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In many organizations, a primary focus of marketing is to create sales leads. The process seems simple – marketing conducts activities that generate awareness and identify prospects. Marketing turns over the information that they have gathered on prospects to a sales person, who follows up and makes a sale. It sounds easy, but rarely does it work that smoothly.

In many organizations, there is a disconnect between the activities that marketing does and the things that sales would like them to do. Marketing thinks that they are delivering good prospects to Sales and the sales team feels otherwise. By giving leads to Sales that end up as dead ends, the marketing team decreases its credibility, and reduces the productivity of the sales team.

Fortunately, there are good strategies for solving this challenge and fixing the Marketing/Sales disconnect. First, your organization should develop an understanding of what constitutes a Marketing Qualified Lead and a Sales Qualified Lead. Every lead that comes in – whether from a tradeshow, from an email campaign, or from direct traffic to your website – is not ready for the sales team. Some may be, but most are not.

Marketing Qualified Leads are defined as those that have expressed some interest in your product. This could be from a download on your website, or signing up for a webinar, or viewing a demo at a tradeshow. It could be based on a certain demographic or job title that you have decided is a good fit for your products. But marketing leads are not ready for your sales team. They need to demonstrate more readiness to buy before you turn them over to a sales person.

Sales Qualified Leads are defined as those that have passed certain criteria that have been agreed upon between Marketing and Sales – typically an intent to buy. A sales qualified lead is ready for the next stage of the process, where they are ready to become an opportunity and have direct engagement from sales.

The conversion point from Marketing Qualified Lead to Sales Qualified Lead is something that needs to be agreed upon by both Marketing and Sales. This could be that a lead has been nurtured and scored to a certain threshold. It could be that they have visited your website a certain number of times and have downloaded information. The important thing is that Marketing and Sales agree on the criteria. Once the lead has passed from Marketing to Sales, there needs to be a defined process for follow up within the sales team to maximize the chances of a closed sale. In addition, information on the quality of the lead needs to filter back to marketing so that tactics and processes can be refined for continuous improvement.

Here a few good primers on the subject of lead generation and what separates Marketing Qualified Leads from Sales Qualified Leads:

This link, from Technology Advice provides some good tips on developing criteria within your organization, and how to better align sales and marketing.


This one, from Act-On comes with a good download called the Ultimate Lead Management Playbook:


At EMCO Partners, we constantly work with clients to refine their marketing and sales processes. Some of our clients are too small to have separate marketing and sales departments. Some of them are founder-led, where marketing strategy and sales tactics may not come naturally. All of our clients have a need to spend money wisely on the things that are most likely to generate sales. The best way to maximize ROI on sales and marketing investment is to have a solid marketing communications strategy coupled with defined sales processes, all tied back to agreed-upon KPIs that can be measured and constantly refined for improved performance.