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Raw leads are inherently neutral entities. If, when, and how they convert to real opportunities is fully dependent on the processes that sales and marketing teams apply to them after they appear at the top of the funnel.

Raw leads are unfiltered, undifferentiated, and unqualified contacts generated by marketing activities such as content downloads, social media use, webinars, and tradeshows. Some are simply people requesting information or companies too small to qualify, and others are perfect-fit prospects—ready, willing, and able to invest in six- or seven-digit solutions. But who falls in which camp?

Real opportunities will have met established lead criteria and warrant further attention from Marketing or Sales. At the right time, real opportunities are confidently moved to the sales forecast and assigned a probability of closing.

The challenge, of course, is how best to qualify "in" those with high-value potential and apply processes that move them to closed-deal status.

Here are four actions needed to make that happen.

1. Align sales and marketing

Call it what you will—essential, imperative, or indispensable—but full sales and marketing alignment is the must-have predecessor of the next three actions.

Everyone is for alignment. The hard part is getting there and making it work. Though our shared sales and marketing history has been characterized by pointing fingers, feeling undervalued, and rerunning processes that fail, it's time to let go and move on to formal discussions between both groups.

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image of Dan McDade
Dan McDade is the CEO of PointClear, an Atlanta-based prospect development company that helps B2B sales and marketing executives fill their forecasts with sales-ready buyers.