If you want to spend more time closing deals and less time chasing leads that have little to no impact on your ROI, a lead qualification process is crucial. Lead qualification ensures a prospective business meets your sales needs and a decision-maker has the purchasing authority to sign on the dotted line.
Throughout this blog, we’ll cover the following topics:
What Does It Mean To Qualify a Lead?
Lead qualification is the part of the sales process where sales development representatives (SDRs) score leads based on their company profile and readiness to buy.
While lead qualification is one of the earlier stages of the sales process, it’s one of the most crucial because it ensures that sales reps are attending meetings with most likelihood to convert to closed business in the future. Without a lead qualification process in place, you risk wasting valuable company time, money, and other resources on leads that are unlikely to purchase.
How To Qualify Leads in the Sales Pipeline
Lead qualification includes both objective and subjective components. To objectively qualify a lead, think about what you consider a qualified prospect. Many B2B companies objectively qualify leads by gathering the following information about a prospect:
- Yearly revenue generated
- Number of full-time employees
- Number of workspaces
As you consider your lead qualifiers, be sure to also consider your industry. For example, commercial companies often focus on the square footage of the prospect’s building. More often than not, they shoot for over 10,000 square feet because they’re more likely to see an ROI at that facility size. If that qualifier isn’t met, the number of full-time employees the prospect has is also considered. When it comes to companies in the IT industry, qualifiers also include the number of workspaces a prospect has. The subjective component of lead qualification is how interested a prospect is in your company’s products or services, how urgently they need them, and whether they have decision-making authority.
Difference Between Sales and Marketing Lead Qualification
As you look into your lead qualification strategy, it’s important to know the difference between sales and marketing lead qualification.
A sales-qualified lead (SQL) is a prospect in the sales pipeline who isn’t ready or interested in making a purchase but meets the expectations of your ideal customer profile. This means they meet all of your objective lead qualifiers, but not the subjective ones. While they may not be ready to buy, this doesn’t mean they never will be.
This is what makes lead nurturing such an essential part of the sales process and customer journey. It enables your BDRs to build relationships and continuously add value to your company. When a prospect wants to make a change from their current provider, your BDRs can reach out and schedule a sales appointment between the prospect and a member of your internal sales team.
A marketing-qualified lead (MQL), also known as an inbound lead, is a lead that enters the sales funnel on their own terms because they’re interested in learning more about what your company has to offer. However, they’re not quite a qualified prospect yet because SDR and marketing teams don’t know whether they meet your company’s objective lead qualifiers, making inbound lead qualification an essential part of your marketing process.
MQLs enter the sales pipeline by finding your company online and submitting their contact information to learn more about you. When a company has a good digital marketing strategy, they attract inbound leads through their website, social media profiles, and landing pages. While an MQL may not be sales qualified yet, they’re actively looking for a solution, which means they have pain points they want to resolve.
To qualify an MQL, SDR teams must reach out to the potential customer and ask about their objective lead qualifiers. If they meet your ideal customer profile, they’re a qualified prospect and can take the next steps in their sales journey. If they’re not, they’re directed out of the sales pipeline because there’s no opportunity to close business.
Why Is Lead Qualification an Important Part of the Sales Process?
Lead qualification is an important part of the sales process because it saves sales and marketing teams time, money, and energy spent chasing leads that will result in little to no ROI or are unlikely to make a purchase.
Benefits of a Lead Qualification Framework
As a best practice, it’s crucial to implement lead qualification in the early stages of your sales process to ensure leads are worth your efforts. Overall, lead qualification helps you and your sales teams determine if a prospect:
- Meets your ideal customer criteria
- Could benefit from your company’s product or service
- Has a need for what your company has to offer
- Has the budget and authority to make a purchasing decision either now or in the future
- Sees the value in your company’s product or service
While disqualifying a lead may sound like a bad thing, it allows your sales and marketing teams to put their energy toward more promising leads. Once an unqualified lead is out of the sales pipeline, your SDRs can gear their attention to prospects that are part of your target audience.
Lead Qualification Checklist for SDR Teams
Are you following all the steps of lead qualification? Here’s a lead qualification checklist your sales and marketing teams can follow to make sure you get the most qualified prospects for your sales pipeline.
1. Do They Meet Your Ideal Customer Criteria?
If the answer is yes, they’re on the right track to being a qualified sales lead. If the answer is no, then your sales and marketing teams should get them out of the sales pipeline to focus on prospects worth their time and efforts.
Not sure how to identify the ideal customer profile of your target market? Learn how to define your qualified prospect here.
2. Do You Have Accurate Prospect Information?
Is the person your SDRs are speaking with the best point of contact for your company’s product or service offerings? When SDRs call or email prospects in the sales pipeline, they must have the correct information to ensure there’s an opportunity to close. Without accurate company information, SDRs risk setting sales appointments with a company that isn’t in an industry you serve or in your service region.
SDRs also risk setting sales appointments with people who don’t have buying power, increasing the amount of time they spend in the sales cycle. To find the best decision-maker for your company’s product or service, you must verify the decision-maker’s name and job title. When scheduling the appointment, SDRs should ask if anyone else should be attending the meeting or if they’re the final decision-maker when making company purchases. Here are some questions your SDRs can ask to ensure they have accurate prospect information:
- “Are you the best point of contact regarding this product or service?”
- “What’s a good email I can send some relevant sales and marketing materials to?”
- “Do you have a more direct phone number I can follow up with you on?”
3. Are They Engaging With Your Content?
If a prospect frequently looks at your sales and marketing content, they’re more likely to be interested in making a purchase. With the right sales tools, you can see what potential buyers are engaging with in your email marketing materials. One of the best tools companies can use to see email engagement is CRM software with sales and marketing extensions. This allows your sales and marketing teams to see what emails prospects are looking at and what they do afterward. If they click on a link or download a file attached to the email, your lead generation experts can see it all. This allows your team to make warm phone calls and adjust their pitch based on what prospects are engaging with.
4. Have They Shown Interest in Your Business?
While looking at sales and marketing content is a good indication of whether a prospect is interested in your company, it’s important to take it with a grain of salt. They may be interested in learning more, but that doesn’t mean they’re ready to buy now.
For example, if an interested user signs up for your company newsletter, they’re expressing interest in the products or services your company has to offer. While they may be looking to learn more, they’re not at the point of wanting to schedule a sales meeting with one of your account executives. Over time, the newsletters can nurture relationships with the marketing lead. When they’re ready to take the next step in their buyer’s journey, they can feel more comfortable reaching out when they’re ready to buy.
If a prospect openly expresses their interest in learning more, they may be a qualified lead. However, your SDRs still need to verify their objective lead qualifications.
Lead qualification is a crucial part of the sales process because it helps your SDR and marketing teams determine which prospects are worth the chase and when to follow up with them to close business. Without a lead qualification framework in place, you risk having a business growth approach that yields poor results, wasting a significant amount of time and money you could be putting towards more pressing business matters.
Sapper Consulting helps B2B companies identify ideal sales opportunities and schedule appointments with qualified prospects who are ready to take their next steps in the sales cycle. If you’re looking for high-converting sales opportunities with potential buyers in your target market, contact the lead generating experts at Sapper!