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  • Writer's pictureMichael Venman

Have you heard of "Stage - 0?"

Tech stacks are becoming more complicated and the tools we use to set up and qualify leads then pass them to another team in a different system etc... Nothing is worse than a dropped lead, and in a complicated system it happens. Sometimes too often.

Among us sales nerds out there, there are a couple heated debates. How do you pass an SDR Lead? Usually it's complicated by introducing multiple systems (calendar, cadencing tool, salesforce (leads, contacts, opportunities), marketing attribution) so it ends up morphing into what ever is easiest build at the time. That said, this decision will have a long term impact on what you can track and how easy it is to see your GTM data, so it's worth knowing about.

Before we get too deep into it, here's a breakdown of what I'm gonna talk about.

The GTM Sales Process

This consists of the handoff between Marketing to SDR's to AE's. It follows these process steps knowing they take many forms:

  1. Marketing - Creates an MQL Lead and notifies SDR

  2. SDR - Works lead to qualify or disqualify and schedule a meeting with an AE.

  3. AE (+ SDR) - Attend meeting and give feedback.

  4. AE Qualification

    1. If Qualified - Work the Opportunity

    2. If Unqualified - Return the Lead to the Nurture drips of Marketing

As you can see, at some point it goes from a Lead to an Opportunity, but there is no clear definition or easy answer as to where it happens.

There are really two tacts, both with equal amounts of pro's and con's meaning it's personal preference. With that in mind, there are millions of combinations and strategies as to HOW to QUALIFY a lead, that's not what this is. This is a thought on the two main methodological strategies to accomplish this in Salesforce and the pro's and con's of each.

They break down into two camps.

The Lead Passers

Why create an Opportunity if a lead hasn't even attended the meeting yet? Why have SDR's working out of both Leads and the Contacts of previous failed meetings? Why bloat the pipelines of already cocky salespeople?

"We convert the Lead after the AE Qualification Call." - 40% of companies

This decision is not unique, and many companies land here as it's easiest to argue. Usually the SDR's are less skilled and more often won't know how to qualify effectively. You don't want to ruin close rates or have SDR's work in both Leads and Contacts. You can do most of everything you need to do with running successful meeting reports etc...

The downside though is hefty. AE's (instead of SDR's) are now working out of Leads, and one would argue there are much more expesnive of a resource to waste. You also don't have a clean view of your full AE Sales Lifecycle extending from their first touch.

The Opportunity Passers

Why not create an Opportunity when we think as a company there is a deal? Why have AE's work leads, isn't that the SDR territory?

"We convert the Lead after the SDR Qualification Call and use a Stage 0." - 60% of companies

What is a "Stage 0?" Glad you asked... it's a primary stage, skipped for AE created Opportunities, and used for the handoff from SDR's to AE's. The Opportunity progresses to the "Stage 1" stage of the AE's sales process after they accept the responsibility for the Deal. You can typically remove unqualified SDR meetings from Closed Rates.

Many companies have a relatively high qualified rate on SDR set meetings for AE's that hovers around 80-90%. If that's the case, this is probably for you. The ability to see the SDR Acceptance Rates, Pipeline Generation, Marketing Attribution, Process enforcement... the list goes on. There is really just one draw back.

You can't un-convert a lead. This is a big scary thing to many SDR programs as their teams work exclusively leads. Having to manage two lists of contacts sounds like a scary thing. Opportunity pipelines will be bloated unless you change a ton of Opportunity Reports, and training AE's on a new stage.

So which is better?

Again, everyone has their opinion, so I'll give mine.

I'm an Opportunity Passer as it's the best way to track the handoff of responsibility visibly with the AE's. If they see an Opportunity in their Opportunity report, they will be more engaged than an "Event" in Salesforce. You also have the ability to easily compare SDR Opportunity and hand-off metrics against the success and stage progression of those Opportunities. Do you need to do some additional work bringing Event/Meeting data to the Opportunity, sure do... but when thinking about the unqualified meetings, it doesn't bother me terribly.

This is how I break it down, but results will vary:


Lead Passer

Opportunity Passer

SDR Attritubiton


SDR/AE Combined Ease of Work



SDR Compensation


Unqualified Meeting Exception


Sales Cycle Reporting


Marketing Attirbution



Wondering why anyone cares so much about these decisions... yeah me too. At The Sales Nerd we care. We help organizations make the most out of their opportunity to reorganize their Salesforce+ ecosystems to find solutions that can scale with them. With experience with Sales and Marketing leaders from first dollar to $300+ Million revenue/year, there isn't much that we haven't thought a ton about. Reach out to us if you have a project you think we can help on.


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