Lead qualification is what turns your traffic into high-converting fuel for your revenue engine.
Most B2B enterprises never reach the point of having a steady flow of traffic – if you’ve achieved that much, congratulations!
Now, you have to go one step further. Traffic that doesn’t convert is nothing more than overhead, but how can you sort the wheat from the chaff?
What Is Lead Qualification?
Lead qualification is the process of determining whether a lead matches your expectations for the ideal customer. It uses automation to apply a lead qualification scheme to your marketing-qualified leads (MQLs), prospects who’ve “raised their hand” and put themselves on your radar.
How Lead Qualification Works
Most MQLs will never actually make a purchase, and those who do might not move forward for months (or even years!)
So, lead qualification lets you get the upper hand by cherry-picking those who are most likely to take action – that way, you can focus your efforts.
Ideally, your customer relationship management system will help you apply your lead scoring criteria to each lead as they interact with your website.
A good CRM can do a tremendous amount of the heavy lifting in implementing these criteria or any other that you might want to use. Before that can happen, though, you need to do the brain work. For that, your team needs to understand your goals for leads inside and out.
Why is Lead Qualification Important?
Your sales pipeline can become clogged and troublesome without a proper qualification process. The perks go beyond just being able to pick who you feel is the best option.
Your sales team will truly benefit in the long run if everyone is on the same page with qualifying leads. Some of these benefits include:
It Saves Time.
You’ll rarely have a lead that’s ready to make a purchase during their first interaction with a sales rep. Your team should know that it takes a dedicated level of engagement over weeks (or longer) to convert a prospect into a customer.
With a defined lead qualification framework in place, your team can place leads into different segments, or “buckets”, based on where they are in their buyer journey.
In turn, they’ll be able to prioritize deals that are closer to a finished sale, while still keeping track of leads further back on the pipeline that still need nurturing.
It Increases Efficiency.
Having a pipeline full of both qualified and unqualified leads may look great quantitatively, but it's actually a signal that a pipeline review is in order.
Having a ton of unqualified leads means a waste of time and resources for your team. They’ll be focusing on leads that will likely never convert and potentially don’t even match your ideal customer.
With lead qualification, your team will be able to work more efficiently as they put all of their efforts into qualified leads who will bolster your conversion rates and boost revenue.
It Highlights Greater Opportunity.
During the lead qualification process, your team may come across someone who has the potential to be a cross-sell or upsell opportunity. It’s all about asking the right questions.
If a lead is looking for a solution that requires additional services to what you already offer, that’s a chance for the sales rep to improve the quality of the deal. Not only will you gain an upsell, but you’ll be delivering even greater value to the prospect.
Types of Qualifying Frameworks
There are three popular frameworks that sales teams use when qualifying leads.
The framework is used to help sales reps key into a prospect’s needs and intentions. By asking the right questions, they can learn if their business is the right match for the lead’s pain points.
Stands for: Budget, Authority, Need, Timing
The original framework, BANT, is still pretty widely used. From the start, reps who use this framework aim to identify a lead’s budget, if they’re a decision-maker, what their needs and pain points are, and if there’s a timeline.
It’s a very sales-forward approach to weeding unqualified leads out of your pipeline. It’s a quick method, but it does miss some of the more modern touches of social or consultative selling.
CGP TCI BA
Stands for: Challenges, Goals, Plans; Timeline, Consequences, Implications; Budget, and Authority
Broken into three parts, CGP TCI BA, unlike BANT, searches for the reason behind a lead’s needs before digging into money numbers.
It’s a more consultative approach to the qualifying process. Sales reps ask questions to gain a better understanding of the lead’s motivation behind searching for a solution.
It’s easier to transition into the budget and authority discussions after identifying the other elements because it gives your team context around why prospects are looking to connect with you.
CGP TCI BA is a very thorough lead qualification process, but it’s important that smaller teams avoid getting too bogged down in the complexity of it all.
Stands for: Challenges, Authority, Money, Prioritization
CHAMP starts with the challenges a lead is facing and qualifying if your business is right to meet those needs instead of if they meet your product or service offering.
A distinct difference from the other two frameworks, instead of looking at a “time” aspect, CHAMP looks at how the lead would prioritize their problem.
Is it something that needs to be resolved in the next two weeks? Or is it a goal they are trying to meet before the end of the fiscal year?
It’s a very customer-centric approach to qualification, but by prioritizing how the lead wants to tackle their problem, it can potentially lengthen out your sales cycle.
How to Qualify a Lead: Things to Consider
Those frameworks are an excellent guide, but qualifying leads by those elements alone isn’t enough to justify expending resources on someone.
There are other factors to consider when identifying a prospect.
It’s entirely possible for leads to operate outside of where your company is able to assist them. Maybe your product delivery or service jurisdiction is regional or limited to a particular area.
Naturally, this is something you’ll want to consider when qualifying a lead and their ability to do business with you.
It’s important to assess a lead’s level of engagement with a sales rep during every interaction. Are they inconsistent in their responses? Do they contradict themselves? Do they come across as blunt or indifferent?
These are all indicators of whether the lead is actually interested in what you have to offer or not. If they show indicators to the latter, then they may not be worth the investment since they’ll draw out your sales cycle and potentially won’t end in a deal.
This may seem like it’s along the same lines as communication, and for the most part, it is. But there’s a distinct difference between how they communicate with you and how they engage with you.
If you look into your CRM and find that a lead isn’t engaging with your website or content in any substantial way, then you can take that as a sign that they’re not really interested in your business.
Unopened emails, irregular blog reads, and a lack of content offer downloads are all pretty large indicators of a low priority lead.
