SiriusDecisions defines the sales accepted lead (SAL) stage of the demand creation process as a formal process for acceptance of leads by inside, field or channel sales. A service-level agreement (SLA) should be created that specifies the characteristics of a sales-ready lead and the resulting steps sales must take within a specific timeframe.

Salespeople who accept leads are simply acknowledging that the leads they’ve received meet the agreed-upon criteria in the SLA. Leads should be reviewed and accepted or rejected by sales prior to attempting contact. Leads should only be rejected for a handful of basic reasons, including procedural (lead has been incorrectly routed), clerical (the prospect record is incomplete or inaccurate) or definitional (does not meet the target market, activity or lead level thresholds). Note that lead rejection differs from disqualification, which should happen only after the rep has contacted the lead and learned that there is no interest, need, budget, etc.

A formal lead acceptance process is important in B2B demand creation for four reasons:

  • Avoiding lead oblivion. First and foremost, the acceptance process allows marketing to confirm that sales or partners are acting on all delivered leads.
  • Rapid identification of problems. The rates of lead acceptance and rejection reveal lead management and quality problems that can be quickly addressed. Organizations should strive for lead acceptance rates that are 90 percent or better. Lower rates typically indicate a breakdown between marketing and sales.
  • Starts the clock on followup. With acceptance, sales is obligated to follow up with the lead in a specific timeframe (no more than 72 business hours is advisable; 24 hours is a best practice).
  • Reduction of lead waste. Rejected leads should be automatically rerouted back to marketing or teleprospecting for further attention and resubmission if necessary.
  • The SAL stage is typically overlooked because it is viewed as unnecessary and cumbersome. However, it should take no more than a few minutes of sales time, and it’s the best thing an organization can do to ensure that the budget, effort and resources devoted to lead generation are not wasted.