Lead generation can be confusing for a lot of small to medium-sized businesses because they often don’t know which department to put it under. Should it be a sales task? Is marketing supposed to be involved as well?
Well, we have an answer for you: it’s both. Lead generation is both a sales and marketing responsibility, but in different ways. Additionally, the role of lead generation in sales and marketing differ depending on the type of business growth strategy you want to follow.
But don’t worry—we’re here to clear the air and any confusion you may have. Throughout this blog, we’ll cover the following topics:
The Difference Between a Prospect and a Lead
Before understanding the role of sales and marketing in lead generation, it’s important that we clearly define the differences between a prospect and a lead. While they’re often used interchangeably in lead generation, they do have some notable differences that everyone involved in the lead generation process should know about and understand.
A prospect is a business or decision-maker in the outbound sales pipeline that’s been identified as a good potential sales opportunity by your sales operations and data analysis team. They’ve identified the business or decision-maker as a good potential sales opportunity because they’ve gathered enough objective data about the prospect to know that they’re likely to meet your company’s sales qualifiers.
Sales qualifiers look different for every business depending on their industry and region served. Many sales and sales development teams qualify prospects based on:
- Number of full-time employees
- Amount of annual revenue generated
- Square footage of commercial space
While a prospect may seem to meet your business’s sales qualifiers, it’s vital that sales development representatives (SDRs) still reach out to them via cold call or email to ask sales-qualifying questions and verify their credentials. This ensures that SDRs chase prospects that have an opportunity to generate a positive ROI for your business.
On the other hand, a lead is a business or decision-maker that’s actively shown an interest in the products or services your company has to offer. Individuals often become leads through digital marketing efforts. If a person sees value in what your company has to offer through your website or social media platforms, they can submit themselves into the sales pipeline by:
- Requesting to receive more sales and marketing materials
- Signing up for your company newsletter
- Scheduling a demo of your company’s product or service
When a user converts themselves into a lead, it’s crucial that SDRs follow up as soon as possible to ensure they’re sales qualified. Research shows that following up with a lead in five minutes is much more impactful than following up with a lead an hour after they’ve submitted their contact information. While the business or decision-maker may have shown interest in what you have to offer, they may not be a great fit for your company, making this an incredibly important part of the sales development process.
To sum it up, prospects are often associated with outbound sales development while leads are associated with inbound marketing efforts. No matter how the prospect or lead enters the sales pipeline, if you want to convert them into a customer, it’s vital that they are both marketing qualified leads (MQL) and sales qualified leads (SQL). While the two terms are often used interchangeably, it’s important to know what their differences are so you can better understand what buyer persona they fall into, allowing you to present a better sales pitch.
For more insight into MQLs vs. SQLs, read our blog here.
MQL vs. SQL: What’s the Difference?
Similar to inbound leads, MQLs are businesses and decision-makers who have actively shown an interest or need for your company’s products or services.
On the other hand, SQLs are businesses and decision-makers who meet your ideal customer profile (ICP), but haven’t shown an interest or need for your products or services (yet).
MQLs and SQLs are essential components to lead generation because it ensures that a potential sales opportunity has a need or interest in what your company has to offer and that they can also provide your company with a positive ROI. For a prospect or lead to become a sales opportunity, it’s important that they are both MQLs and SQLs. Without both, you risk wasting valuable time chasing leads that have little to no value to your business growth efforts or setting sales and account executives up with sales meetings that are unlikely to convert.
Role of Sales in Lead Generation
Having a professional website for your logistics business is a given, but it’s not enough. You must also optimize your company website to draw in more inbound leads. Your website content needs to showcase the value proposition you offer customers, so you’ll need to assess your website on a page-by-page basis carefully. Every page needs interesting and accurate information communicated in a way that resonates with clients and prospective clients.
If you don’t have in-house talent to do your search engine optimization, it may be worth outsourcing your marketing efforts. When businesses fitting your target demographic need the products and services your company offers, they’ll often go online and type in search queries. If your logistics business has an optimized website, your company’s URL will appear high up on the first page of search engine results.
When working on your website strategy, ensure that customers who go online via their smartphones, tablets, and other consumer devices can easily access your site. You’ll inevitably lose customers if your website isn’t optimized to work on smaller screens. It has to be mobile-friendly so users can have a good experience with your business no matter what device they use to access your website.
Role of Marketing in Lead Generation
On the other hand, lead generation in marketing includes creating and distributing engaging content that piques the interest of potential buyers. Marketing in lead generation is unique because it can be involved in both outbound appointment setting and digital marketing efforts.
When it comes to outbound appointment setting, marketing is essential because while sales reps might be great on the phone, they may not know the right words or verbage to use in emails or different marketing materials. Marketing in outbound lead generation is vital because these specialists know all the right words to use and content to create to engage prospects and keep them interested in learning more.
Marketing also serves as a great sales follow-up method. Cold calling and email can only get you so far, which is what makes marketing such a significant component to lead generation. Research shows that only 17% of prospective buyers spend time with a sales rep before making a purchase. The other time they spend researching a company on their own time, which is why having a marketing strategy integrated with your lead generation efforts is so significant.
More often than not, when people think of lead generation in marketing, they often think of the digital marketing component to business growth. This includes making user-friendly company websites, writing web pages and blog posts that are optimized for search engines (SEO), and crafting social media content that gets your brand in front of the eyes of potential buyers.
Overall, the goal of lead generation in marketing is to generate inbound leads and implement them into your company’s sales pipeline. This empowers sales development teams to gain access to more potential buyers that may not have been in the sales funnel otherwise.
Why You Should Align Sales and Marketing Lead Generation Efforts
One of the main reasons that businesses get confused about which department is responsible for lead generation is because there’s so much that goes into it. Lead generation isn’t just an outbound sales development or inbound marketing strategy. More often than not, it’s a combination of the two.
Not only should you have both lead generation strategies in place, but it’s essential that their goals are aligned to ensure you get the most benefits from your business growth efforts. When you align sales and marketing lead generation efforts, you:
- Generate better customer and prospect data
- Get greater use of marketing collateral and content marketing materials
- Have a better lead handoff from MQLs to SQLs
- Obtain a more cohesive sales process from beginning to end
- Enhance revenue from different angles
For more insight into the benefits of aligning sales and marketing lead-generation efforts, check out our blog here.
We get it—lead generation is complex and there are so many moving parts, making it difficult to get a grasp of who is in charge of what. Lead generation is a collection of efforts from both sales and marketing departments to be done effectively and yield results. Additionally, lead generation goals must be aligned to ensure brand messaging stays consistent, enabling prospects and leads to further trust your business and reduce the amount of time they spend in the sales cycle.
At Abstrakt Marketing Group, we collaborate with growing small to medium-sized businesses across the nation to help them maximize their business through outbound sales development and inbound marketing efforts. If you need help implementing and maintaining a cohesive lead generation strategy that produces predictable and scalable results, contact the sales and marketing experts at Abstrakt!