While marketing teams may focus attention on attracting and nurturing new contacts and existing customers, their real customer is their internal sales team. One of your main job responsibilities in business marketing is to make your sales teams’ lives easier by helping them cultivate relationships through lead-generating marketing efforts.

As a marketer, you should be looking at ways to save them more of their most valued resource: time. The sales team’s time is precious, finite, and—without a doubt—crucial to the continued success of any B2B organization. The best way to save time and drive revenue is to hand off more viable marketing qualified leads (MQLs)—generate sales leads that have an unsatisfied need that your company can fill and that fit within your ideal customer profile. And, you want to do all of this before your competitors do. 

Marketing qualified leads are about more than simply qualifying them for sales communications. Marketing teams should be doing their due diligence and ensuring that sales leads are not only qualified but prioritized using intent data to identify bottom-of-the-funnel leads before adding them to their sales team’s contact list. It’s important to note that not all sales leads are marketing qualified leads, and in an effort to hand over that “silver bullet” to your sales team, there are some important steps to consider.

1. Identify Your Ideal Customer Profiles (ICP) & Buyer Personas First

In B2B organizations, especially those that focus more on account-based marketing (ABM), the ideal customer profile, or ICP, is essential. Your ideal customer profile will provide you with important information regarding the kind of business to which you are selling, and it will also assist you in generating new sales leads based on their circumstances, budget, and timeline, in addition to their industry.

This looks more at the company you’re selling to based on their situation, timeline, and industry, whereas buyer personas focus on the individuals you may deal with as a marketer or salesperson. Buyer personas should be created after ICPs. 

After you have identified your ideal ICP, creating buyer personas will assist you in selling to the folks who are required to approve the sale. These are also a fictional representation of your buying committee; these are the decision-makers or decision-influencers within the ICP. 

Both are an essential part of the lead qualification and sales qualification processes. If marketers want to hand off viable leads to their sales teams, then identifying the ideal customer for your product or service should be step one. Combining both ICPs and buyer personas allows you to narrow your audience and build targeted lists of companies as well as contacts within those companies. Then, these ideal customers within the lists can be cultivated through both marketing and sales channels. Using the phrase, “small fish, big pond”, there are a ton of contacts out there. However, combining these two important criteria on your perfect lead search allows you to fish a little more wisely and create a smaller pond.

As an example, you may discover a fresh lead that is an ideal customer for your particular product. However, if you are unable to identify the individual(s) who will make or influence the buying decision within that company and who your sales team needs to pitch, your efforts may go unnoticed. Or, even worse, you might waste time trying to sell to a role that isn’t the end-user and doesn’t have the authority to purchase the product or service in question.

2. Qualify Leads Utilizing Intent Data

It’s a marketer’s responsibility to help qualify a lead whether that be through inbound efforts or lists that help build a marketing plan, turning unknown leads into designated lead statuses. When you qualify a lead,  you determine whether or not the lead fits the ICP and buyer personas you’ve already identified. It answers the question, “Is this lead worth the time, effort, and resources?”. 

Even if you have identified your ICP and buyer personas, your job as a marketer isn’t over. Now is the time to further qualify those long lists of companies and people before handing over any new contacts to the sales team. “Good fit” leads are different for every company. However, it’s how you cultivate those initial leads into MQL’s that allows your sales team to sell better and more effectively. 

Coupling on buyer intent data is crucial to improving your qualification process. By the end of 2022, more than 70% of B2B marketers will heavily rely on third-party intent data. This data helps inform your decision-making. 

Data collection has become a critical part of the marketing process. Marketers can utilize that data to reach more potential customers—and generate more viable leads for their sales team. B2B buyer intent data provides insight into leads throughout the buyer lifecycle.

3 Types of Intent Data

There is first-party intent data, which is data that comes from your own company’s data collection. This includes interaction information, behavioral data, and other tracked information that your customer relationship management platform (CRM) would collect. 

Then, there is second-part intent data. This is data collected by another company. Companies like TechTarget and G2 deliver information on who is showing interest in your company or your competitors and determine whether or not leads are market opportunities early in the qualification process. 

There are also third-party intent data providers like Bombora and Demandbase, which are external. This is data that has been collected from all over the internet, which is mined through various methods as a user interacts with resources online.

How Does Intent Data Work?

For example, you offer a service for marketers to find contacts to cultivate. Your ideal buyer persona—Joe Smith, CEO—controls purchasing power within your XYC Corporation. XYC Corp. has a revenue of $15 million, is headquartered in the United States, has 200 employees, and offers products/services that your product will complement. Thus, making Joe and XYC Corp. a perfect fit. However, that information isn’t enough. It’s a great start, but let’s look a little deeper into how we can better define the best opportunities for your sales team.

Using an intent database, you find 15 people from XYC Corp. are searching the term “contact database for marketers”. This tells you that this company has people (unknown) looking for a product you offer. You immediately pull a list of your buyer personas for this company, knowing they are searching for a service you offer and show a buying intent. 

Now, It’s now your time to shine. It’s all about how you cultivate this list to turn them into customers. Waiting for leads to interact with your organization may put you behind the competition which is why intent data is so important in the process of building targeted lists and outreach efforts.

Just because you now have your initial marketing opportunities based on buyer personas, ICPs, and intent data, this doesn’t mean it’s a guarantee to close. These sales leads will still need to be scored and qualified before handing them off to sales. They are, however, much more qualified sales leads and should be prioritized as such.

In fact, a recent Forrester survey found 62% of B2B buyers determine which company they want to work with based on their own research of digital content. (This research all plays into intent data.) By the time a lead has interacted with your system or “raised their hand”, they’re already well into the research stage and may have a rough idea of who they’re going to choose. 

