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SAL is the Glue that Binds Sales and Marketing in Lead Generation

A lead is a lead, right? Depends – are you in marketing or in sales?

SAL – Sales Accepted Leads is the bridge between Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) and Sales Qualified Leads (SQL).

No, I am not splitting hairs nor am I indulging in semantics. Clearly defining and understanding the implications of MQL, SAL and SQL are critical to the success of B2B lead generation.

Assigning a numeric score to business sales leads based on a predefined set of rules, takes away the subjectivity out of qualitative ranking like Hot, Warm and Cold leads. Quantitative lead definitions reduce the friction between sales and marketing.

B2B marketers are being held a lot more accountable (as they should be) for their contributions to a company’s revenues. This is more so for industrial marketers because generating a steady stream of high-quality sales leads plays a far more important role than other B2B marketing objectives such as branding, thought leadership and/or community building.

These days, respect for B2B and industrial marketing is spelled as M E T R I C S.

And that goes beyond producing marketing activity reports for upper management. They want to know how much revenue was generated from all that marketing activity. Being able to prove marketing’s value with empirical data is the best defense against the C-Suite’s charge of “show me the money.”

Defining qualified leads

  • Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL): A lead that has achieved a certain score based on a predetermined set of criteria and is ready to be handed off to sales
  • Sales Accepted Leads (SAL): Leads accepted by sales for follow up actions
  • Sales Qualified Leads (SQL): Leads that convert into opportunities – either wins or losses

B2B Lead Generation with SAL

SAL aligns sales and marketing

At first glance it may appear as though it is just a matter of assigning numerical scores to leads and the hand off to sales should happen automatically by using marketing automation software. Dig a little deeper and it will become obvious that there’s a lot more involved than “set it and forget about it.”

SAL is what brings sales and marketing together in attaining the Holy Grail of B2B lead generation – a unified definition of a qualified lead. Sales and marketing will continue to bicker without this agreement. And a bulk of the leads generated will fall through the cracks. Oh, what a waste! (See my earlier post, B2B Lead Generation without Lead Nurturing is Doomed to Fail)

Best practices of lead scoring and management require at least the following:

  • Sales and marketing must work together in defining what constitutes a qualified lead for their particular business
  • Lead scoring must be based on both profiling of the best prospects (company size, industry classification, job function, etc.) which Sales knows best and visitor engagement (site activities) for which Marketing has access to analytics and reports
  • Sales must agree to undertake all follow up actions before rejecting a MQL (If a salesperson is too busy then the system must route the lead to someone else)
  • Marketing must be willing to adjust scoring rules based on feedback from sales to refine lead scoring for optimal results (closed loop system)

I don’t want to create a false impression that every manufacturer, distributor or industrial company needs a sophisticated marketing automation package to get the best results from their lead generation efforts.

Let’s say you are a manufacturer or distributor that sells to a niche market. Then it is likely that you deal with only a handful of leads and not hundreds of them at any given time. Your needs may very well be satisfied by a simpler manual system made up of a Visitor Identification program (Caller ID for the Internet) and outbound telemarketing to fully qualify your prospects. Results can be tabulated using Excel spreadsheets for tracking and refinements.

Of course, it would be unmanageable to scale up such a manual lead scoring and tracking system as the volume of leads increases.

A good lead scoring and management system should be flexible enough to adjust for exceptions. For example, a site visitor with a very high level of activity (several pages visited including pricing information, downloaded white papers, and viewed online demos) would score high on engagement. However, this may be an integration consultant instead of an end-user. A phone call or progressive landing pages may be needed to unearth this additional information.

Your system needs to be able to adjust for this low profile score. This may not be a lead you want to send to sales right away but instead put him/her on a nurturing track that does not require a lot of your time and resources.

Even though we B2B marketers like to think of marketing as more science and less art, lead generation is not an exact science. Human intervention and interactions are the oils that grease the wheels of B2B lead generation.

The key takeaway here is that you may be making a very costly mistake if you treat all your leads the same, put them in a common bucket and toss it over to sales to qualify and close. You are going to need some form of SAL if you want to maximize your lead generation ROI.


  1. Hello Achinta,

    You may know Marketo for marketing automation, but the company is increasingly focusing on the new field of Revenue Performance Management (RPM), which brings marketing and sales functions together under the common goal to accelerate revenue generation.

    This morning Marketo announced the immediate availability of the Spring 2011 version of its sales effectiveness solution, Marketo Sales Insight (MSI). A statement from Marketo’s Chief Revenue Officer Paul Albright puts the announcement in context:
    According to IDC, sales reps spend 45 percent of their time figuring out how to spend their time, instead of closing deals,” said Paul Albright, Chief Revenue Officer, Marketo. “With Marketo Sales Insight, we reduce this time to near zero – and fast! That’s why MSI has been such a hit with the market, as more than 80 percent of our customers have signed up for the product since we introduced it.”

