How to Define Stages in Your Lead Management Process

BY Chip Gray
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Are you struggling to learn the difference between types of leads? As a sales professional, you need to speak the language of your customer. You also need to understand the language used by your supervisor and other higher-​ups in your organization when it comes to the lead management process. Here are a few terms you should know:

  • Marketing-​Qualified Lead
  • Sales-​Qualified Lead
  • Sales-​Accepted Lead
  • Sales-​Ready Lead

Lead Management Process

As you and your teammates track leads through the sales funnel in your organization, you’ll hear many terms. Remember that not all leads have the same definition. Here is a quick tutorial on a few of these key terms.

Marketing-​Qualified Lead

Marketing-​qualified leads are individuals who have reached out in response to an email campaign or who may have downloaded information from a company’s website. They’ve started the process of engaging with an organization.

The marketing team will evaluate these leads. They will use various methods to determine which leads are most likely to become paying customers. Also called lead scoring, this process typically takes into account factors such as demographics, job title, industry, and behavior. After scoring a lead, marketing passes them to the sales team as a sales qualified lead.

Sales-​Qualified Lead

A sales-​qualified lead (SQL) is a prospect that has been identified as having a higher likelihood of becoming a customer.  As Rebecca Riserbato writes for HubSpot, a “SQL is someone who is ready to speak to sales with the intent to purchase the product or service offered.”

The sales team will use various methods to nurture the lead. With each step, sales reps move the lead closer to making a purchase. These steps include email and phone follow-​up, sending additional information, and scheduling meetings or calls. The goal of the sales team is to convert the SQL into a customer by closing the sale.
The criteria for qualifying a lead varies depending on the company and industry. Generally, a SQL has shown an interest in the product or service and has the authority and budget to make a purchase. Additionally, they have a need that aligns with what the company offers. Assessing SQLs properly is crucial as sales teams can’t afford to spend time and energy on prospects that will never convert to customers.
Note that a SQL is not the same as a sales-​accepted lead (SAL) or a sales-​ready lead (SRL), which are other stages in the lead management process.

Sales-​Accepted Lead

Another important term in the lead management process is the sales-​accepted lead (SAL). After the sales team reviews a lead that has been passed on by the marketing department, they may accept the lead. That action signals they believe the lead is a viable opportunity for the company.
In doing so, the sales team has deemed the lead to have a high likelihood of becoming a paying customer. The sales team will take the necessary steps to move the lead through the sales process and convert them into a customer.

The SAL is considered to have reached a more advanced stage in the lead management process and is closer to a purchasing decision than a SQL.

Sales-​Ready Lead

A sales-​ready lead (SRL) is a lead that has been qualified and vetted by the sales team. They have deemed the lead ready for the sales process. The SRL typically has a clear need for the product or service, has budget allocated for the purchase, has decision-​making authority within the company, and is looking to make a purchase in a timely manner. These leads are considered to have a higher likelihood of converting into paying customers, as they have been pre-​qualified by the sales team.
It's important to note that a lead can become sales ready at different stages of the funnel, depending on the product, the industry and the company's strategy. Some companies may consider a lead sales-​ready at an early stage, while others may require more information and interactions before they can consider the lead sales-ready.

Understanding Your Lead Management Process

Every organization will use a different set of criteria to score and assign leads to specific stages. Once you understand the definitions that apply, you’ll be able to speak knowledgeably about the prospects in your sales pipeline and increase your credibility with peers and the higher-​ups in your company.

Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.