Marketing teams have the ability to handle some of the qualification process before hand-off—and should. It saves salespeople time, effort, and frustration, as well as increases the overall company’s bottom line by reallocating overall team efforts to the market opportunities that are more easily converted. 

3. How Can Marketers Better Qualify Leads Before Handing To Sales?

Now that you have developed your ICPs, buyer personas, and collected intent data, it’s time to further qualify leads before handing them to sales as marketing qualified leads. As marketers, we have a huge opportunity to generate sales leads which turns them into MQLs. Before we launch campaigns, however, it’s important to ensure everyone who interacts with that lead is working together and on the same page. 

Think Like a Salesperson

This is where collaboration and communication with customer-facing teams will really shine. During the sales qualification process, the sales team will ask specific questions to determine whether or not a lead is a good fit for the product or service—they’re on the hunt specifically for those market opportunities. 

The qualifying questions sales teams ask can easily be incorporated into the lead qualification process. Collaborating and soliciting feedback from sales teams and customer service teams, as well as leadership, can not only provide a more seamless omnichannel customer experience, it can actually produce more viable sales leads. 

Leads will be separated into qualified and disqualified. Disqualified doesn’t necessarily mean you throw the whole lead out and start over. Instead, it can simply mean they’re not quite sales qualified, but they could be marketing qualified and should be further nurtured through the marketing funnel.

If marketers are able to raise this question early in the qualification process, they can eliminate a number of unqualified candidates and save the sales team a significant amount of time and frustration. 

If you’ve ever worked in sales, you know that one of the most frustrating things is getting handed a “lead” by marketing that turns out to be unqualified. It’s a waste of time and resources, and it can create tension between the two departments. So how can marketers do a better job of qualifying sales leads before passing them off to sales?

Develop Your Buyer’s Journey

Once the target market is defined, the next step is to identify the buyer’s journey and what properties indicate that someone is ready to buy. 

What are the common pain points that prospects face during each stage of the journey? Ask questions surrounding the pain point that your product or service solves. What is the problem? Why are they trying to solve it now? Have they tried to solve it before? By creating content that addresses these pain points, marketers can attract leads that are further along in the buyer’s journey and more likely to close. 

Then, try to identify decision-makers and stakeholders. If you’re selling a complex B2B product, you might look for factors like budget, authority, need, and timeline (BANT). Even if the lead is a high-quality lead, their budget can completely derail this and move them straight to disqualification. In fact, it is the most common reason sales opportunities end without a closed deal. 

Nurture Lead with Targeted Content

Finally, it’s important to consider lead nurturing. If someone downloads a white paper or attends a webinar, that’s a good sign that they’re interested in the topic you’ve covered but not necessarily your product. Using information you know about their persona, the topic they’ve shown interest in and even by tracking which pages they visit on your website you can place these leads into a targeted drip program that helps move them through the funnel into a sales-ready state. 

Qualify High-Intent Leads with Paid Channels

If budget permits, qualifying sales leads with paid advertising before handing them over to sales can be a lucrative means of moving someone into the MQL stage. By ensuring that leads are interested in what a company has to offer, marketers can save time and money by only pursuing those that are most likely to convert into paying customers. 

Qualifying sales leads with paid advertising can be done in a number of ways, but some common methods include requiring potential customers to provide contact information or filling out a short survey. By taking the time to qualify sales leads upfront, businesses can better ensure that their sales teams are pursuing those that are most likely to result in a sale, making the entire process more efficient and ultimately more profitable.

Implement Lead Scoring

Then, create lead scoring criteria based on those factors so you can prioritize and weed out those that aren’t ready to buy.

Lead scoring is a common first step in the lead qualification process. And, with many CRMs, like Hubspot and Salesforce that provide intelligent built-in lead scoring capabilities, this can be integrated into the data collection process. 

Lead scoring is the process of assigning a point value, typically between 1 and 100, to prospects and inbound leads to identify how interested they are in your product or service. 

There are several different lead scoring models, but they all follow a similar pattern. Each action the lead takes adds or subtracts from their score. You can, and should, customize your lead scoring model based on the information that matters to your specific product or service. 

You should score your sales leads based on multiple attributes. Which attributes you choose will be determined by the communications with your customer-facing teams and by consulting the marketing analytics. 

This is a perfect example of how talking to sales and customer service teams can make a difference. Sales and customer service representatives have a much better idea of how customers are responding to marketing efforts. They know what messaging works, what interactions closed previous deals, and what touchpoints most resonated with market opportunities. Because of this, including the sales team when building out your lead scoring model is essential. 

Different Models for Lead Scoring

Hubspot uses predictive lead scoring. They utilize machine learning and AI to automate and optimize lead scoring over time. Their system has standard lead scoring, but they allow customers to customize the parameters. You can set up positive and negative attributes and attribute them at the contact level, company level, or individual deals. 

Cyberclick bases its lead scoring system on demographic information and behavioral information, including interactions and engagement. They use this information to determine if a lead is inactive, less active, active, or more active. They then assign different temperatures: warm, cold, and hot. 

Business2Community uses four questions to determine their lead scores: job position, department, company size, and type of company. 

Juan Merodio (identified by Cyberclick) has his own lead scoring method based on a PAIN score and a FIT score. These PAIN scores focus on the intensity of the pain point, while FIT scores determine how well the lead fits the buyer persona or ICP. He then categorizes leads into cold, warm, or hot leads or by identifying them as marketing qualified leads (MQL) or sales qualified leads (SQL). 

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By taking these steps, marketers can vastly improve their chances of passing off qualified leads to sales, saving everyone time and frustration.

RocketReach can help provide better-qualified sales leads, enabling marketing and sales teams to find the right leads fast. Find more emails, phone numbers, and other contact information for the buyer personas that fit into your ICP faster. Try it free today