Is your business struggling to find the most promising leads, and as a result, your sales agents waste valuable time?
If this sounds like your situation, there’s no need to worry! Several small businesses need help with the sales qualification process.
Hi! My name is AJ! After selling my business for multiple seven figures, I started Small Business Bonfire to help entrepreneurs reach their goals.
One critical aspect of scaling my company was creating a lead qualification checklist!
So, if you’re ready to generate more leads who are likely to convert to sales, keep reading!
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What is Lead Qualification?
Lead qualification is when marketing and sales teams determine how likely a sales prospect is to buy the company’s products or services.
How do teams make this prediction accurately?
Typically, businesses utilize the data from lead capture forms, customer relationship management software, and other processes.
One common misconception of qualifying leads is that the process ends when a prospect reaches the top of the sales funnel.
However, lead qualification begins at the top of the sales funnel and continues until the prospective customer becomes a paying one!
Lead qualification has several advantages, which I’ll cover in the next section!
Benefits of Lead Qualification
Lead qualification determines the likelihood of a prospect buying your products or services.
But why is this beneficial? Some advantages of lead qualification include the following:
- Understand prospects more
- It saves time AND money
- Build stronger customer relationships
- Increase conversions
Let’s look at these benefits in greater detail!
Helps to Understand Your Prospects Better
When sales and marketing teams learn how to qualify leads effectively, it helps your company understand your prospects better.
Therefore, you understand your target audience better!
Why is it essential to understand who you’re selling to?
You can create targeted sales and marketing messages when you know your prospective customer’s pain points, needs, and wants.
As a result, these messages resonate with prospective customers, encouraging them to buy your product or service.
Helps You Save Time & Money
As a small business owner, you always seek ways to save time and money.
Fortunately, lead qualification helps you and your team do just that!
For instance, let’s say you’re selling a high-priced product or service.
You wouldn’t want your sales team spending time on prospects who aren’t likely to buy from you.
By implementing lead qualification strategies, your sales team can focus on leads more likely to convert into paying customers.
As a result, you’re saving time AND money by targeting the right prospects!
Helps You Build Better Sales Relationships
Another advantage of learning how to qualify leads is that it helps your sales team build stronger relationships.
Consumers nowadays desire a personal connection with a sales rep or brand before purchasing something.
Therefore, your team MUST know the best ways to connect with prospective buyers.
Using lead qualification, you learn to identify specific actions and behaviors that indicate when someone will likely buy your product or service.
Helps You Align Sales and Marketing
Lead qualification also helps align the efforts of your sales and marketing teams.
By effectively qualifying leads, both departments can work together to create targeted campaigns that resonate with prospective customers.
As a result, you’ll experience better communication and teamwork between your sales and marketing teams!
Marketing and sales departments must be on the same page to run effective campaigns.
The sales process is incohesive if each team implements separate strategies, and conversions are less likely!
Helps You Increase Conversion Rates
The ultimate goal of lead qualification is to increase conversion rates.
By targeting prospects more likely to buy, your business has a better chance of converting leads into paying customers.
As you learn more about your prospective customers through the lead qualification process, you can create personalized sales pitches that resonate with them.
Personalizing the sales process helps build trust and increases the likelihood of a successful sale.
Lead Qualification Process
There are five stages to an effective lead qualification process.
Implementing each stage is ideal for your marketing and sales teams to find the best prospective customers!
Here are each of these steps in greater detail.
Stage 1: Create Ideal Customer Persona
The first step in the lead qualification process is creating ideal customer profiles.
Creating these profiles helps your teams identify the best type of customers for your products or services.
Some questions to ask when creating ideal customer personas include:
- What pain points do these prospective buyers have that our product or service can solve?
- What demographic are we selling to?
- What type of budget does our ideal customer have?
- What social media platforms do our buyers interact with most?
Although these profiles won’t exactly match your customers, they should be close.
Stage 2: Identify Critical Customer Criteria
After creating ideal customer personas, you must develop criteria for sales leads.
