It’s Time to Abandon TQL and SAL in Your Lead Funnel

It feels almost sacrilegious given how fully revenue marketers have embraced Sirius Decision’s Demand Waterfall… but after a year of ripping stages out for many a lead funnel, I think it’s time to abandon the TQL (Teleprospecting Qualified Lead) and SAL (Sales Accepted Lead) stages.  Hear me out.

>> Related: How to Build a SLA Alert in Salesforce <<

We have reached peak acronym

Our intentions were good — Sirius Decisions makes a compelling case for drawing clean distinctions between when/how Marketing, BDRs, and Sales work leads.  It’s good to get that visibility and have clear ownership.

the Sirius Decisions lead funnel with TQL and SAL stages

But we’ve evolved the theory to the point where there are a dozen opaque acronyms.  I was in a meeting recently and heard a savvy sales manager ask in exasperation, “Wait, what is a TQL?”  When we’re spending meetings arguing round and round about definitions, the framework is officially causing more confusion than its worth.

The lead funnel’s black hole – the handoff from TQL to SAL

The tripping point for almost all the confusion?  The handoff from a BDR to a sales rep.  Presumably, that’s when TQL toggles to SAL, and we collectively assume the reps are taking the baton.  But what we’re actually finding?  There’s a lot of gray area where Sales hasn’t fully taken control in cases like missed meetings, rescheduled meetings, and/or less-than-urgent-but-still-qualified leads where the rep doesn’t have any immediate next steps.

Cue the black hole:  The sales rep already accepted the lead, so by definition it’s within their ownership.  But we all know sales reps aren’t endlessly dialing missed connections, trying to reschedule meetings.  It’s really the BDR.  But that responsibility is usually implicit, and the whole point of a demand funnel is defining responsibility. Why hand something off to Sales when the BDR is still managing the calendar?  SAL really means “we scheduled a meeting”… so why not just say that?

Terminology matters

I’ve stared at many funnel reports, wracking my memory for what each stage entails for a particular company… does SAL mean we’re preparing for the meeting?  Scheduled a meeting?  Just had the meeting?

Reading reports shouldn’t take any effort.  Simpler naming conventions ensure everybody knows what’s going on, from the CEO evaluating her ARR pipe to the BDR trying to calculate their quarterly bonus.  These definitions matter, and different interpretations of deeply-buried SLAs only breed distrust of the logic, then Salesforce/Marketo, and then Marketing…

The solution

It’s pretty simple:  “Meeting Scheduled” and “Meeting Held.”  Literally call the stages that, everywhere.

It’s clear language — no Rosetta stone needed.  And we know exactly where the lead is.  If the lead misses the meeting, we keep them in Meeting Scheduled stage until they show up or change their mind.

One thing I love about “Meeting Held” is leads don’t languish in this stage (compared to SAL/SQL).  The “Meeting Held” stage feels passive… and I find it pushes the process to Nurture/Disqualify/Opportunity.  You had the meeting and it’s either an Opportunity or it’s not.

Who owns Meeting Held?

I usually recommend BDRs still own the “Meeting Held” stage.  After all, they’re comped on how many meetings are held and how many of those meetings turn into Opportunities. They’re incentivized to hound a rep to convert the Opp — and there should be tension to ensure the Opp gets created if there’s something there. (Bonus, BDRs are usually more compliant about entering meeting notes into Salesforce.)

defining lead funnel stages without a TQL or SAL stage

And since so many BDR programs are pipelines for future sales reps, this also creates a real feedback loop.  Every day they’re working with the salesperson to understand what was good/bad about each meeting so they can understand cues and nuance for what makes a great prospect.

And after a lead is qualified as an Opportunity, there’s a clear handoff point — the BDR has given the rep everything they need to know. The rep spoke with the lead and it’s legit.  The BDR creates the Opportunity, and the sales rep can live entirely within Opportunities to work their deals instead of having to traverse across Leads, Contacts, and Accounts. Now it’s in the their hands to go forth and work the deal.  ::slow clap::

UPDATED:

We recently helped a client negotiate new funnel stages and formally assigned lead followup back to BDRs. The result? Meetings increased 21% month over month.

 

Real talk: hope is not a strategy! This robust Lead Gen Plan template maps how many leads and opps you need to generate each quarter.

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