I enjoy working with the folks over at MarketingSage; they are what you call deep thinkers and the results they get for their clients reflect it. They just posted a short (2 page) but powerful paper on Defining and Ranking Sales Leads. Here’s an excerpt:
“Marketingsage’s straightforward definition of a sales lead enables the meaningful ranking of opportunities as they enter the organization. In turn, the ranking allows both the sales and marketing teams to simultaneously apply different policies for sales lead management.”
The chart below gives you a basic idea of how they approach it. Note that the highest ranking request after an Order is a Price request. Since B2B companies generally do not facilitate ordering directly from a website, Price requests are considered the highest ranking.
The Price request category does not necessarily mean you must use a B2B lead conversion tool like EchoQuote, it can be a generic form as long as it attracts and converts potential customers.
Some interesting points in this paper include the idea that opportunities, especially for complex products and services, may span months, or even years. Lead ranking must allow for gaps in long sales cycles and aggregate all touch events as a single opportunity.
You can download the PDF here: Defining and Ranking Sales Leads