How do you define a High Quality Lead?


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This morning I read a post by Jeremy Victor (@jeremyvictor), Are B2B Marketers Shooting for The Wrong Target?, and it got me thinking. The premise of the post is based on a Marketing Sherpa Tweet that states the #1 challenge for B2B marketers is generating high quality leads. Jeremy questioned the definition of a "high quality lead" and wondered if the focus should change to generating interest and keeping attention. Both are pertinent, but perhaps missing the point in how I'm thinking about it.

I agree with his assertion that the definition will differ greatly based on who you ask. There are times when it should and times when it definitely should not.

Within your own company, there should be one definition of a "high quality lead" that both marketing and sales have agreed to and are using. The reason this is such a challenge is that an agreed-to definition that directs behavior and objectives across the pipeline is generally lacking in most companies. Either that or the definition they have is too broad to be useful.

For example: We serve CIOs in companies with revenues of more than $100M in the Financial Services, Telecom and Healthcare industries.

This is the type of definition I hear most often and isn't all that helpful.

Part of the problem is often that marketing and sales view the idea of "leads" differently. Quality is in the eye of the beholder, if you will.

  • Marketing is searching for and cultivating leads who are likely to become your customers at some point – meaning that they could actually need what you sell to fix a high-priority business problem. Marketers need to have a big-picture view to ensure they can fuel a continuous pipeline.
  • Sales wants to pursue leads who will become customers in short order. [Read, NOW] Salespeople have a laser focus intent on meeting short-term revenue goals.

In order to serve both sides, the definition of a "high quality lead" must address these differences in perspective. It's more a matter of degree than an either/or. Your pipeline will have people at various levels of qualification depending upon their stage in the buying process.

As for when the definition of quality should differ, it's that definition in relation to different companies. My company's personas should not be the same as your company's personas. My high quality leads will not be the same as your high quality leads.

I know you're asking why not, so let's take a look at a few possibile scenarios:

  • Our cultures are different. A good fit for your company may be a terrible fit for mine.
  • Our expertise is different. My methodology works best with specific types of companies. Yours works best with others.
  • Risk tolerance varies. A lead that's a fast-moving early adopter is more suited to working with vendors that act in a similar fashion. A laggard that's slow to change will need a different approach that ensures risk is minimized.
  • Account entry strategies are different. If you pursue only the decision maker and I go in lower and work up with the help of an influencer, our definition of a high quality lead will be different.

In Jeremy's post he came up with a potential need to change the vernacular we're using. I don't think that gets us where we need to go. I think what we need to do is focus on becoming better at creating definitions for what we're doing that actually enable us to accomplish our strategic goals.

I don't particularly care what you label a "high quality lead" – I just want to know what that means—exactly.

Thanks, Jeremy, for letting me play with your idea.

What do the rest of you think?


Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ardath Albee

Ardath Albee is a B2B Marketing Strategist and the CEO of her firm, Marketing Interactions, Inc. She helps B2B companies with complex sales create and use persona-driven content marketing strategies to turn prospects into buyers and convince customers to stay. Ardath is the author of Digital Relevance: Developing Marketing Content and Strategies that Drive Results and eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale. She's also an in-demand industry speaker.


  1. Thank you for this. We are having internal struggles with marketing versus sales. This helps! Thank you!

  2. One time I attended an Arizona Marketing Association meeting and a local prominent marketing consultant was the headliner. He said he “hated” salespeople that they didn’t know what they were doing. How can companies excel in the market place, if their sales and marketing teams are battling it out?

  3. Hi Connie,

    I hear you. When both departments have responsibility for the pipeline, it seems ridiculous that they can’t collaborate effectively to improve success. I wish you the best of luck.


  4. I think one cause of the problem is that marketing people and salespeople are rewarded/paid differently.

    It’s like, using military language, matching up a freedom fighter and a mercenary to fight together for a “common” cause. They don’t have a common cause, so they will keep arguing over petty issues.

    Salespeople either sell or starve. Marketing people get paid even if the company goes under. There is no common cause, hence plenty of time for bickering.

    If sales and marketing folks were working as a team (we eat or starve together) they would work differently, and they would discuss lead generation and lead scoring together.

    Salespeople ignore the Ideal client profile concept because they can’t afford to be picky. They get the same money for landing a jerk as landing an ideal client. So, they land anyone with a chequebook.

    Then the implementers can struggle to work with the idiot.

    Now we know from Dan Pink (read Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us) that pay for performance is a guarantee for low performance, but the world of selling hasn’t woken up yet.

  5. Hi Tom,

    Thanks for your comment. There are lots of facets to this discussion, but I’d like to share just a bit about the compensation/common goal idea.

    A recent survey of marketers conducted by Demand Gen Report, B2B Marketing Skills Survey, found that 44% of them had some percentage of their compensation tied to sales performance. Perhaps the tide is shifting.

    Admittedly, 22% of them had 25% or less of their compensation tied to sales performance, but it’s definitely a start and bringing perspectives closer together.


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