    Details of new MSI features are described in the press release below. You’ll also find comments from Kevin Akeroyd, General Manager of customer Jigsaw.

    Please let me know if you have any questions or would like to get in touch with Marketo.


    Jen Howard
    Corporate Marketing Specialist

    901 Mariners Island Blvd Suite 200
    San Mateo, CA 94404 USA
    PHONE +1.650.240.4632
    TWITTER @hennypenny04


    Marketo Improves Sales Productivity with Marketo Sales Insight Update

    Latest Innovations Typically Improve Performance by Greater than 30 Percent Immediately

    San Mateo, CA, April 25, 2011 – Marketo, the fastest growing provider of Revenue Performance Management solutions that significantly increase marketing and sales success, today announced the immediate availability of the new Spring 2011 version of Marketo Sales Insight (MSI). The new capabilities extend the product’s proven ability to improve the effectiveness of a company’s sales organization.
    “It’s no secret that companies want to make their sales organizations more effective. According to IDC, sales reps spend 45 percent of their time figuring out how to spend their time, instead of closing deals,” said Paul Albright, Chief Revenue Officer, Marketo. “With Marketo Sales Insight, we reduce this time to near zero – and fast! That’s why MSI has been such a hit with the market, as more than 80 percent of our customers have signed up for the product since we introduced it. With Sales Insight’s new productivity features and improved visibility into the hottest leads and opportunities, we make it even easier for our customers’ sales teams to focus their time on revenue-generation. It’s gratifying to see an overwhelming customer response and then keep on introducing innovation.”

    Marketo Sales Insight, built natively on Force.com, the leading enterprise cloud computing platform, provides a company’s sales organization with timely and actionable insight to improve sales effectiveness by prioritizing the hottest leads and opportunities to close more business, faster. MSI gives sales reps Facebook-style status updates highlighting interesting moments for individual leads that indicate buying interest, such as recent Web activity, correspondence, or participation at an event. MSI is fully integrated with Salesforce Chatter and updates are easily accessed within Salesforce or from a desktop or mobile device.

    Kevin Akeroyd, General Manager of Jigsaw, said, “Marketo Sales Insight has enabled Jigsaw to significantly increase our sales productivity, while growing the size of our sales team.” Akeroyd went on to explain, “Marketo helps sales prioritize their activities by starting each day with a short list of the highest scored leads which results in higher lead-to-opportunity and close ratios.”
    The latest release of MSI includes improved features for individual sales reps, new features designed to facilitate collaboration for extended sales teams, and innovations to help sales managers understand the hottest sales opportunities across their territories.

    New: Custom Views and Filters Enable Team Collaboration
    Companies are increasingly turning to Marketo to drive all aspects of their revenue generation activities across multiple departments and regions. To facilitate greater collaboration across these groups, Marketo introduces Custom Views and Filters that extend visibility on the hottest leads for follow-up action. This industry-first capability allows any Salesforce user to see any list of “Best Bet” leads (scored as highest quality and most urgent) – even if that user does not own those leads. For example, a product sales rep and services sales rep can work together to drive cross-sell revenue on an ongoing basis.

    New: Manager Views
    The latest release also includes industry-first capabilities to help sales management drive greater focus and productivity for their teams. Managers can view an at-a-glance dashboard to see their sales teams’ lists of Best Bet leads. For example, a regional sales manager can actively monitor the hottest leads for each rep and see whether they’re following up appropriately.

    New: Hide Button for Best Bets
    As sales people increasingly use Marketo Sales Insight to manage their daily activity, they are looking for a higher degree of control over how MSI shows them their hottest leads. New features, including a single-click “hide” button gives sales reps the ability to work with MSI on their terms. Sales reps can use the hide button to put a lead at the bottom of their list without losing track of it, allowing them to maintain focus on the highest priority leads.

    About Marketo
    Marketo is the global leader in Revenue Performance Management. Marketo’s powerful yet easy-to-use marketing automation and sales effectiveness solutions transform how marketing and sales teams of all sizes work — and work together — to drive revenue performance and fuel business growth. The company’s proven technology, comprehensive services, and expert guidance are helping corporations to turn marketing from a cost center to a business-building revenue driver.
    Marketo has been recognized with the 2010 CODiE award for ”Best Marketing Solution,” the “Best Sales and Marketing 2.0 Solution” from SellingPower, and the “Best Marketing Automation Application” by Salesforce customers on the AppExchange. As of March 2011, more than 1000 enterprise and mid-market clients globally have adopted Marketo solutions. For more information, visit http://www.Marketo.com, or subscribe to Marketo’s award-winning blogs at http://blog.marketo.com/.

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