Logo - Full (Color)
Skip to content

Episode 6: How to Find Fit and Sales Readiness

Marketing qualified leads, or MQLs, are leads that are both a good fit for your offering and are ready to have a sales conversation. But what about hand-raisers, or good fit but unready sales leads, or poor fit leads? 

We’ll set up a lead qualification matrix to help you sort through good fit and poor fit leads, based on sales readiness. That way, you can send the best leads to sales, and leave the rest for marketing to continue nurturing. 

Listen Now

Episode Transcription

Hi, I’m Jorie from HubSpot, and this is Skill Up -- the show where you’ll learn how to take your sales, marketing, and service skills to the next level. 

Last episode we talked about how to qualify a lead, and how you can get your ideal customer profile setup. You’ll need those for today’s episode.

Now, once you’ve got your ideal customer profile setup, you can determine what makes someone a good fit for your offering. It’s all 1’s or 0’s at this point. Completely binary.

But you need to figure out which actions demonstrate someone is sales ready. 

Someone might be a great fit for your product, but if they're focused on other priorities, now might not be the right time for them to have a conversation with sales. Sometimes, people just aren't ready for that yet. So go ahead and tap on those brakes for a bit. 

On the other hand, leads might don a dark cloak and try their best M. Night Sha-ma-lan impression. They’ll seem to be one thing, but are shock, gasp, what!? Something totally different!

Here's Dan McDade, President and CEO of PointClear, to explain the twist.

McDADE: This is a complicated subject to some extent because specifically what I'm saying is it sometimes hot leads… a lot of times those have already been won by a competitor and you're in there as column fodder.

Ugh, hard truth time.

McDADE: And typically you have a very low chance of actually winning that business because you've gotten in too late.

If you know, a lot of times you'll hear sales executives say, I want BANT qualified leads. So they have to have a budget and they have to have a timeframe. Well, that's in most cases, I'm not talking about commodity acquisition type purchases, but in those cases, on a more complex sale, having budget and timeframe, it should be almost a disqualifier because somebody has already won that business and you're probably have a very low chance of getting it.

So we recommend to our clients that they look at authority and need and that there's a process for budgeting it. And there's a timeframe based on the need or based on the latent pain that we know that within a year they're going to do something, even if they don't say that they're going to do something right now, then you don't disqualify because they said, no, we don't have any time frame and we're just going to get through it when we get to it.

Um, because they're going to get to it sooner than they think. You know that I know that the American people know that. They may not know, but they're going to learn it pretty quick.

So you’re gonna want to put some serious thought into what exactly makes a lead sales ready.

You can use a framework like BANT, but the fact of the matter is, what defines a lead as being sales ready will vary from company to company. 

Chances are, there’s a lot of different actions people can take on your website and a bunch of other ways they might interact with your company and your brand.

Your marketing and sales teams need to come together and identify the actions that are most meaningful. When is it that a person has crossed the line from passive interest to serious intent? Figuring that out will require input from both marketing and sales.. and probably some amount of experimentation.

That's a process that Doug Davidoff has helped many companies go through. Doug’s the founder and CEO of Imagine Business Development.

DAVIDOFF: So here's how I look at it. And I say, have a theory, right? So this is my, this is my theory. This is what I expect. Now take action. Get a result. The result will be good or bad. A good result is the result that I expected, a bad result as a result that I didn't expect.

Red flag, forecasted sales. Forget your pipeline. Pipelines from a forecasting perspective, are are, are fiction, right? Here's what I want to know. Do you forecast this piece of business will close in X period of time? How accurate are you on that? Right? And early on you're not going to be accurate because we stink at predicting.

Right? But, but if I make my assumption, take actions, good result, bad result, which means, I'm meeting you and you close today, but I didn't expect you were going to close today. We all run back to the office and we ring the bell and they go, yeah, look at this. How about that found business that I didn't expect!

No, that's not a good result because it's not predictable! I mean, I, I mean cash the check, but if you want to build predictability in your business, you've got to ask the question, "Why did they say yes when I didn't expect them to?" Because it's just as easy for them to say no when you expected them to say yes.

Right? You, you see what I'm saying? So then you get to the result. Then you go, "What did I learn?" Then apply your next theory. Take action. Good result, bad result, learn. And if you just go through that process, you'll fix everything. 

The problem is we all get stuck in, in the, in the before we take action. We try to figure it all out. Well, I think it should be this. I think the website should look like that. I think the site map should be this. Everyone has an opinion. Certain people have experience. 

But here's the bottom line. None of us know what's going to happen tomorrow, right? If I asked a hundred people to predict, predict what's gonna happen in 10 years, no one would get it right.

Cause even the people who guessed an outcome that happened, they would guess it for the wrong reasons, right? That's okay. As long as we acknowledge the fact that we don't know. So we go to the market, we collect our data, we watch what's happening, as long as this is the scientific method, right?