These criteria are a list of things your prospective customers should meet before you place them in the lead qualification pipe.
Some popular qualification criteria include the following things:
- Buying authority
- Urgency to purchase
- Fit within existing frameworks
Identifying the critical criteria ensures you eliminate leads that are less likely to convert into paying customers.
Stage 3: Utilize Technology
Since leads are everywhere, your company needs to implement a system that captures them.
Technology is an excellent way to connect with promising leads from various locations.
For example, you can connect with prospective customers by placing lead capture forms on the following:
- Your website’s homepage
- Social media outlets
In addition to this, your business should invest in customer relationship management (CRM) software.
CRM software tracks all the data of leads interacting with your brand.
Stage 4: Know Your Leads
The better you know and understand your leads, the more likely you are to increase conversions!
The sales process is all about creating strong relationships.
So, even if a business has an excellent product or service, the conversions won’t happen if your team can’t build relationships.
How do you get to know your leads better?
Research and track customer data thoroughly before connecting with them!
Stage 5: Reach Out to Leads
After completing the initial stages of lead qualification, the final step is reaching out to leads.
Here are some tips for this stage:
- Personalize your communication with leads based on customer data.
- Be persistent but not overbearing. Follow up with leads but avoid coming across as pushy or desperate.
- Use various communication methods like email, phone calls, and social media to connect with leads.
By reaching out to every qualified lead effectively through the previous stages, you’ll be more likely to make successful sales!
Lead Qualification Stages
In every business, qualified leads go through different stages.
Additionally, there are various types of leads, and your team must understand how to prioritize leads.
Let’s look at the various lead qualification stages!
Unqualified leads are the people who your marketing team needs to nurture more.
Therefore, your marketing department hasn’t forwarded these people to the sales team.
It’s essential to recognize that unqualified leads aren’t necessarily a bad thing.
After all, your company’s product or service isn’t for everyone.
Still, it’s crucial to identify unqualified leads so your sales reps don’t waste their time chasing prospective customers who are unlikely to convert.
Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs)
A marketing qualified lead is someone who receives marketing materials.
It’s crucial to recognize that marketing qualified leads must be fit to receive these materials, meaning they meet specific criteria.
Some examples of marketing materials include the following:
- Email campaigns
- Content offers
- Print ads
- Exclusive discounts
Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs)
A sales qualified lead is someone ready to talk to your sales team.
At this stage, a sales qualified lead has shown your team they are likely and interested in your product or service.
Therefore, these leads are highly likely to convert.
Typically, SQLs display specific behaviors before talking with a sales rep.
After all, you want your team to be as efficient as possible, and that starts with connecting with the right prospective customers!
Product Qualified Leads (PQLs)
Product qualified leads are people who indicate they are interested in your product by doing one of the following actions:
- Starting a free subscription
- Signing up for a free trial
A product qualified lead needs a little more time before making a purchasing decision (which is okay!).
Therefore, they want to test your product before committing to it.
Customers who fall in love with their free trial will likely convert to paying customers!
Conversion Qualified Leads (CQLs)
Lastly, there are conversion qualified leads.
A conversion qualified lead is any prospective customer who has converted on your business’s website.
Converting on your website means they have done one of the following actions:
- Submit a form
- Pressed a click-to-call button
These leads indicate they want your team to learn more about them using their personal information.
As a result, these leads are very likely to purchase your product or service!
Lead Qualification Strategies
Did you know there are various strategies to qualify leads?
Some examples of these strategies include the following lead qualification frameworks:
The best lead qualification framework depends on your company, team, and other factors.
Therefore, it’s helpful to understand how each of these strategies works!
Numerous companies in a variety of industries utilize the BANT framework.
BANT is one of the oldest and most popular frameworks because it’s simple and easy to use.
What does BANT stand for? This framework aims to uncover the following pieces of information:
- Budget: Does your prospective customer have the money to purchase your product or service?
- Authority: Does the lead have the proper authority to sign off on a purchase?
- Need: Does the prospective customer have a pain point your products or services can solve?
