Sales adhere to. Surprisingly, 31% of survey respondents only had an informal definition in place, and approximately 19% had no definition at all. 

And not using a common interpretation takes a toll on lead conversion rates. The research shows that only 34% of companies with no formal definition were able advance a lead to a first discussion more than half of the time. This percentage jumped to 63% when considering companies with clear definitions. Bottom line: Organizations that formally define the term "qualified lead" connect with prospects more often.

How can a company move closer to a concrete meaning? "One strategy that pays dividends is defining your perfect prospect profile," the report states. It recommends going back into CRMs and other systems that hold sales data, and analyzing wins and losses. What do successful customers have in common in terms of need, budget, and other attributes? Once you find the similarities, document them in a target prospect profile, and then firm up the definition of "qualified lead" so reps know exactly which opportunities to move forward with and which to abandon.

A simple definition can save salespeople from going on wild goose chases. And when their time is better spent, more signed deals are the result. As the report notes, "Yogi Berra once observed that 'If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.' That can easily be paraphrased for sales -- if you don’t know what types of prospects you are looking for, you’ll probably end up with something else." Make sure both Marketing and Sales are headed in the same direction, and then stick to the path.

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Originally published Jan 12, 2015 8:30:00 AM, updated February 01 2017

Topics:

Sales Enablement