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How to deliver better MQLs to your sales team

The definition of a marketing qualified lead (MQL) can differ between sales and marketing, causing leads to fall through the gaps. Molly Raycraft talks to Orlo’s Stuart Banbery about how he’s tightened the gap and improved lead quality

It's frustrating and de-motivating for marketers to hand over leads only for them to be ignored by the sales team. Meanwhile it's frustrating for sales to receive leads that need more time and effort than they have available. This disconnect can mean big opportunities are missed, so it’s critical that marketers understand what sales need from them, and vice versa.

One such marketer is Stuart Banbery, marketing director at the seven year-old CX platform, Orlo. He’s currently reviewing his company's entire lead generation process to ensure sales and marketing are more aligned. He wants clear definitions of an MQL and SQL, and to ensure the tightened process means they’re targeting leads at the warmest time. This review process has been spurred on by a wider business strategy to aggressively scale the business. “We’re looking at how we can systemise the business more, because when you’re running a young company you're probably missing some fundamental building blocks. Yet as you grow and mature, and in order to scale, you need to be working from solid foundations.”

This has meant refining the leads that sales and marketing invest their focus in. The transition for Stuart and the team is to now ensure marketing are providing sales with leads that keep them productive and focused in a more efficient way. “That means calling the right prospect, at the right time, defining MQLs and SQLs, and automating processes such as lead scoring,” explains Stuart.

Reviewing your MQL/SQL processes

Staying on top of your lead processes is important for every business. This may mean making incremental changes. However, in some situations - such as a change of focus - it may require a more radical review.  So how do you know which approach is right for you?

“You organically get to that stage where you need to create more capacity,” answers Stuart. “Everyone’s very busy but that may not translate into results, you need to be busy in the right way.”

It was at the start of the financial year that leaders at Orlo realised they needed to make this change. So far the head of sales, head of marketing (Stuart) and the MD have spent three months working closely together, during this time they have setting objectives around automating MQL and SQL activity, which are now being fed back to the CEO Ben Nimmo. Stuart says this has required fast learning but from the results they’ve seen so far, they anticipate it to be a positive investment.

Top tip: Finding time to review your processes. The idea of reviewing your entire leads process can feel disruptive to your day-to-day activities. Look for a good opportunity for this review to happen. It could be when you choose to implement a new piece of martech that charges per contact. Also linking your actions to cost-saving is likely to increase buy-in from the board. Another opportunity could be if you choose to move to a new CRM. By tying a ‘lead audit’ into the implementation process, you’ll be starting with a cleaner slate.

Aligning sales and marketing around MQLs/SQLs

The relationship betweeen marketing versus sales is a common pain point for parties on each side. “As long as I’ve worked in marketing, there’s always been friction between sales and marketing,” confirms Stuart. However, ensuring both teams are supportive of the organisation’s lead gen approach and understand each other’s roles, can seriously help in easing that friction.

To achieve this, senior leaders at Orlo ensured both sales and marketing were involved in defining what an MQL and SQL meant. “Getting that buy-in across the business kept people motivated, inspired and feeling like they have ownership of their role. It’s important to communicate that from the top down,” explains Stuart.

Once the teams had come to a conclusion on what an MQL was, and what stage it should be passed to the sales team, it was documented – with the entire sales and marketing team signing off on it.  This new definition will be kept intact by providing a short document on the agreed lead process to each member of the sales and marketing team, as well as regular training.

Stuart’s MQL and SQL definitions:

MQL: An account that’s in your target market, has an appropriate job title, and hit a lead score agreed by your organisation.

SQL: An account that matches the BANT (budget, autonomy, need, and timeline) criteria laid out by your organisation.

Top tip: Provide a succinct guide. Stuart suggests boiling down your organisation’s go-to-marketing strategy into a one or two-page document. This document should outline the target market, the values, the proposition, USPs, the MQL and SQL definition, and the handover process. Everyone should have a copy of this. “It gets rid of all the ambiguity around what a good lead is,” says Stuart.

Lead scoring

Another move Orlo has undertaken is lead scoring. By implementing a scoring system, leads can be prioritised and progressed to the marketing or sales teams based on those scores. For Stuart, this is critical in ensuring the sales and marketing teams are projecting their focus on the ripest accounts. Lead scoring also allows him to measure and keep track of their progress throughout the review.

Poor versus valuable lead sources

When you have a system that can crunch data and float the most valuable accounts to the top, there can be a temptation to feed in as much data as possible. Purchasing lists can seem like a quick solution to this, however Stuart warns against this due to poor quality. “I lose track of the amount of times I get a dodgy email from a Gmail account asking if I want to buy users of a competitor. Within the days of GDPR and the space that we operate, we have to be very compliant with how we handle data.”

Instead, Stuart suggests a lead generation approach that uses high-value content. By providing e-books, events and webinars, marketers can attain leads that see the value of your company and are interested in hearing more from you. “It’s much more effective if we build our prospects database through value-added activities,” explains Stuart. “The people we add to our database are much more bought in, they’ve opted in and they’re much more targeted and engaged.”

One example of this is Orlo's Future CX event which invited 100-150 clients and prospects to discuss the work they’re doing.

Stuart also adds that Orlo try to take the focus off themselves. This may seem confusing to some brands, however by incorporating their current clients as the main focus rather than Orlo, credibility and trust has been established. This ultimately brings in more opted-in leads.

10 ways to generate sales leads

  1. Existing customers - they may be able to make introductions on your behalf.
  2. A referral programme – to encourage staff, partners and customers.
  3. Press releases – to increase traffic to your website.
  4. Directories – such as SaaS Software, G2Crowd, Capterra, and B2B Marketing (of course).
  5. Whitepapers – to deliver value-added content.
  6. Blogs – high value blogs on other websites can direct traffic and backlinks to your site.
  7. Webinars – to deliver the value-added content.
  8. Landing pages – pages built on your own website (and not through a third party) will help you capture leads.
  9. Lead generation companies – these companies will be able to provide you with lists of leads at a price, however the quality is suspected to be low and you can’t guarantee that you’re not paying for leads you already have.
  10. SEO – to make website visible to ultimately drive traffic (and leads).

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