Theory. Action, Outcome. Learned. Theory, action, outcome, learn. Theory, action, outcome, learn. And if you apply that to any problem, and that's basically all we do. Like I'm a one trick company.]

So develop a theory about what makes a lead sales ready. Use data if you have it. Make some educated guesses if you don't. Then try it out and make improvements and adjustments over time. 

Once you know which attributes make someone a good fit for your offering, and which actions indicate their sales ready, you can combine the two together to define a marketing qualified lead or MQL. 

Marketing qualified leads, or MQLs, are ultimately what your marketing team needs to be sending to your sales team. 

MQLs are leads that are both a good fit for your offering and ready to have a sales conversation.

With that, we’re no longer binary. You still have good fit and poor fit leads. But now, you also have ready and unready leads. That's four categories of leads. And you can organize them into a nice two by two matrix called a lead qualification matrix.

The leads in that good-fit/ sales-ready quadrant are your MQLs. Marketing should be sending those leads to sales. 

But there's an additional column you should add to this matrix, and that's for hand raisers.

A handraiser is someone who asks to talk to sales, all on their own. You know, like they were raising their hand in class. Did I just come up with that?

Anyone with that level of sales intent needs to be in a category of their own. So add a third column to the matrix just for them. Hand raisers, like sales ready and unready leads, can still be divided by good fit or poor fit. 

But if someone’s reaching out to you, asking to be sold to, there's a good chance that person will be a pretty good lead, even if they're technically a poor fit.

Ok, so let’s breakdown the lead qualification matrix you’ve just setup. We have three columns -- one column for sales ready, one column for unready sales, and one for hand raisers. Then, split those columns in half, creating six buckets. The top row of buckets being good fit, the bottom being poor fit.

Once you have these six buckets laid out, the only thing left to do is to determine which ones get passed to sales, and which ones stay with marketing. And who gets the kids?

But how exactly do you decide where to draw the line? Well, that depends a lot on your lead volume. 

The more leads you have, the higher your lead qualification standards can be. Simple supply and demand. But always, and I don’t say this often, ALWAYS, send your hand raisers and good fit sales ready leads to sales. Did I already say, always?

But, if there’s too many of ‘em, and sales can’t contact ‘em all, you can adjust your ideal customer profile and get pickier about what makes someone a good fit for your offering. 

On the other hand, if you don't have enough hand raisers and good fit sales ready leads to keep your sales team busy, your reps might wanna start finding helpful ways to reach out to really good fit leads that are still *technically* unready sales.

If you decide to go that route, let preface it with “be careful.” A lot of sales teams are overly aggressive when it comes to reaching out to early stage, or unready, leads. 

Steve Bookbinder, CEO and head trainer at DM Training, has some sage words for you on this. 

BOOKBINDER: I think the breakdown is the step before they get into the pipeline. Came in as an inbound lead. Now do I treat that inbound lead as if the person said, ‘please, please, please shove a contract in front of me today. Please. I've got money burning a hole in my pocket. If I don't spend it literally in the next five minutes, it goes away. Hurry, get me the contract!’ 

So I and that, but that is what most sales people think. They either think the sale, the lead is totally cold and it needs a cold call, or, Oh, it must be super hot because they requested information.

And that's just did anybody else? You ever look into something without the intention of buying it right then and there? Of course, that's the majority of the time.

So if you do decide to have your sales teams contact unready leads, make sure they tread lightly. They can connect on social media and share helpful resources. That’s all fine. Calling up the lead and offering them a discount, basically out of the blue? Creepy. That’s creepy. And worse, it might just scare ‘em off entirely.

If at all possible, unready leads should be left to the marketing team. Let them continue to nurture these leads into sales readiness.

So, the good fit leads who are ready for sales outreach should be contacted by sales. And the good fit leads that aren't ready should be nurtured by marketing. That takes care of the top rows in our lead qualification matrix.

But what about poor fit leads? Those bottom row folks in our matrix? Those, are a bit trickier. 

First off, if you have a whole lotta leads in those buckets, paint that flag red, because either you have some lead sources that aren't very good, or, your definitions of fit and engagement are way too strict. So adjust your lead generation requirements.

So to recap -- In order for sales enablement to be possible, marketing and sales need to have a shared definition of a qualified lead. To get there, you need to define what makes someone a good fit for your offering? And what actions demonstrate that someone is sales ready?

Once you know the answers to those two questions, go ahead and create a lead qualification matrix that divides leads into six categories -- based on how good of a fit they are for your product and how sales ready they are. 

And finally, decide which categories should be sent to sales and which ones should stay with marketing -- to be nurtured.

With that, you'll have a solid lead qualification system to build the rest of your sales enablement strategy with.

Nice work. Not an easy one, so hats off, quick applause [low clap].

Next episode, we’ll hear from Marcus Sheridan on how a content strategy lead to an 80 percent close rate on sales, wild, i know, and how it really, sort of saved his life -- personally and professionally. Ugh, it’s so good. 

Ok, ok. Getting ahead of myself. I’ll see you there.