How to Convert a Sales Lead to a Customer

How to Convert a Sales Lead to a Customer

Quick Bio

Name: Erin Bolton
Title: Director of Digital Solutions
Company: MarketStar

Determining when and how to handoff leads to the sales team remains a significant challenge for AV companies. Too many marketing teams, a surprising 61 percent, route ALL their leads directly to the sales team without taking steps to qualify the opportunity first. As a result, only 27 percent of those leads will be qualified. Not only is this practice a drain on sales resources, it limits productivity and can lead to missed opportunities.

If you have a sophisticated lead nurture and scoring process, it greatly simplifies the task of identifying and qualifying leads to a marketing qualified lead status, or MQL. MQLs are generally defined as a prospect that meets a certain qualification criteria and has taken some action online such as downloading a white paper or registering for a webinar. These digital fingerprints indicate the prospect is actively evaluating solutions. At this stage in the game, we know there is real interest, but we don’t yet know if there is opportunity.

This article address three crucial steps your company needs to take to move an MQL to a qualified opportunity and then to a closed deal.

Step 1. Transition from Digital Dialogue to Live Conversation

Your digital marketing activities are highly effective in building awareness and providing education but nothing beats live engagement once you’ve sorted the casual researchers from those with real purpose. These prospects have reached your MQL benchmarks, and now is the ideal time to reach out to them on the phone or in person. Live conversations need to build on the insight you’ve gathered about the lead’s digital interactions—what they are researching and reading, what web pages they visit. This initial phone call is important and needs to be done by someone with expertise in transitioning online conversations to live conversations so we can move to the next step of sales qualifying the lead.

Key Takeaway: The transition from digital dialogue to live conversation needs to begin in the evaluation phase. Make sure your inside sales team has the expertise to make this transition.

Step 2. Use BANT Criteria to Qualify the Lead

The next step is to determine if the lead is a sales qualified lead (SQL). Different from an MQL, the criteria for an SQL is centered around budget, authority, need, and timing—commonly known as BANT. If the lead meets your company’s BANT criteria such as appropriate budget, scoped project, and timing, it should be marked as an SQL and sent to the sales force or channel partners for immediate contact. Using BANT criteria is just one way to qualify for sales; there may be other qualifiers that are equally important for your company, so determine those early in the qualification process. By sending only SQL leads to your sales team, you ensure their time is spent working on leads with the highest potential and converting to sales.

Key Takeaway: Further qualify your leads using the BANT criteria to keep your team working on the leads with the greatest potential.

Step 3. Remarket Leads that Don’t Meet BANT Criteria

If your leads aren’t sales qualified because they fail to meet your BANT criteria, make sure you have a process to move them back into marketing automation for remarketing. Leads that aren’t ready to buy today will buy soon, and when they do, make sure they buy from you. This zero-gap sales approach requires significant marketing automation and CRM integration expertise, but done right, will keep your pipeline full of leads progressing towards the sale.

Key Takeaway: Don’t lose leads that aren’t ready to buy today. Send them to marketing automation for continued digital interaction.

Wrap Up

Integrating your marketing and sales lead gen processes takes considerable expertise. If you are resource-constrained, outsourcing the qualification-to-close process can help you increase conversion rates and accelerate the sales cycle while avoiding overhead costs and management. In the meantime, by following these steps, you’re already headed in the right direction to closing more sales.

Erin Bolton (, director, digital solutions at MarketStar, develops sales strategies that increase demand, strengthen partner relationships, and drive million-dollar revenue for leading technology and AV companies.