Strategy & Lead Gen

How to Determine if a Lead is Qualified

Does your company have a sales funnel filled with qualified prospects? Are your sales and marketing teams working toward the same goals? Not every potential customer out there is a prospect for your product or service. If you're spending your time, and more importantly, your marketing dollars on talking to people who truly don't need or can't buy what you have to sell, then you're simply wasting valuable resources. This is why it is increasingly important to qualify your leads before engaging them in what you have to offer. 

While your marketing and sales teams’ invest time, energy, and money into their efforts, the question remains: Is their work generating the right results for your company? Nothing can frustrate a salesperson more than engaging a potential customer only to find out they are unqualified. And yet, all too often, the leads marketing teams provide their salespeople can hamper productivity.

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When your salespeople use valuable time to research leads to see if they are qualified, they are not able to use their time to close customers who are ready to “buy.” This creates a sense of frustration for both the sales team and the business executives.

What is a qualified lead?

First, let’s start with a basic definition. Defining a lead as qualified basically means they are qualified to talk to a sales representative. This is a prospect that has a high likelihood to buy and is ready for sales engagement. Simple enough, right?

Unfortunately, that is where the simplicity ends since there is no one-size fits all approach to lead qualification. In organizations that have well-developed lead lifecycle stages, the marketing and sales teams agree on the definition of a sales qualified lead. This involves actually listening to the sales team and understanding what works for them, but it also means the marketing team must be able to explain to sales why they define a qualified lead a certain way.

Here are some questions to have your sales and marketing teams work through together to determine if your lead is qualified:

  1. Is the lead the primary decision-maker?
    Before you get too far in any discussion, the first thing you should find out is whether the person you're talking to is authorized to make the purchase. In B2B sales you may need to seek out a purchasing person, the department head or even the company owner. If you are not dealing with the primary decision-maker then you are not dealing with a qualified lead.

  2. What are the top reasons a lead doesn’t close?
    Your job is not only generating new leads, but to also nurture leads that are not yet qualified. Ask your sales team about the most common reasons why those leads were not ready to buy. The top 3 reasons could be budget, timing, and not seeing the value of your product for example. That is extremely valuable information to you, because now you can segment those leads accordingly and target your nurturing campaigns to address their specific pain points. The more effectively you can nurture these leads, the more effectively you can get them to be sales ready and hand them back to your sales team to close.

  3. What qualities make a lead good or bad?
    It is important to get detailed feedback from your sales team about what they think makes for a particularly strong or weak lead. They may also have different opinions about what qualities are most indicative of a lead that will most likely close or a lead that most likely won’t, based on their various experiences and techniques. Find out what factors they look for when they’re deciding which of their leads to call, and figure out how you can generate more of those kinds of leads for them.

Now that you are closer to defining a qualified lead, let’s focus on the two key elements of qualified leads. 

The Two Key Elements of Qualified Leads

Lead qualification typically involves two key elements: the fit of the prospect, and their level of engagement during the sales process as they consider a purchase decision.

Fit: This is the aspect of qualifying a lead that is based on your specific buyer personas, or information such as job title, industry, company revenue, geography, etc. From these criteria, marketing and sales can agree on what their qualified buyer looks like. This should be based on historical trends about what types of individuals are actively engaged in your buying lifecycle. How closely a lead hews to your ideal customer profile will determine whether and when you hand it over to the sales team.

Engagement: This is the determination of a marketing lead’s level of buying interest. A lead’s activity can reveal how close they are to a buying decision. For example, if a lead has only visited your website once, or has just begun following you on twitter, they may be aware of your company but aren’t particularly engaged yet. A lead that requests a demo or views pricing information is showing a lot more interest. Engagement takes into account all aspects of their online behavior from email response, web page visits, eBook downloads to social media involvement.

The Takeaway

Remember, if the sales team does not think the lead is qualified, then the lead is not qualified. It is imperative that the Marketing and Sales teams in your company work together to determine what lead qualification means to you. Organizations with good alignment between sales and marketing teams achieved 20% annual revenue growth in 2010, according to a study by the Aberdeen Group. By contrast, companies with poor alignment saw revenues decline by 4%

Once marketing can commit to delivering these qualified leads then sales should also commit to an agreement on how quickly they’ll follow up on qualified marketing leads. If you don’t connect with qualified leads in a timely fashion, you should bring them back into marketing to nurture them further through marketing automation until signs of buying interest resurface. The bottom line is that achieving sales and marketing alignment can be tough, but maintaining this alignment is crucial to your company’s bottom line. 

Image credit: © Grasko

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