Marketers are too often taught to believe that we have to pump as many leads as possible into the sales department. We’ve been lied to.

This tactic of “call anyone” actually makes sales reps less productive. Sure, they’re busy, but what a colossal waste of time to spend day after day calling on and tracking web activity of people who will never become paying customers. Not everyone is ready to close their sales cycle or are even the right fit for your company’s product or services.

I’m currently apartment hunting in New York City (thank you, your sympathy is appreciated). I have to be very tactical about how I go about this stress-inducing, soul-sucking, money-draining process.

Just as marketers shouldn’t pass unqualified leads to sales, I’m not going to waste my time researching apartments out of my price range, in neighborhoods I don’t want to live in, or with roommates that will eat my food and never clean.

I only want to look at apartments I can see myself living in, just as you should only invest in leads that can see themselves partnering with your company.

Passing off marketing qualified leads (MQLs) is the process of feeding sales fewer, but highly qualified leads. Based on their activities as prospects (visits to your website and engagement with content) the marketing department has determined they meet the criteria needed to close a successful sales cycle.

To define MQLs within your own business, pay attention to:

  1. Fit: Make a list of your best customers, the ones that closed their sales cycles quickly and easily, and research their similarities. Are they in the same industry, same size, location?
    • Also be sure to hone in on these customers’ behaviors as leads, including their interest and activity level with your company.
  2. Data: Working with your sales department, determine every possible interaction a lead can have with your company before becoming a customer. This list may include white paper downloads, demo requests, and website page views.
    • Then, analyze which interactions have the highest close rates.
  3. Close rates: Once you’ve determined your close rates for each conversion, score them against each other. Focusing on the interactions that provide the highest close rates, define a threshold close rate.
    • While most of your close rates will hover around the 1-2 percent line, a select few will sit above 5 percent – these will define your MQLs.

Like apartment hunting, one of the biggest hurdles in lead generation is getting organized and getting over your own mental block about the process that awaits you. But look on the bright side – at least you don’t have to put everything you own in boxes.