Lead qualification is a crucial part of the sales process. Without it, you risk chasing leads with little to no impact, resulting in wasted time and energy.
But what does a lead qualification process or strategy entail to make sure you get the most results from your efforts?
In this blog, we’ll highlight the following topics:
What Is Lead Qualification?
Lead qualification is the process of determining which leads in the sales pipeline meet your company’s customer criteria. It’s a crucial part of the sales process because it ensures your sales team is pursuing prospects who are a good fit for your company’s offerings.
A common misconception about lead generation is that every lead is a potential business opportunity. By developing a lead qualification framework, your sales development representatives (SDRs) can score leads based on your company’s ideal customer criteria and make sure every appointment set is qualified.
A lead qualification process requires several steps. First, the sales team gathers the prospect’s information from an inbound or outbound source. Then, they determine if a lead meets your company’s partnership criteria and how likely they are to make a purchase. An SDR can gather this information by researching the company online and speaking with a decision-maker one-on-one on the phone. From here, the SDR asks qualifying questions to learn more about their company, goals, and any business pain points.
SQL vs. MQL: What’s the Difference?
A qualified lead is a potential business opportunity in the sales pipeline that meets your ideal customer profile and has expressed genuine interest in your company’s product or service. For a lead to be qualified, they must be both sales and marketing qualified.
A sales qualified lead (SQL) is a prospect in the sales pipeline that’s been identified as a good fit for your business by your sales team because they meet your ideal customer profile (ICP). However, they have not shown interest in your company’s offerings yet, so they’re not a good lead for the time being.
A marketing qualified lead (MQL) is a prospective business that’s expressed interest in your company, but sales development representatives (SDRs) haven’t had the chance to determine whether the lead meets your ICP. MQLs often come into the sales pipeline through digital marketing, such as contacting businesses through their website or social media platforms. When MQLs come in, sales reps must reach out to discover if they’re a good fit for your business.
For a lead to be qualified and transferred from marketing to your sales team, the prospect must be sales and marketing qualified. However, even if a lead is unqualified by marketing standards, this doesn’t mean that their sales journey with your business is over. This is where lead nurturing shines so you can pique the interest of potential buyers at the right time.
It’s important to remember that even if a lead is unqualified, it doesn’t mean they exit the sales funnel. SQLs remain in the sales cycle so SDRs can continue nurturing the relationship over time. While they may not be in a place to schedule a sales meeting now, this doesn’t mean they won’t need your products or services in the future. However, if a lead is marketing qualified but not sales qualified, they’re directed out of the sales funnel because even though they’ve expressed interest, they don’t meet the objective criteria of what you’re looking for in a customer.
Process of Converting an MQL to an SQL
Today, MQLs are often generated through digital marketing efforts. Decision-makers can find your business through different platforms like your company website and social media platforms. Marketing teams can make their website more visible to their target audience by practicing search engine optimization (SEO) or promoting content through social media ads.
If an interested user sees value in what your company offers, they can submit their contact information to schedule a sales meeting or sign up for additional sales and marketing materials. Once a user inputs their information, they’re converted into an MQL. From here, it’s the job of the sales development rep to reach out to the interested buyer to learn more about their company. This conversation strives to help sales teams explore how they can help the MQL and how the MQL can mutually benefit their business.
After the SDR connects with the prospective business, they determine whether or not they’re also an SQL. If they are and they’re ready to take the next step in the customer lifecycle, they set their account executives up with a sales appointment where they can present the qualified lead with a personalized sales presentation. However, if they don’t meet the predetermined criteria of your business, they’re excused from the sales funnel because they have little to no likelihood of closing business.
How To Quality Leads in the Sales Pipeline
Lead qualification involves asking prospects a wide range of questions to learn more about them and what they’re looking for in a B2B product or service provider. Here are some of the ways your SDRs can qualify sales leads and guide them to their next step in the sales cycle:
Ask Lead Qualifying Questions
Many B2B companies have specific qualifications a potential customer has to meet to do business with their company. This ensures that the business receives a positive ROI with the products or services they provide the client.
For example, many companies like commercial HVAC and cleaning require at least 10,000 square feet of air-conditioned or cleanable space. Additionally, many commercial cleaning programs require at least three days of ongoing cleaning services.
Asking leads about the size of the commercial space (or how often they clean their facility) enables SDRs to know if they’re a sales qualified lead. If they are, they can continue providing value to pique their interest and convert them to a qualified marketing lead.
Ask Questions to Uncover Pain Points
More often than not, a sales-qualified lead isn’t going to agree to a sales appointment right off the bat, which is why it’s essential to ask open-ended questions to learn more about the prospect and uncover where there could be areas for improvement. Asking questions to discover pain points is vital because it empowers your sales team to give the prospect and solution and provide value to your business.
