Inbound Sales

3 Crucial Steps to Identify Qualified Leads Before a Sales Hand-Off

Did you know that a sales and marketing alignment makes companies 67% more effective at closing deals?

At the heart of a sales and marketing alignment is one main thing: Sharing a definition of a qualified lead.

As a marketer, you might have an idea of what makes a lead qualified. Maybe already you've felt excited about passing a great lead off to the sales rep... only to see the sale flop or the rep be disappointed.

What went wrong?

Here's what your sale reps are really looking for in great leads, and 3 main acronyms to include in your lead scoring process. Each acronym is a crucial step in qualifying leads to make sure you and your sales team have the same expectation for what makes a lead "qualified."

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Unfortunately, our marketing definition of a good fit doesn't always match the sales reps' definition. This can make the lead handoff not so smooth — and can cause tension, dropped sales, or a blame game.

It's important to have a shared marketing and sales concept of qualified leads. This sets all eyes on the same prize.

And as more buyers do research online before ever talking to sales, the heavy lifting of qualifying is moving more into the court of marketers.

Download our complete guide to qualify and define your business leads.

Step #1: Does a lead need our services? (GPCT)

Your marketing goal might be to identify if a lead is interested in your services.

However, your sales rep wants to know if the lead actually needs your services. If there is no imminent need, a sales rep is likely wasting time on a client. 

Need can be broken down into four segments: goal, plan, challenge, and timeline (or, easily remembered as GPCT.)

Clients who have all four factors of GPCT are the most qualified––and your sales team should prioritize them. As a marketer, if you're noticing any red flags in this stage, you'll be one step ahead of the game. You'll know before the sales hand-off occurs that the lead may not be as qualified as they may seem at first glance.

Goal

The best leads have a clear business goal in mind. They should already have a target for specific growth that is relevant, important to their bottom line, and realistic.

If your lead has a clear goal, it will be much easier for your sales team to connect with them on the exact services you could provide for them, and even which case studies and client references are the most relevant to the lead.

"We'd like to grow 75% by end of next quarter" is NOT a good indicator of a qualified lead. It doesn't specify the type of growth your potential client wants, why they want to achieve that growth, and data to determine 75% growth would even be realistic or possible for their team to maintain.

There's your first problem...

If there is no existing goal on the lead's mind, your sales rep is fighting an uphill battle. Better yet, the goal should already be stated by the lead or the lead's company.

Even the best sales rep can't plant an intrinsic goal in the mind of a client. That's why qualifying for an existing goal is so important.

Down pointing arrow.pngBut wait: there's an exception to this stage!

If your lead has an unattainable goal, or simply doesn't know enough about their problems to clearly identify a SMART goal, that doesn't mean they won't ever be qualified enough to talk to your sales team. However, this is an indicator the lead is still in the Awareness or Consideration Stages of your funnel––and should stay there, consuming helpful content and learning more with each visit before they really are ready for a sales conversation.

Plan

To take that goal a step further, a highly qualified lead also has a plan in place to achieve results.

Someone should have already put "find a solution" on the agenda. This gives your sales rep a welcome seat at the table to present your product or service. If your lead has not shown interest in actually solving their problems, then they might see any contact by a salesperson as intrusive, irrelevant, or annoying. 

^^That's exactly what your sales team fears in their outreach to leads––so let's not set them up for failure!

When you're qualifying a lead here with GPCT, you just need to know if the lead is actively taking steps to solve their issues.

Challenge

The client has a goal, and a plan, but a great business lead still has a challenge to achieving results.

  • Maybe their team has no capacity to tackle the solution.
  • Maybe their team doesn't have the proper training to carry that solution across the finish line.

This opens the door to your sales rep for a meaningful conversation about how your product or service can help—and, as I mention in the qualifying techniques below, you can easily ask questions to unveil such challenges.

RELATED ARTICLE: "7 Steps to Convert Your Target Buyers With Content Offers"

Timeline

A lead with a clear timeline is preferred to a wishy washy client who says, "Well, it'll happen sometime."

Here's the deal:

Nothing frustrates your sales team more than a lead who seems qualified by all other accounts, but just doesn't have a sense of urgency to act. There's no driver of the conversations. There's just no structure to how and when your company could start helping them solve their problems. 

If the solution timeline is far away or undetermined, the sales process will be tedious (or won't happen at all.) An urgent timeline gives the sales rep a strong talking and selling point.

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Step #2: Can a lead commit to us? (BANT)

The second level of qualification digs deeper: can a lead actually commit to our services? Even if they pass the first step of GPCT, is our solution a realistic one for their needs? Am I a good fit for them as a solution? Or are we way off the mark on some key factors in their decision-making?

Here's where you use qualifying step #2: BANT. Budget, authority, need, and timeline.

We've already covered timeline in Step #1, so we'll focus on budget, authority, and need:

Budget

This one is straightforward. Is the budget in place to invest in your product/service?

That's the big question.

If your lead doesn't currently have budget for adding your services, can they shift their budget around to accommodate a new investment? Do they seem interested in doing so? (If the latter is true, your sales rep can make a compelling case for why your product or service will reap more ROI.)

Authority

Your sales rep needs to know that he's speaking to the right person.

This is essential to know:

A low-level employee won't carry the weight to make the investment happen, so an executive decision-maker is ideal.

A sales rep will try his best to get on the phone with the authority figure, but as a marketer, identifying this up front (via a form field question, ideally) can save sales reps time and wasted calls.

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Finding the decision maker is important to a sales reps' success. As a marketer, you can ask for someone's job title in a form to qualify for authority.

Need

Commitment is closely tied to need. Does the client really need what you're offering?

If not, the lead might have tough buy-in with decision makers at his or her company. A lead's need should be clearly identified and have no obvious expiration.

