Not every prospect in the sales pipeline is qualified for your company’s product or service. To get the most out of your business growth efforts, you need to qualify prospects to ensure they meet your ideal customer profile (ICP) and can benefit from what your business has to offer.
In this blog, we’ll cover the following topics:
- What It Means To Qualify a Prospect
- Things To Consider When Qualifying a Prospect
- How To Create an Ideal Client Profile for Your Business
- How To Find B2B Prospects
What It Means To Qualify a Prospect
A qualified prospect is a verified decision-maker in the sales pipeline who shows a genuine interest in the products or services you offer and meets your company’s ideal customer profile (ICP).
Prospects can enter the sales funnel through a variety of sales prospecting techniques, such as buying a prospect list, finding leads on social media, or connecting with client referrals (we’ll get into this more later). It’s important to remember that even though a prospect is in your sales pipeline, this doesn’t mean they’re qualified for your company’s products or services. Sales development representatives (SDRs) can qualify leads by contacting potential decision-makers via cold call or email and asking about their qualifiers, which is determined before the prospecting list is built.
Lead qualification is one of the most crucial parts of the sales prospecting process because it saves SDRs time and effort chasing leads that are unlikely to result in closed business. Lead qualification looks different for every business because each has its own unique qualifiers. A qualified lead could be based on the number of employees a prospect has or the square footage of their commercial building space. However, this usually depends on the industry you serve.
Another component of lead qualification is making sure the person your sales rep connects with is the best point of contact (AKA decision-maker) for what your company offers. To qualify the decision-maker, SDRs must verify their full name, job title, email address, direct line, and office building address. Without this information, your SDRs risk setting sales appointments with prospects unlikely to convert into a sale.
Things To Consider When Qualifying a Prospect
Qualifying a prospect is more than listing off a bunch of questions and hoping they answer in a way that benefits your business. As your SDRs qualify prospects, it’s important that they also ask open-ended questions to explore how the prospect can benefit from your business’s products or services. Here are some things for SDRs to consider when qualifying a prospect:
- Prospect’s Authority To Make a Purchase
- Prospect’s Pain Points
- Prospect’s Sense of Urgency
- Prospect’s Interest in Learning More About Your Company
Prospect’s Authority To Make a Purchase
Does the prospect listed have the authority to sign on the dotted line? For a prospect to be qualified, they must be responsible for making purchasing decisions, at least involved in the decision-making process.
If a prospect doesn’t have direct involvement in making purchasing descisions, you’re only extending the amount of time they spend in the sales cycle. Ideally, you want them to transition from a prospect into a closed deal as soon as possible. If they don’t have buying power, your SDRs set your account executives up with sales meetings that are unlikely to convert. However, even if they aren’t the final decision-makers, they should at least be involved in the buying process.
As your SDRs work on qualifying prospects, they must understand how the prospect makes purchasing decisions. Here are a few questions SDRs can ask prospects to determine a potential decision-maker’s buying power:
- Who’s responsible for making purchasing decisions for this product or service?
- What does the timeline of your company’s purchasing decision look like?
- Is there anyone else you think would benefit from attending this meeting?
Prospect’s Pain Points
If a prospect is aware of their pain points and how your company could resolve them, they’re more likely to be qualified for your business offerings. This could be because they don’t have a product or service provider or are unhappy with the one they’re partnered with. Whatever the case may be, they’re looking for a solution.
Here are some questions SDRs can ask to help prospects uncover pain points:
- How would you like your provider to approach your needs differently?
- When would you consider alternative product or service solutions?
- What has been your biggest struggle with your current B2B partner?
Prospect’s Sense of Urgency
In addition to meeting your predetermined sales qualifiers, a qualified prospect should show some urgency and be ready to buy when SDRs schedule sales meetings, making them both a sales and marketing qualified lead.
For example, if a decision-maker says they’re interested in scheduling a meeting, but their current contract isn’t up for another nine months, it’s not worth the time to set them up with your account executives right now because it’s not currently a priority for them. If an SDR were to set up the meeting now, the prospect is more likely to forget about your business when it comes time to reevaluate contracts. While it may be important to schedule sales appointments, it’s just as important to schedule them at a time that makes the most sense for everyone.
Until it’s time to reconsider the prospect’s contracts, SDRs can make warm phone calls and send lead nurturing emails to establish top-of-mind awareness. While the prospect may not be 100% qualified yet, they can be converted into a warm lead. This increases the likelihood of the decision-maker remembering your company and agreeing to a sales appointment with an account executive.
Prospect’s Interest in Learning More About Your Company
Have you ever been socializing with someone and you can visibly see that they’re not interested in anything you have to say? Whether it’s in a social or professional setting, everyone have should the awareness of when to end the conversation and move to the next one.
When qualifying prospects, SDRs should be able to know if they’re interested in what your company has to offer. This qualifier can be identified through verbal cues, the tone of their voice, what kinds of questions they’re asking, or even just them saying “I’m interested in learning more about what you have to offer me.”
Just like an SDR can pick up cues on whether a decision-maker is enjoying the conversation, they can also determine if the prospect is frustrated and ready to leave the conversation. It’s essential to be resilient. However, it’s just as important to understand when the conversation should end. If an SDR can sense frustration from the prospect, the SDR should thank them for their time and continue with other, more willing prospects.
