Universal Lead Definition

The Case for and against a Universal Lead Definition (ULD)

There is a tendency by some marketing departments (pushed possibly by some marketing consultancies) to develop a Universal Lead Definition for their organizations.  The idea of course, is to get buy in from Sales to say that if you (Marketing) send me a lead with XY & Z characteristics then this meets our definition of a good lead and that in turn we (Sales) will commit to investing the time and resources in trying to close this opportunity.From the outset let me say I’ve never been in favor of this approach.  Especially if the definition consists of a tight BANT (Budget, Authority, Need and Timing) definition.  See Sheldon Sach’s detailed blog on this subject.

That said there are some positives.  If Sales accepts and commit to this arrangement and do actually invest time and resources then the alignment of Sales and Marketing is greatly improved and even if the leads are not what they might be then overall result will be more positive.  And from marketing’s standpoint they now have an agreed to formula to perform to. But there are lots of negatives.

First having worked with both marketing and sales departments for some 24 years I can tell you that in all this time I have yet to see a sales operation that will dance to marketing’s tune – regardless of the upfront commitments.  The one time I’ve seen some success is when management made a huge commitment to implementing a strategy and when the sales force balked – they fired 50% of them.  Are you ready to do this?  Most companies are not. The fact is a good sales lead involves a lot of subjectivity.  There are inevitably countless nuances that cannot be quantified of scored in any way.

Here is a list of some factors that are beyond the usefulness of a ULD:

  • Some sales people are good closers.  Some are not.
    • Some sales people feel a lead must be an order taking opportunity while others understand that it’s just a foot in the door.
  • The Pareto principle applies as much to Sales – as it does to Marketing
    • 80% of sales are brought in by your top 20% salespeople
    • Only 20% of leads provided by Marketing closes
    • Only 20% of leads provided by Marketing are worthwhile
    • And so on.
  • Some leads may have long lead times … others will close in the short term.
    • Typically the larger more complex sales take longer to close and many sales people cannot be bothered because it will not affect their quota in the short term.
    • Yes sales people for the most part do not see the long term.  And even if they do they do not manage a pipeline for the long term.
  • More and more there is no one decision maker.  Even in the smallest companies decisions are now being made by (formal or informal) committees.
  • If the lead fits the BANT model you’re probably too late for the party.

At ETI we’ve opted for a more customized approach.  We prefer to work with individual sales people and deliver tailored leads that work for them.

Can one effectively do this?  Of course and we’ve done so for many years.   Which do you prefer? Do you prefer pushing a standard lead model (a round peg) down a square (sales force) hole?

Give us a call at 1.800.466.4384 (914.747.3030).  We’ll be happy to discuss this and other needs you may have in more detail.


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