Down pointing arrow orange.pngThis is so important!

When we are qualifying leads for SparkReaction's marketing, we might see someone requested a website redesign quote. If my first visit to their website shows a gorgeous site with great functionality, enticing copy, and a great overall user experience––do they really need our help? Am I able to identify some key areas of need that will fuel the sales conversations they have with my sales team?

Step #3: Will we make great partners? (3Cs)

So a lead is interested, has a need, and can commit as an authority figure in their company with the right budget. The final factor becomes: Will the lead make a good partner?

Listen up:

If your business runs on partnerships with clients, this is a non-negotiable part of lead qualifying.

If you're a SaaS company, company with a partnership model, or other industries that rely on repeat purchases––you have to stop now to consider your compatibility as a relationship with the potential customer. 

You are committing to each other when they sign on the dotted line. If there are red flags from the start of the conversations with them, you need to draw the line and determine if this lead is a good fit for your company culture and your process. 

"A person's willingness to keep deadlines as a priority, overall understanding of digital work and a positive attitude make all the difference." - Raylee Melton, Director of Sales and Marketing at SparkReaction

Qualifying for fit can be broken down to three Cs of compatibility:

Concept

You and the lead need to share a common concept of what success looks like.

If your product is all about efficiency, make sure that "efficiency" is truly the end goal for client, not something else, like revenue. The sales rep will need to determine if ROI means the same thing for the client and your company.

It boils down to this:

If you and your client have different concepts of success from the start, you'll never be able to please them. You'll never show the value they really want. And––most importantly––you can't surpass expectations you don't understand from the start if you don't speak the same "language."

Commitment

Can your client make the commitment to your services? For example, will the budget be available long-term? A sales rep will try to forecast future viability with a client, and as the marketing qualifier, you can screen for their commitment from the start:

  • Are they reading blog posts about long-term success and culture fit with your company?
  • Do they seem to want quick fixes in their initial requests?
  • Are they downloading offers or viewing pages that reflect an interest in your process, culture, team, and longevity of your service?
  • Or...did they come straight to the pricing page and then submit a contact us form?

Capacity

If you have a partnership model, capacity is very important. You might be relying on the client for certain feedback or contributions.

Down pointing arrow.pngYou need to figure out:

  • Is the lead's company ready with internal capacity?
  • Are the right employees in place to fulfill on these duties?
  • Are the resources and knowledge?
On both sides of this partnership, are you set up for success? Or are there vital people missing from this relationship that might mean delayed feedback, unanswered questions, loss of budget authority, or a lack of communication?

 

How to Set Up GPCT, BANT, and 3Cs in Your Marketing Efforts

Those are three steps you can take to better qualify leads for your sales team as a marketer: 

  1. GPCT: goal, plan, challenge, and timeline
  2. BANT: budget, authority, need, and timeline (on repeat)
  3. 3Cs: concept, commitment, and capacity

Qualifying leads can be intimidating, but with time, you'll develop a better knack. As a marketer, you have many tools at your fingertips to qualify leads. This can help you streamline the process for your sales reps—and ultimately drive more sales.

Let's dive into some of those tools you can use to actually answer all of the questions we presented here today:

Qualify using website and landing pages

Your greatest marketing asset is your website, which can house all kinds of tools for gathering lead intel.

And here's the not-so-secret fact:

Your biggest opportunity for lead qualification answers is gated content on landing pages.

Leads must submit a form to access the content, which gives you a huge opportunity to ask qualifying questions. For example: "What's your role at the company?" "What's your biggest challenge?" "What's your timeline for success?"

Tip: We've found that providing specific answers (i.e., a dropdown menu) results in better qualifying answers the open-ended fields (i.e., a text box.)

With a marketing automation tool, you can easily collect this information into one simple contact profile. In HubSpot, this is called a contact record. 

You can pass this profile to sales reps before they make calls—it's like a playbook on how the lead found your company, what content they've consumed, company details such as location and yearly revenue, etc. 

To be frank: it's a sales goldmine.

To gather the most information on leads, you should set up smart form fields (if available to you based on the tools/software you use.) These fields only display questions that haven't yet been answered. This keeps your form and avoids duplicate questions.

You can gradually get more in-depth with the qualifying questions you ask. For example, It would be intimidating to ask, "What's your budget?" right away, but with smart fields, you can ask after a lead has already supplied basic information. Maybe you don't ask about budget until a lead is already at the Consideration Stage of your marketing funnel.

Qualify using lead scoring

If you have an automation tool, you can also set up automated lead scoring to begin marking the hottest leads for sales reps.

You assign different points values to different traits—for example, a certain budget might earn a lead more points.

This lets highly qualified prospects shine through. Then, sales reps can focus on leads with higher probability of closing. A higher score moves the contact higher up in the sales rep's priority list of hot leads, and it shows just how much marketing activity they've taken on your website. 

Cha-ching: marketing wins and ROI for your team!

Qualify using sales/marketing alignment

The best method for a sales marketing alignment, however, is simpler than the technical stuff:

Set up common ground between your two teams:

  • Schedule weekly sales/marketing alignment meetings
  • Draft process documents to standardize your communciation and qualifiers such as lead scoring
  • Ask sales reps to rate the quality of leads coming through and provide you feedback
  • Together, identify qualifiers for your business that usually lead to success

RELATED ARTICLE: "Create a Sales and Marketing Alignment in 5 Simple Steps"

Marketers are often at odds with sales reps, but that doesn't need to be the case.

These qualifiers—for need to buy, commitment to buy, and ability to be a solid partner—will streamline the sales process for your reps.

This means more ROI, and a better reflection of your marketing efforts: A win-win!

To learn more about qualifying leads, and making the handoff smooth, grab our free eBook below.

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