- Timeline: When is the lead planning to make a purchase?
BANT requires you to ask for and gather considerable customer information during your sales efforts.
For instance, when considering a prospective buyer’s budget, it’s helpful to ask questions like:
- Does seasonality impact your leads’ ability to spend money?
- What other products or services does the lead spend money on?
- Is your product or service important enough for the lead to spending money on?
Of course, there are other questions you should ask regarding the authority, need, and timeline.
Still, BANT helps sales teams find the best product or service buyer.
One downside of BANT is the timeline aspect.
Sometimes, a strict BANT qualification can tell companies to consider a lead when they aren’t ready to purchase.
GPCTBA/C&I is a lead qualification process that responds to buyer behavior changes.
This acronym stands for:
- Negative Consequences
- Positive Implications
The framework strives to understand buyers deeply, exploring their pain points that products or services can solve.
For instance, GPCTBA asks that salespeople understand a prospective customer’s:
- Strategic goals
- Business model
- How their pain point fits into a bigger picture of their professional life
The benefit of GPCTBA/C&I is that your sales and marketing departments collect a lot of information.
However, a downside of this framework is that it’s complex and might not be a good fit for your sales force.
The CHAMP lead qualification strategy stands for:
This framework defines authority as a call to action rather than a roadblock, as other lead qualification frameworks do.
Therefore, if a sales agent initially contacts a low-level employee without purchasing authority, the CHAMP framework states you shouldn’t negate this lead.
Instead, your team should use it to map out the company’s organizational hierarchy.
MEDDIC stands for:
- Economic buyer
- Decision criteria
- Decision process
- Identify Pain
MEDDIC is one of the most in-depth lead qualification frameworks because sales agents must understand every aspect of the purchase process.
Although MEDDIC is more challenging to implement, it’s valuable because it helps increase forecasting accuracy.
What types of companies is MEDDIC best for?
If your company sells a product that demands behavior transformation or has a high average sales price, MEDDIC is ideal.
Overall, MEDDIC helps companies maintain an accurate sales pipeline.
Lead Scoring Vs. Lead Qualification
You may be wondering about the difference between lead scoring and lead qualification.
Let’s break it down using a fun analogy.
Think about picking a team for a basketball game at school.
Lead qualification is like choosing the kids you know can play well and are interested in the game!
These kids will help you score points and win the basketball game.
On the other hand, lead scoring is about ranking these players based on how well they play.
The kid who can shoot three-pointers from anywhere in the gym gets a higher lead score than someone who primarily assists other players.
Both processes are essential to form a strong team or, in business terms, to find customers most likely to purchase a product or service.
Lead scoring is an efficient way to rank prospective customers.
When a prospect has a high lead score, that means they are more likely to convert to a paying customer than someone with a lower score.
In comparison, a lead qualification process is a checklist your sales and marketing department uses to determine whether a prospect is ready to purchase.
For several reasons, lead scoring and a lead qualification process are essential for companies.
However, the primary reason it’s critical to score and qualify leads is so that your sales department is as efficient as possible!
When sales agents spend time chasing dead leads (people unlikely to purchase products or services), it takes time away from pursuing qualified prospects!
Lead Qualification Questions
What questions should you ask as you qualify leads?
Here are some examples!
“How did you hear about us?”
This may seem like a simple question, but it can actually be an excellent way to qualify leads.
For instance, this question helps you and your team identify the most effective lead source.
Also, asking prospects this question shows how well they know your brand, products, and services.
“What problem are you trying to solve?”
Pain points are a driving reason consumers make purchasing decisions.
Therefore, it’s helpful to know what problems your prospective customers are trying to solve.
That way, you know whether your products or services can help each lead your sales agents find.
Asking this question ensures your sales agents pursue the right leads!
“What have you tried in the past?”
Determine the products or techniques your prospective customer has tried to use in the past to solve their problem.
That way, your sales agents don’t recommend a solution they’ve already tried, which wastes time and might annoy the prospect.
“Who is the decision-maker in your organization?”
