The relationship between sales and marketing is nearly fused (depending on the organization of course) and what I have observed is that it comes down to trust. Does your sales team trust you to generate leads they can actually close? Do they trust that you are delivering a message to the market that they can stand behind? Do they trust you are working hard on delivering creative ideas to get more business?
And like with any relationship, personal or professional, once the trust is gone, it's nearly impossible to recover.
Defining a Qualified Lead
Defining what is a qualified lead should never be accomplished in a silo. Neither the marketing organization or the sales organization has the final say on what this is. If it's not a collaborative effort, this won't work.
There are a few ways to go about this.
First, I like to look at data. What are the characteristics of a company we have sold to? Are there any commonalities we can collect as data? How about the job titles or anything interesting related to the people.
Also what happened on their journey to becoming a customer? A qualified lead is not just about demographics, you also want to couple this with behavior.
BUT - If you don't have data or it's just so wonky and all over the place, you need to do some homework. Start by interviewing your sales team. Who do they want to talk to? Interview customers. What made you become a customer? Also consult with your product marketing team or CEO to get their feedback.
Gaining Buy-In and Support
Once you have gathered your data, start building out your personas of what a qualified lead looks like. Be sure to include both attributes of the company and the individuals.
Meet with sales leadership. Start here with a smaller group to gain their buy-in before a formal roll-out to everyone. Share your research and have a discussion. You should walk out of this meeting with agreement on what makes an MQL an MQL.
Depending upon whether your sales leadership team will manage the communication from here, the entire sales organization needs to be educated on the definition of a qualified lead.
The qualified lead is defined, you have documentation on the definition and supporting research and sales is on-board. Congrats!
Next you need to start thinking about lead scoring to sift these leads from the pile :)