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Why Marketing Leads Don’t Turn Into B2B Sales (And What You Can Do About It)

20 July 2021

It’s marketing’s fault. We need better marketing and sales qualified leads.”

What? Not entirely, sales should do a better job of closing their leads.”

Faces screw up into accusing scowls, the tense rustle of scrunching papers fills the room, tensions rise...and boom!  Both marketing and sales are at each other’s throats, again. 

While real-life disputes between marketing and sales about marketing qualified leads (MQLs) aren’t as fun, they inevitably lead to fewer B2B sales and lost revenue. 

In this post, I’ll look at why - despite being approved by marketing - leads might be unfit for sales teams, and what you can do about it to get more Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs).

Note: Want to generate both marketing qualified and sales qualified leads? Sign up for Leadfeeder's 14-day trial.

What’s the difference between marketing vs sales qualified leads?

mql versus sql

A MQL is a lead that has expressed interest in your product/service by subscribing to your email list, visiting your website, or interacting with your company.

After expressing enough interest and responding to nurturing campaigns, a MQL will turn into a SQL:

A lead that is prepared for direct contact with the sales team

The biggest difference between MQLs and SQLs is that a MQL enters the sales funnel at an earlier stage - where they are nurtured by marketing. 

They are classified as a SQL once they enter a more advanced phase of the sales funnel. 

3 main reasons why marketing qualified leads don’t convert

Marketing might blame sales and vice versa. But explaining why leads don’t turn into sales isn’t always as simple as pointing a finger. 

Quite often, there’s an unassuming strategical flaw that is no one’s fault. Here are the top 3 to look out for: 

1. Weak buyer personas

buyer persona profile

Buyer personas are the north star to all things related to lead, sales and revenue generation.

Marketers will use them to create content, build campaigns, and design landing pages, all critical aspects of lead generation.

Sales reps, on the other hand, will rely on personas to engage with prospects, develop rapport, and persuade their way to more closed deals.

Unfortunately, most companies have weak buyer personas.

Instead of fact-based profiles, they have flabby fictional representations of what they think their customers look like.

They also fail to back their buyer personas with market research and data - dangerously misleading both marketing and sales teams with well-intended, but flawed customer profiles.

2. Too much top of the funnel focus

Traffic numbers, downloads, and shares: What do these metrics have in common?

They all warm marketers metric-focused cotton socks. And sometimes, that can be a problem...

Inbound marketing has overtaken most marketing strategies, and rightfully so. But this has lead to an unyielding focus on shiny strategies like content creation and viral marketing.

Everybody wants to create sexy content that ranks no.1 on Google.

This has lead to marketing initiatives that strictly educate or entertain - great for attracting marketing qualified leads, but a poor way to identify warm, sales qualified lead.

3. Sales and marketing don’t speak the same language

Marketing and sales are notorious for not being able to play nicely with each other.

grace helbig fault reaction

Instead of complementing systems and processes, they’ll have conflicting ideas and strong opinions on how to generate and win leads.

This lack of alignment between marketing and sales means marketing attracts leads that aren’t ripe enough to be passed on to sales.

And even when a lead is passed on, sales reps run the risk of using messaging and tactics that don’t match the lead nurturing experience that marketing created.

This cross-armed stance to lead qualification butchers customer experience, and the productivity of both sides.

How to get more sales qualified leads

If you want to increase sales, you need to attract a refined pool of buyers that are ready to buy, aka more sales qualified leads.

Avoiding the mistakes above will generate higher quality leads that sales can work with. But, it’s not enough. You’re still playing defense.

To get more sales qualified leads, switch to offense. Here’s how:

1. Give long-tail keywords some love

Whether you’re creating ads or creating content intended to rank high on SERPS, invest more time in long-tail keywords.

Don’t long-tail keywords get less traffic?

Yes, they do. But they also reflect a higher buyer or stronger search intent.

long tail keywords

For example, someone searching for “How to get leads” is less likely to buy than someone who’s searching:

Lead generation software for outbound sales.

The former is more likely to be looking for information, the latter is signaling that he’s ready, preparing for, or researching a potential purchase.

2. Collect more intricate customer data

42 percent of B2B marketing professionals complain that a lack of quality data is costing them leads.

Okdork has spent $3 million testing Facebook ads, and Hollywood has spent over $80 million just on market research. Clearly, it pays to know your audience.

And that’s what makes information and data on your customers pivotal.

It helps build all-important buyer personas, Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs), and informs every aspect of your sales and marketing strategy.

The key here is high-quality data.

Data that empowers your marketing team to create magnetic campaigns and target leads who quickly become sales qualified.

Data that soars closing rates by inspiring your sales team with confidence in their messaging and sales tactics. You can get high-quality data from:

  • Interviewing your customers

  • Observing users with behavioral analytics 

  • Analyzing important notes from your sales CRM 

  • Using tools like Leadfeeder to see which companies visit your website

  • Using a deal/call tracking software to understand how prospects view your product

3. Create more bottom of the funnel content 

Another powerful way to increase sales qualified leads is to generate more bottom of the funnel content. 

When PPC agency owner Zach Balby, ramped up his content marketing, it failed to generate sales qualified leads. 

At a glance, his inbound metrics seemed impressive. 

Traffic, clicks, and page views were on an undeniable rise. Unfortunately, Zach wasn’t getting any leads, despite having a very active sales funnel. 

To investigate the issue, Zach went on to combine Leadfeeder, Zapier, and SharpSpring to list the page history a company visited before opting into his email list.

Eventually, he discovered why he wasn’t getting sales qualified leads:

The technical, long-form content he labored over only attracted other marketers and students. It failed to attract potential clients looking to hire his agency. 

Switching up his content strategy, Zach published more bottom of the funnel content aimed at companies looking to hire an agency. 

bottom funnel content

This small shift instantly increased sales qualified leads for Zach. After writing just one post about hiring an ad agency, several high-quality leads reached out to him. 

If you’ve got healthy website stats but aren’t generating leads, learn from Zach’s story. Make sure the content you’re creating speaks to potential leads who are ready to buy. 

Even if educational content is your bread and butter, balancing your calendar with more bottom of the funnel content won’t hurt - providing that you don’t overdo it, of course. 

Generating more SQLs is about alignment 

Increasing the number of marketing qualified leads that convert isn’t about doing more. 

It’s not about blaming each other. 

It’s about alignment and problem-solving. 

sql alignment reaction

Using the tips above alongside a lead-intelligence tool like Leadfeeder, marketing and sales teams can begin to see eye-to-eye. 

This leaves them better able to pinpoint the perfect leads to target, craft compelling pitches, and work together to fix bottlenecks in the sales process. 

Note: Want to generate both marketing qualified and sales qualified leads? Sign up for Leadfeeder's 14-day trial.

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