Lead generation is the centerpiece of digital marketing. Brands invest a lot of time and effort into crafting the right message and building campaigns that’ll attract the best leads and, eventually, convert them into paying customers.
However, regardless of how great you set up your process, a significant number of the potential clients in your funnel are simply not going to buy from you. There’s nothing you can really do to convince them either – you will only waste precious time and resources trying.
That’s where lead qualification comes in.
What Is Lead Qualification?
Lead qualification is the process of examining and evaluating the quality of the leads a business generates in order to find out which ones are likely to make a purchase.
Generally, you can qualify leads according to the following factors:
- Suitability. How good a fit their company is for the business, and how well the lead matches one of the buyer personas.
- Willingness. The degree of interest leads demonstrate in the product, and how willing they are to purchase it.
- Readiness. Where the lead is on their customer journey and in the sales and marketing funnel.
- Likeliness. How likely the lead is to make a purchase (based on additional information and outside factors).
- Ability. Can the lead afford the product and is it in their power to sign a deal?
With this information in place, the sales and marketing teams can not only decide whether the lead is worth pursuing but find the best way and timing to nurture and approach it.
Lead qualification is usually done manually, but some aspects of the process, such as, for example, lead scoring, can be automated for better efficiency.
Why Is Lead Qualification Important?
Lead qualification is important because it can significantly increase the efficiency of sales prospecting and lead nurturing, and, thus, boost sales.
Furthermore, it can benefit both the sales and marketing teams.
For marketing, lead qualification provides insight into the overall quality of the leads that flow into the funnel. By analyzing this information, the team can focus their efforts on the channels that provide higher-quality leads and that are more likely to convert.
At the same time, lead qualification contributes to the productivity of the sales team because they can reach out to prominent potential customers, instead of wasting time.
The Lead Qualification Process
The following steps will guide you through the lead qualification process and provide you with a systematic approach to managing incoming leads:
1. Choose Your Lead Qualification Framework
To make sure that you evaluate all your leads using the same criteria, you should build a workflow and maintain consistency. To that end, you should consider relying on one of the generally accepted lead qualification frameworks: BANT, MEDDIC, CHAMP, ANUM, and GPCTBA/C&I.
Here’s what the acronyms stand for:
- BANT: Budget, Authority, Needs, and Time.
- MEDDIC: Metrics, Economic buyer, Decision criteria, Decision process, Identify pain, and Champion.
- CHAMP: Challenges, Authority, Money, and Prioritization.
- ANUM: Authority, Need, Urgency, and Money.
- GPCTBA/C&I: Goals, Plans, Challenges, Timeline, Budget, Authority, Negative consequences, and Positive implications.
As you can see, the information that each framework explores is pretty much the same across the board. What they differ on is how you prioritize the different factors that define each lead.
Over time, you can test what works best for you, adjust it to your needs, and create a bulletproof workflow based on it.
2. Build Your Lead Qualification Checklist
Regardless of your chosen framework, you’ll need to create a lead qualification checklist.
This checklist is a group of questions key to defining the readiness of your leads:
- Determine the Lead’s Role. What role do they serve in their organization – are they a decision-maker, a gatekeeper (such as an assistant), or a person who directly benefits from the product?
- Assess the Lead’s Authority. In their role, can they directly affect the purchase – do they make the decision alone or in a group with others? If they are not in charge, can they influence the person who is? Can they contribute to the sale in any other way?
- Understand Their Pain Points. What are the pain points that your product can solve? In what other ways can they benefit from the product?
- Pin-Point Your Strategic Advantages. What is the client currently doing to resolve their pain points? Can you provide them with an upgrade? What are the unique benefits you provide over competitors?
- Cross-Reference Their Needs with Your Value Proposition. Are they really the right fit? Do they need your product and can it assist them in achieving their business goals and overcoming challenges? How?
- Position Your Brand. Does the customer already know about your product? Have they shown interest in it? How can you better inform them in order to accelerate their journey through the funnel?
- Find out Their Budget. Can the client afford the product? Are they willing to pay the price?
- Position the Deal in Their Timeline. When do they need the product? Is it urgent? Are they planning to make a purchase soon – why, or why not?
- Map Your Way to the Sale. Is the sale possible in the foreseeable future? Based on the information you have, can you see a clear (and realistic) path towards sealing the deal?
3. Collect the Necessary Information
How and when you collect this information depends on what type of communication you favor in client interactions.
Regardless, your data gathering efforts need to align with your content funnel and customer journey map. You should also consider combining them with proper lead scoring so that you reduce the risk of approaching potential customers too soon.
Some of the ways to collect information are:
- Opt-In Forms. The easiest way to collect information is to create an opt-in form that leads need to fill in when they provide you with their contact details, download a freebie, or sign up for updates from you.
This approach allows you to not only gather the data that you need, but to sift out the leads that are not really interested, because they are highly unlikely to take the time to fill in all the information you request.
However, be careful with the timing and positioning of the opt-in form in the funnel. If you ask too many questions that are too personal too early in the customer journey, you risk driving away the leads that are a good fit, but are still not ready to commit.
Also, you can ask all kinds of relevant questions. However, don’t overdo it – the more questions, the more likely it is for the lead to become overwhelmed and quit.
- Emails Surveys. If you don’t want to scare off the leads with your first interaction, you can wait for them to provide their contact details and only then send them a survey inviting them to provide additional information.
This way, they will not feel pressured to provide the details you need.
However, be careful to make sure not to influence their responses. What you need is genuine and realistic information. Otherwise, your lead qualification process will fail to deliver accurate results and you will be wasting your time.
- Personal Calls. One of the best ways to approach the most promising leads is with a one-on-one call.
When a sales rep contacts them personally, they can ask pertinent questions and assess the lead’s attitude and how qualified they are.
That said, calls should be avoided too early in the customer journey. Firstly, because you don’t have enough information to ensure a personalized approach, and, secondly, because you may come off as too intrusive and drive them away.
- Data from Tools. The most subtle way to collect information for lead qualification is to analyze the data your tools gather.
This way you will be able to get to know and understand the customer and craft a personalized approach before reaching out.
While the data that the tools collect is limited, it can be enough to create a customer profile and match it to your buyer personas. With this information in place, you will only need to fill in the gaps that are a close match.
4. Segment the Leads
Depending on how qualified and ready for the sale the lead is, it can fit into one of the following categories. (Based on this segmentation, you can choose how to proceed with your communication):
- Unqualified. The leads are either not a good match, or need more time and nurturing before they can become ready to make a purchase.
Depending on their profile or lead score, they can either be discarded or deprioritized, to be approached at a different time.
- Marketing Qualified. The leads are a good fit but may not be ready to make a purchase yet.
They need to be nurtured with the correct marketing information that will take them to the next steps of their journey.
- Sales Qualified. These leads are in the bottom half of the funnel and are ready to be approached by a salesperson for prospecting and, eventually, an offer.
To further the process along, the rep should ask questions to better understand any pain points or needs. This will demonstrate how they can benefit from the product.
- Product Qualified. These leads have already shown proactive interest in the product or service (they’ve previously downloaded a trial, requested a demo, or signed up for a freemium account) and are, potentially, ready to convert.
A sales rep should make sure their needs have been met so that they can seal the deal.
Lead qualification allows businesses to reduce the clutter in their lead databases and deal only with the leads that may actually become clients. Furthermore, with the proper segmentation, they can build efficient workflows. As a result, you can address the concerns of each viable lead and increase the likelihood of conversions.
This way, businesses can fine-tune their marketing strategy and shorten sales cycles. Also, smart lead qualification improves the overall efficiency of their sales and marketing teams.