Sales accepted leads (SALs) are leads that have been formally accepted by a company’s sales team. Lead acceptance typically starts the clock on the sales process, meaning sales teams must then decide if the lead is qualified and follow up in a timely manner.
But many companies don’t use sales accepted leads as part of their lead management process. Why? In many cases, it’s simply because they get overlooked between the two more commonly known and used phases of the lead funnel: marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and sales qualified leads (SQLs).
Here’s how SALs fit in:
There are many benefits to incorporating SALs into the lead management process (more on those shortly). Primarily, SALs serve as an intermediary assessment that sales reps can use to assess the potential of leads before they move on to qualification.
In this post we’ll explore why SALs are important and the criteria that makes them most likely to convert to paying customers.
- Sales accepted leads are often overlooked but serve a critical purpose in the lead management process.
- Benefits to an SAL process include more accountability, reduction of lost leads, and better marketing and sales alignment.
- Leads with a strong need-awareness and readiness to purchase are more likely to convert than those that don’t meet those criteria.
- Sales reps should quickly identify leads that do not have the right budget or an immediate need for their solution and address those challenges early on in the sales process.
- Sales rejected leads should always be recorded to identify gaps in the handoff process between marketing and sales and better define acceptance criteria.
Why sales accepted leads are critical to lead management
Sales acceptance is one of the most overlooked steps in the lead management process. This is a big missed opportunity for many companies! A defined sales accepted leads strategy has several benefits that lead to more streamlined internal processes and stronger sales results.
Create accountability for timely follow-up
Lead acceptance puts a timestamp on the official start to the sales process. It holds marketing teams accountable for formally handing MQLs over to sales, and it holds sales teams accountable for being timely in their follow up. Over time, this process formality contributes to the next important benefit of SALs: reduction in lost leads.
Reduce the risk of lost leads
It’s commonly cited across the B2B sector that around 80% of marketing leads never convert into sales. 80 percent!
One of the reasons this happens is because undefined lead management strategies leave leads stuck in limbo between marketing and sales, often with both teams claiming that the other is handling it. Adding SAL as a step in your internal lead management process ensures there’s never a question around who is responsible for a particular lead and prevents leads from falling through the cracks.
Fosters better collaboration between marketing and sales
A recent LinkedIn survey found that 60% of respondents felt marketing and sales misalignment adversely impacted their financial performance. Incorporating SALs into your lead management strategy can mitigate this challenge by identifying alignment issues early on and creating a clear place in the process for having conversations about problems that need to be addressed.
Service-level agreements (SLAs) are an effective and commonly used tool that helps accomplish this alignment goal. SLAs clearly define responsibilities and expectations for each team, outline criteria for what makes a lead acceptable, and place parameters around process, timeline, and overall accountability.
Using sales accepted leads as a tool for aligning marketing and sales teams can also have overarching organizational benefits, like more efficient use of resources, and joint ownership of success.
5 criteria that make sales accepted leads likely to convert
Increased internal awareness of what makes for a high-potential lead has a twofold benefit. First, marketing teams are better able to recognize when leads are ready to be passed along to sales. Second, sales teams have better-defined criteria for recognizing leads that should be accepted and are likely to convert.
Here are 5 criteria that make sales-accepted leads more likely to convert into paying customers.
Strong awareness of need
One pitfall sales reps often fall into is too much time spent explaining to prospects why they need your solution in the first place. Leads are much more likely to convert when the potential customer already has a strong understanding of their need and how your solution can fill it.
Effective inbound marketing strategies go far in finding prospects who do have need-awareness, but sales reps should still look for this criteria as part of their lead acceptance strategy (i.e. what steps has the lead already taken in their buyer journey to show they know their need?). While lack of need-awareness isn’t grounds for rejecting a lead, it’s an indicator of conversion potential.
Readiness to purchase
Leads are more likely to convert when they’re showing specific behaviors that indicate intention to make a purchase. An easy indicator of this is online activity such as trying to make price comparisons and reading buying guides. Lead tracking software solutions (like RevBoss!) are powerful tools for tracking prospects’ online behavior to assess their readiness to purchase.
Authority to make purchase decisions
Does the person or people you’re talking to have final authority to make a purchase decision? It’s an important thing to identify early on onces a lead is accepted. Reps should know whether the people they’re interacting with will need to consult with other (usually more senior) decision makers in their organization before making a purchase decision. Ideally, sales reps can take steps to include those decision makers in the process. Leads are more likely to convert when sales messages are communicated directly, not passed along secondhand.
While pricing is never the first thing sales reps want to talk about with prospects, it’s critical to have an understanding of their budget so you know if a lead is a realistic prospect. Otherwise, you’re at risk of wasting precious time. When possible, a prospect’s budget should be a data point collected by marketing teams so it can be assessed during the SAL step in your process.
Immediate need for solution
Does your prospective customer show a sense of urgency about needing a solution? This is a big indicator of a sales accepted lead that’s likely to convert. Again, lack of urgency is not a means for rejecting a lead, but it does mean the prospect might be much slower to making an actual purchase decision. Leads that show urgency should be prioritized because they’re more likely to yield quicker sales revenue.
What about leads that aren’t accepted?
Not so fast! Those leads you reject should still be assessed and recorded. Why? Because they can provide valuable insights to your sales and marketing teams about gaps that exist in the process and opportunities to better streamline collaboration between your teams. Over time, this means your lead management process will become more defined and produce a higher percentage of qualified, high-potential leads.
Common reasons that leads are rejected include inaccurate prospect data, lack of fit with target market, poor match with customer profile (i.e. lacks need or budget), or an incorrect route (the lead was sent to the wrong place and/or at the wrong time).
Identifying and recording how often these instances occur can help identify why they’re happening and ensure they’re solved more efficiently.
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