If an SDR can’t read the social cues of the prospect, asking for a sales meeting can go a long way. When in doubt, it doesn’t hurt to ask for an appointment; the worst they can do is say no.
How To Create an Ideal Client Profile for Your Business
While a prospecting strategy is crucial for getting your sales pipeline on the right track, another step comes before that—creating your ideal client profile (ICP). An ideal client profile outlines what your most qualified client looks like.
An ICP is different from a buyer persona because a buyer persona the the type of messaging and content sent to prospects based on how they engage with sales content. Additionally, most companies have a single ideal customer profile, while they may have various different types of buyer personas.
Creating an ICP before building your list of prospects is vital for ensuring your sales operations analysts bring prospects into the sales pipeline who meet your qualifiers.
Not sure where to start with creating your ICP? Here are a few steps you can take:
Step 1: Create a List of Your Largest and Most Loyal Clients
Let’s take a second and consider the clients who have impacted your business the most. Put them all in a list and explore what they have in common. What makes them so impactful for your business? Is it the longevity of the partnership? The positive ROI they’ve presented your company with? This list enables you to identify where your most significant opportunities are.
One way you can start building this list is by looking at all the case studies you have about client successes with your company. If you don’t have any case studies built out yet, this step in creating your ICP can help you build some out for you to use to further engage prospects and accelerate your sales efforts.
If you want a deeper dive into your ICP, you can use your company’s CRM software to explore the most common industries you work with. This allows your sales and marketing teams to identify what types of businesses you have the most success with and build a lead generation strategy based on the industry served. You can also do this by identifying decision-makers, which allows your business growth experts to craft content and pitches based on the different buyer personas within the target market.
Step 2: Conduct Interviews With Long-Term Clients
Reports and dashboards can give you an objective view of what your ICP should look like, but conducting interviews with long-term clients tells you what they’ve enjoyed about your company subjectively. It also gives you both quantitative and qualitative data sets so you can find common ground for a more advanced ICP.
Here are a few core topics to help you start brainstorming questions for interviews:
- Decision-maker information (job title, responsibilities, etc.)
- Company data (industry served, years in business, etc.)
- Long-term goals and challenges (why they came to you)
- Potential objections to signing on (what concerns they had)
- Their purchasing decision process (understanding the buying timeline)
Step 3: Analyze Customer Data To Create Your Profiles
After collecting information through reporting and client interviews, it’s time to make sense of it all. You need to analyze the customer data you’ve been presented with and identify common denominators to create your ideal customer profiles.
From the data you’ve collected, what does your “perfect” client look like? As you create your ICP templates, consider including the following characteristics:
- Buyer persona
- Short- and long-term goals
- Previous challenges
- Potential objections
- Buying process
One of the biggest benefits of ideal customer profiles is that they can be used in every department, from sales enablement to customer service. Pinpointing your ICP and sharing it across your business can streamline your messaging to ensure every pitch and piece of content remains consistent with your brand and customer voice. This builds trust between your company, the potential buyer, and long-term customers.
How To Find B2B Prospects
There are a variety of prospecting methods to choose from. However, what’s best for you depends on the time, money, and resources you have available. Here are a few of the most common ways that sales teams find B2B prospects for their sales pipelines:
Invest in Prospecting Tools
Today, sales tools and technology are more important than ever before. Without the right tools, you risk having a lead generation process that yields poor results—and sales prospecting technology is no different. Tools like ZoomInfo and D&B Hoovers allow sales teams to find prospects that meet their company qualifiers. These prospecting solutions give sales teams everything they need to know about a prospective business, including their:
- Company name
- Company location
- Company size
- Number of employees
- Most common decision-makers
- Decision-maker email addresses
- Direct phone lines
- And more
It’s crucial to have a sales team that knows how to use these tools to their full capabilities. These platforms can also be costly if you have a small in-house team, so it’s important to consider your budget and the time you have available to train your sales reps on how to use them. Luckily, there are outsourced B2B lead generation companies you can partner with that can relieve these stresses and give you a productive sales process that yields long-term results.
Use LinkedIn Sales Navigator
LinkedIn Sales Navigator is a paid extension of LinkedIn that sales and marketing teams can use to find B2B prospects to implement into their sales pipelines. LinkedIn Sales Navigator allows sales teams to narrow their decision-maker search by job titles, industry served, number of employees, and so on. While sending emails and making phone calls is a great way to connect with your target audience, SDRs can also use LinkedIn to send personalized messages and secure new business opportunities.
Ask for Client Referrals
Contacting client referrals gives your sales reps an initial, mutual connection, allowing them to build trust quicker than if a prospect were found through prospecting tools or LinkedIn Sales Navigator. While asking for client referrals is a great way to get new prospects into your sales pipeline, it shouldn’t be your only prospecting method. While impactful, it’s not sustainable for long-term, predictable growth.
Qualifying prospects is vital for your SDRs to set account executives up with sales meetings that are likely to convert into closed business. Without a qualifying strategy, you risk wasting valuable time and using a sales process that doesn’t present long-term success. While there are many ways to find prospects for your sales pipeline, it’s essential that you select a prospecting strategy that makes the most sense for your business, budget, and time.
At Sapper Consulting, we help growing small and medium-sized businesses across the country by maximizing lead generation through email marketing and warm calling. Our SDRs are well-equipped to chase leads that meet your ideal customer profile. When you’re ready to get the most out of your business growth strategy, contact the lead generation experts at Sapper!