Let’s say that you’re an MSP, and your SDRs ask a prospect what they expect from an IT partner, and they say that they want a 24/7 help desk in case their network goes down, but their current provider doesn’t supply that. To provide value to your business, your SDRs can talk about your 24/7 help desk and how it has benefited customers with the same concerns.
Asking pain point-focused questions opens the door for better conversations and allows SDRs to provide case studies of how your company has been impactful for customers in similar scenarios. This encourages the lead to picture themselves in the shoes of your customer.
Ask About Their Decision-Making Process
Every business has its own way of making financial decisions. To qualify leads, SDRs must ask decision-makers about their decision-making processes. Are they the only ones in charge of purchasing that specific product or service? Is there someone else who’d be more fit to talk with about the products or services you offer? What does the timeline look like when making company purchases?
Asking these process-focused questions helps SDRs set account executives up with productive sales meetings that are likely to convert into closed business. Without a solid understanding of their decision-making process, you risk wasting time and extending the amount of time they’re in the sales cycle.
Sales teams can follow a wide range of lead qualification strategies to learn about their wants, needs, and decision-making processes. A few of the most common lead qualification strategies include:
- BANT: This lead qualification strategy prioritizes four main lead qualifying characteristics (in order): budget, authority, needs, and timeline.
- CHAMP: This lead qualification strategy chases these four characteristics: challenges, authority, money, and prioritization. While CHAMP is similar to the BANT method, CHAMP prioritizes a prospect’s challenges over making a sale. Additionally, CHAMP focuses on prioritizing making a purchase rather than setting a strict timeline.
- MEDDIC: This lead qualification strategy is more complex than BANT or CHAMP. This lead qualification strategy focuses on a wide range of factors, including metrics, the economic buyer, decision-making criteria and process, pain points, and “champion,” which is determining if anyone in the company has first-hand experience with your business.
- ANUM: This lead qualification strategy has four characteristics (in order): authority, needs, urgency, and money. While this lead qualification strategy has the same characteristics as the BANT method, ANUM considers authority the most crucial factor in lead qualification.
- FAINT: This lead qualification strategy has five components: funds, authority, interest, need, and timing. Like the BANT method, FAINT prioritizes a prospect’s budget and buying power. However, FAINT includes a new characteristic that enables your sales and marketing team to determine how interested a buyer is in your company’s product and service offerings.
Lead Qualification Best Practices
While there are many ways sales and marketing teams can practice lead qualification, there are some best practices they should be aware of to ensure they get the most out of their business growth efforts. A few of the lead qualification best practices your sales team should follow include:
Define What a Qualified Lead Means to Your Business
Before jumping into the sales pipeline and pitching decision-makers, you must consider what a qualified lead means to you and your business. A qualified lead means something different to every business in each industry, so it’s vital that sales teams know what kinds of opportunities to look for and which ones to avoid.
For example, let’s say your business only works with non-profit organizations. If an SDR is unaware and schedules a sales meeting with a for-profit company, they’re not qualified, and this appointment would be a bust for both the prospect and your account executives. When identifying what a qualified lead means to your business, it’s crucial that it’s shared with every department to ensure messaging stays consistent for a positive prospect experience.
Ask Relevant, Customer-Focused Questions
Every question an SDR asks should be relevant and put the potential customer at the forefront of the conversation. While sales reps are naturally sociable people, it’s important that they spend time asking prospects questions to learn more about them and what they’d be looking for in a B2B product or service provider. This encourages them to trust what your company has to offer them because they know your company has their best interest at heart.
Test Different Lead Qualification Processes
If you’re not seeing the impact of your current lead qualification process, it may be worth making adjustments. For example, let’s say you want to test generating more business from a specific industry, so you have all your SDRs pitching that sector. However, you don’t see a lot of interest from them. While you may want to expand into these different markets, it’s not getting the ROI you want, so it may be worth expanding your reach to more industries not to sell yourself or your sales team short.
Additionally, one lead qualification strategy that works for one business may not be as effective as another. If your SDRs are presenting account executives with low-quality appointments, it may be worth trying out a new lead qualification strategy for SDRs to use in their sales process. This could allow your account executives to get better, more high-converting sales meetings.
Lead qualification is a vital part of the sales and marketing process because it ensures that each lead being chased by your SDRs are both sales and marketing qualified. Without a lead qualification process in place, you risk having a business growth strategy with little to no ROI. There are many ways your SDRs can qualify leads, but you must pick a method that presents your business with the best results.
At Abstrakt Marketing Group, our SDRs are trained to qualify each lead in the sales pipeline to ensure clients are set up with high-quality sales opportunities. If you’re struggling to find a lead qualification process that works for your business, reach out to the lead gen experts at Abstrakt!
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