J. David Green

Why the Term “Marketing-Qualified Lead” Creates Serious Confusion – Part 2

In my post earlier this week, I outlined the challenge presented by SiriusDecisions’ Demand Waterfall taxonomy, specifically with the phrase “Marketing-Qualified Leads” (MQLs). Another problematic phrase is “sales-accepted leads.”

Often, funnels leak the most during the handoff between sales and marketing. Invariably, marketing blames sales and sales blames marketing. A lack of clarity around the term “sales-accepted lead” is the real culprit.

Marketing doesn’t need sales to “accept” the leads. Marketing needs sales to confirm whether the lead met the Universal Lead Definition that was agreed to between sales and marketing. This is a yes/no answer. Sales people should be able to tell on the first sales call, whether by phone or in person, if the lead met the criteria they set with marketing. If the lead didn’t meet the criteria, then marketing needs to know why. There are usually just a handful of reasons.

Such feedback need not wait until the lead is converted to an opportunity weeks or maybe months later. Instead, marketing can take immediate actions to improve lead-qualification practices. And sales leadership can identify sales people who do not understand the agreed-upon criteria, which can lead to an improvement in the Universal Lead Definition.

That’s why I like the phrase “sales-validated leads.” That’s what sales should be doing: validating whether the lead is really a lead, per the definition agreed to by sales and marketing. For most marketing organizations, this small change in funnel focus can make a huge difference in plugging funnel leaks.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments. At MECLABS, we don’t want to “own” the funnel taxonomy. We want to create a new, universal language that is useful for everyone and share our knowledge freely. That objective is best accomplished through a community effort via social media. So please, share this post with other funnel mavens and share your opinion. Together, we can create a new, more useful set of funnel definitions.

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Lead Generation, Lead Qualification, Marketing Strategy, Sales Leads, Thought Leadership

  1. Brad
    | #1

    Not sure that I see that big of a difference between “accepted” and “validated.”
    In the early days of the waterfall concept, one of the many changes that occurred was the notion of shared accountability for qualifying and transitioning a lead from MKT to Sales. As such, MKT needed to be able to hold sales accountable once the hand-off occurred. The concept of a SLA between MKT and Sales was based upon this, and the shared definition of a lead (MQL).

    One could argue that the concept should evolve (and it is), but the premise of shared accountability remains to this day and is widely accepted.

  2. | #2

    Thanks for joining the conversation. The reason that “accepted” is not the best term is that the word is fuzzy. In many organizations, “accepted” means nothing more than a sales person giving the lead a visual sniff test. That’s not good enough. For example, lots of sales people without assigned territories “accept” leads just in case anything ever transpires in that account.

    A term that is clearer is better. What sales needs to do is validate whether the lead met certain criteria. So that is why I prefer “validated” over “accepted.” But perhaps there is a better word or phrase and I invite the audience to make suggestions.

    There’s no argument from me about the value of mutual obligations. The obligation of marketing is to produce a specific volume of leads that meet a particular specification. The obligation of sales is to follow up with each lead in a specific time frame, making a particular level of effort, and providing specific and limited feedback. The obligations of both sales and marketing is to align goals and to evolve the Universal Lead Definition to optimize the sales and marketing funnel.

  3. | #3

    well you are right what most of the clients need is sale- validated leads not sale accepted leads. But first of all there should be universal definition for leads based on some specific criteria. We should observe the various sources of lead generation and then conclude the universal definition of leads based on our observation. which sources bring more quality leads and which bring less quality leads.
    You know what there are some sources which do bring leads but not of good quality while some generate less leads but of top quality so it’s upto you what are you are interested in…

  4. | #4

    @John Smith
    Thanks for joining the conversation. I agree that lead criteria must be specific.

  5. | #5

    Terminology can be important, but regardless the key is communication and taking the emotion out and making fact based decisions. No question terms like “market qualified leads” and “sales accepted” probably create more us/them thinking and emotion. we use suspects and leads, meaning a lead is qualified based on agreed upon criteria. Of course the criteria needs to be in the broader context of the marketing strategy.


  6. | #6

    @Brian Hodgson
    I agree. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

  7. | #7

    Hi David. Sales-validated lead is a more appropriate term. Whatever term we use, it is the task of the sales group to turn any lead into an actual sale with enough follow through and value-added service. http://bit.ly/ayeen2

  8. | #8

    @Ayeen Benoza
    Hi Ayeen
    Thank you so much for your continued contributions to these posts and for the kind words.

  9. | #9

    You are so right about both sides! The worse is that despite not understanding each other, marketing and sales just need each other to survive…

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