This one is a pretty big red flag.
If a lead sends you false information, then they’re not at all serious about your product, service, or brand. There are different ways to verify an email or phone number, but you can usually figure it out for yourself.
If you get a contact number of 890-123-4567, then you can probably write the lead off as illegitimate.
Building Your Lead Qualification Process: A Step-by-Step Guide
1. Define What Makes a Lead “Good.”
If you have buyer personas for your business, you’ve already taken a quantum leap.
Your buyer personas represent your “ideal customer,” and your leads should match that vision as closely as possible.
However, leads don’t have to be perfect down to the last detail to be SQLs: You’ll fill in the finer details when your sales team sits down with them.
Your lead scheme needs to incorporate the broad outlines, like:
- What industries do you serve? Leads outside your industry focus are generally not SQLs.
- What size category do you focus on? This maps directly to whether budget is available.
- What major business challenges do you focus on solving? Good leads should have one!
- What position or job title does the decision-maker for your purchase generally hold?
2. Set Up Basic Lead Capture on Your Website.
Now for the fun part: Setting up your website to do the work for you.
Marketing automation can save you thousands of hours of hard labor every year. Our team swears by the HubSpot CRM – it’s robust, free, and built by inbound marketing geniuses.
But even if you don’t have a CRM in place yet, you can still get started structuring your site in a way that does the work for you. A simple contact form can make your life much easier.
When users request your lead magnet or subscribe to your email list, you can ask them about their annual revenue, industry, and even job title. Yes, some potential leads will be spooked by this, but let’s face it: Most of them aren’t the right leads for you, anyway!
3. Implement Robust Segmentation and Lead Nurturing.
A lead capture form is a good start, but that’s all it is – a start.
To get down to the nitty gritty and really capture the benefits of automation, you need to go further.
The right marketing automation solution will improve your productivity while making it much easier for you to stay focused on the big picture.
A good CRM does all the following:
- Scores leads for you, highlighting leads who are most likely to buy based on behavior.
- Centralizes all your data, refining its lead scoring over time and making reporting easy.
- Gives you the power to keep an eye on leads and proactively follow up if they go dark.
No matter what CRM you use, you’ll need to figure out which actions on your site signal buyer intent. With that information, you can assign weight to different actions and get immediate alerts when leads do things that suggest they’re on their way to making a buy.
Luckily, if your content marketing strategy is aligned to the buyer journey, things get a lot easier.
You already know visitors will be reading your blog posts as they enter the Awareness Phase, will move on to more detailed written and video content as they establish buying criteria in the Consideration Phase, and will finally request details of your offering in the Decision Phase.
So, assigning scores to these activities, you might say:
- Read three blog posts – 1 point
- Subscribed to email list – 3 points
- Watched subscriber-only training videos – 1 point per video
- Read a case study – 5 points
- Checked out the product demo – 7 points
As scores increase, your CRM can automatically segment your leads into different email lists based upon their qualification level and specific activities.
This ensures that wherever they are in the process, they’re continuously getting useful, relevant content.
4. Manually Confirm a Lead’s Qualifications.
A lead hits the “magic score” and you feel good about the future. What next?
Any automated system is going to make mistakes every now and then. Before you break out the party hat and confetti, you should double-check the lead’s details.
This process should only take a few minutes, tops:
- Review the lead’s record in your CRM and see which pages they’ve looked at recently.
- Check out the company website and make sure that it looks like a good match for you.
- Zoom on over to LinkedIn and get an understanding of the role the individual plays.
If everything checks out, then you’re almost through with lead qualification!
5. Make Contact.
You don’t have to jump on the phone right away at this point. In fact, you probably shouldn’t do that.
Sending a quick email to test the waters can save time – both yours and theirs.
Template out a few simple questions to send along covering basics like budget, timing, and who should be involved in the process. Also pick out one of your favorite content pieces to help you educate the client and get them grounded before the one-on-one talk.
Always link your lead to content rather than sending it to them by attachment!
First of all, an attachment might set off alarms that your lead has no control over ... and might even get your email dumped rather than delivered. Almost as important, though, is the fact that you can track whether or not a link was clicked.
Finally – at long last! – you can roll up your sleeves and jump on that discovery roll.
Lead Qualification Checklist
Qualifying leads is a critical part of keeping your pipeline healthy and making sure deals close.
We’ve created a checklist for you to make sure you cover the basics, though these aren’t all of the questions you should ask during a discovery call. Use this checklist as a guide to get the ball rolling for your team.
Identify Their Needs
- What are your biggest challenges right now? What are your pain points?
- What are your goals and objectives over the next year?
- Are you looking for a solution to meet those goals specifically?
- Have you or your company ever used or considered a product/service like ours in the past?
- How do you expect our product/service to help make your job easier?
- What other options have you considered or attempted to use to resolve your problems or meet your goal?
Learn Their Availability
- Do you have the authority to make purchasing decisions? If not, what’s the organizational structure of your company?
- Can you put me in contact with a decision maker?
- Who else would be involved in this purchase?
- Has a budget already been established for this?
- How much are you planning on investing in a new solution?
- What does the approval process for a purchase of this size look like?
- What concerns do other stakeholders/decision makers have in regards to our product/service?
Understand Their Timeline
- How quickly do you need to achieve your desired results?
- When are you looking to implement this new solution?
- Do you have the capacity to meet that timeframe?
- Are you looking into any other similar products/services?
Once your sales team gets a nicely structured lead qualifying framework in place, you'll start to see a real shift in your team's efficiency and the quality of deals you get.
Make sure that your reps are asking all the right questions to make sure that your leads meet your standards in the same way that they're looking to see if you meet theirs.