I’m guessing the word “wine” drew you into this article more than “leads.” While I assure you that I’ll address wine in this blog, I first want to stress another important word in the title: quality. Why this comparison? The idea stemmed from my recent trip to Napa Valley.

Now that I am pumped full of the earth’s sweet nectar, why not compare wine to how we generate quality leads and share it with you? In this blog, I will guide you through a proper qualification process (as defined by HubSpot), explain how it significantly speeds your sales cycle and gets you home in time to enjoy some quality wine.

There are some noteworthy comparisons in how we recognize quality wines and quality leads in the beginning of the sales cycle.

Napa offers breathtaking views, serene terrains and wine by the barrel. However, I also learned a lot about how wine is made, cared for, paired with food and which wine I enjoy most.

The first parallel between quality leads and quality wines is how they are harvested. Each winery has a different process, which dates back to generations of grape growing techniques. From soil to sunlight, each kind of grape is cared for differently. The beginning of the sales funnel is similar (also dating back generations). We create content, techniques and infographics to harvest a variety of leads. We want to grow and nurture visitors to our website, newsletters and social media networks. Sometimes it takes months or years before our prospects are ready to have a conversation. There could be opportunity in the future, but they need harvesting before they are ready to be made into “wine.”

The easiest way I can demonstrate this, without sharing a glass of vino with you, is to highlight one section of the sales funnel that you may be overlooking: the qualification process. HubSpot has a two-part qualification process and defines them as Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) and Sales Qualified Leads (SQL).

An MQL as defined by HubSpot is “a lead who has been deemed more likely to become a customer compared to other leads. This qualification is based on what web pages a person has visited, what they’ve downloaded, and similar engagement with the business’s content.”

My take: This does not necessarily mean these visitors are the right customers for your business. Think of it this way—they have an interest in your service or product and have visited your website a few times. These visitors are knowledgeable in what you offer, however there is no clear action taken yet. Their engagement could indicate a more invested interest than someone who has never heard of your offerings.

HubSpot defines an SQL as “a customer who has indicated to a customer service team member that they’re ready for a conversation with a sales rep about new products or services.” HubSpot further defines SQLs as those leads that your sales team has accepted as ready for a direct sales follow-up. A qualification process will help your sales and marketing teams stay on the same page in terms of the quality and volume of leads that you are handing over to your sales team.

My take: Again, this doesn’t mean that these visitors are the right customers for your business. The difference is these leads warrant a conversation. They have visited your website, filled out a form, requested more information and requested a follow-up call about a specific business need with a time frame. The most important part of properly qualifying this lead is the conversation that follows.

The next parallel to wine tasting is getting to know your palate.

Just as I discovered new things about myself in Napa, we should be getting to know a pattern in our quality leads. What content are visitors downloading the most?  What is the most visited page on our website? We need to take the time to know visitor patterns, what content is well-received and the subjects or articles that convert quickly. Getting to know more about our MQLs will produce a larger quantity of SQLs.

The sales funnel, or in HubSpot’s case, the new ““Flywheel,” shows that volume at the top of the funnel helps with customer conversion. Oftentimes, however, the middle process gets skipped or skimmed over. What are we doing to recognize quality leads and turn them into quality customers?

At our firm, we generate a large volume of content or inbound marketing to produce traffic and discussion among our customers. This strategy results in many leads to sift through, follow up on and ultimately generate quality discussions. To give you an example of the volume of leads we generate on an annual basis, our team at Skoda Minotti Strategic Marketing recently won the Outstanding Marketing Initiative award for our lead generation program at this year’s Leading Edge Alliance (LEA) award ceremony.

In 2017 we produced:

  • 293 published blogs; 16 pieces of premium content (meaning gated e-books or infographics)
  • MQLs – 1,634
  • SQLs – 731
  • Sales meetings conducted with subject matter expert – 145
  • New business accounts – 28
  • New business revenue – $500,000+ in initial engagements, not including add-on projects
  • Opportunities still pending – 51 (approximately $1.2 million in potential revenue)

Notice how the numbers change from a MQL to a SQL and, even further, to a sales meeting with a subject matter expert. Volume is important, yes, but it’s recognizing the quality and difference between a MQL and a SQL to potential business opportunity to customer. Although it seems like an additional step, it speeds up your customer conversion and close of business. Being more efficient (do I dare say picky?) on the front-end and recognizing leads that create partnerships instead of sales, almost guarantees a customer as long as you’re providing high-quality customer service, which could be another blog entirely.

Finally, quality leads and quality wines can be easily differentiated.

Most often, a Franzia boxed wine, has a clear distinction from a Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon, which is $500,000.

Quality leads can be easily differentiated from information gatherers, solicitors or spam. Recognizing quality leads comes with practice and recognition of a lead’s interest, timeframe, clear business need and buying power. These leads set themselves apart with a company name, company email address, message or high engagement of a certain subject. It also helps to recognize quality leads by including a qualifying question on your content. For example, you can ask on a form “How quickly would you like to make a change?” or “What is your current business challenge?” or “Would you like to discuss in more detail with a professional?” Sometimes on our forms, we ask “Would you like to be followed up with?” If the answer is no, then they are still an MQL. By simply adding these questions, it gives visitors the content they requested, helps your sales team prioritize and focuses their energy on quickly qualifying. The leads who demonstrate quality are willing to invest time discussing their business need and looking for a quality provider. If the conversation that follows goes well, they are willing to spend more money and time on quality service. Just as I would spend more money on quality wine.

Whether you enjoy wine as much as I do or have a vested interested in getting more qualified leads, I hope you enjoyed my wine comparisons.  If you’d like to learn more about our process at Skoda Minotti, the definitions of a MQL and SQL, or have wine suggestions for me, I’d love to connect by phone or email.

See below for my personal top wine picks! Salute!

Cheap off the shelf – Apothic Red; Red Blend
Can’t go wrong with this famously priced red blend. It will go down smoothly after the first, second and third bottle.

Favorite red wine from Napa – Padrone; Cabernet Sauvignon; Signorello Estate
This winery and wine pulled out all the stops with food pairings and beautiful views.

Favorite white wine from Napa – Sauvignon Blanc; Bell Wine Cellars
A private, family owned winery with my favorite white wine.

Best wine to bring to a party – Pinot Noir, any Pinot really.
Especially if you’re unsure what they are serving for dinner, this wine pairs best with anything! I recently brought “Josh” Pinot Noir to my family’s Thanksgiving dinner.


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