This question is an essential part of lead qualification.
It helps your sales team identify whether they are speaking with the person who has the authority to make purchasing decisions.
If they are not, your team can use this as an opportunity to navigate through the organization and reach the appropriate individual.
By doing this, you ensure your sales team’s efforts are effectively targeted.
“What is your timeline for making a purchase?”
Knowing the timeline of a prospective customer helps determine how ready they are to make a decision.
Understanding this can also help create personalized follow-up strategies and avoid wasting resources on leads that aren’t yet ready to buy.
Lead Qualification Checklist
There are five things to include on a sales qualification checklist, including:
- Pain points
- Purchase power
- Mutually beneficial relationship
Here’s everything you need to know about each of these checkpoints!
Clear Pain Points
First, you must check that your products or services can solve a prospective customer’s problems.
If they can’t, pursuing this lead further doesn’t make sense.
Remember, solving pain points is a primary consideration for most customers when deciding between products or services.
A Budget (or a Willingness to Make One)
Budget is a critical checkpoint.
Most customers won’t be able to purchase your product or service without some allocated budget.
Alternatively, if your company offers payment plans or financing options, it’s essential to check that the prospect is open to this option.
Purchase Power (Decision Maker)
When qualifying a lead, it’s essential to identify the person with purchasing power.
If you’re speaking with someone who isn’t the decision-maker, it’s critical to determine whether they can connect you with the right person or influence their purchasing decisions.
A Deadline or Strict Timeline
It’s essential to understand if there is a strict timeline for the purchase.
For instance, some companies have end-of-quarter or fiscal-year deadlines.
Therefore, your company must determine whether it can meet these deadlines before pursuing the lead further.
A Mutually Beneficial Relationship
Finally, it’s crucial to ensure that a possible business relationship would be beneficial for both parties.
If the prospect isn’t an ideal fit for your company or vice versa, it doesn’t make sense to continue pursuing this lead.
A mutually beneficial partnership is critical to long-term success in any business deal.
Levels of Prospect Qualification
There are various levels of prospect qualification, including the following:
- Organization-level prospect qualification
- Opportunity-level prospect qualification
- Stakeholder-level prospect qualification
What are the differences between these prospects? Here’s everything you need to know!
Organization-Level Prospect Qualification
Organization-level prospects are the most basic level of qualification.
At this stage, you and your team determine whether you must do more research on the potential customer.
This is also where creating buyer personas comes in handy.
For example, if your team has buyer personas, you can refer to them while qualifying a prospect.
Some examples of questions you should ask during this stage include the following:
- Is the prospective customer in your territory?
- Does your company sell products or services in this prospect’s industry
- How big is the company?
- Does this account match one of your buyer personas?
Opportunity-Level Prospect Qualification
Opportunity-level sales prospects are where your team determines whether a lead has a specific need your business can meet.
On top of that, this qualification stage helps you determine if it’s possible for the prospect to implement the product or service.
Opportunity-level characteristics help you and your team determine if a lead can benefit from what your company offers.
Some questions you can ask to determine if a lead is at this level of qualification include the following:
- Is the lead familiar with the products or services your company sells?
- Does the lead have a challenge your company can help them solve?
- Does the prospect have a team or person who will use the product or service more than others?
Stakeholder-Level Prospect Qualification
The final level of prospect qualification is the stakeholder level.
At this point, you and your team have determined the lead is a good fit for your company and what it offers.
Therefore, it’s time to actually try and close a sale.
Fortunately, there are some questions to help determine if a prospect is at this stage, including the following:
- What other people in the company are involved in the purchasing decision?
- Will the purchase go over budget?
- Does the lead have the criteria for this purchase decision?
Final Thoughts On Lead Qualification
There’s everything you need to know about a lead qualification strategy!
With the right checklist in place, your sales agents can convert more prospects into paying customers.
Additionally, asking the right questions can help your team determine how ready each prospect is to continue through the buyer’s journey.
How will your company qualify sales leads? Let us know in the comments section below!