Do you ever feel like you have to guess what your prospects are thinking during the sales process? Do you have leads that seem very promising, only to have them drop off with no warning? Are your lead conversion rates consistently low, and is your lead generation ROI not what it needs to be?
Knowing how to properly qualify a lead can help solve many of these problems and save you lots of time, money and frustration. Read on to learn more about this process and how it can make your company stronger.
What is lead quality?
Before we dive into the lead qualification process, let’s talk about what lead quality actually is. Lead quality is effectively a measure of how close someone is to making a purchase from your company. As a lead moves along your sales funnel, their quality level will change the closer they get to making a purchase.
Another important concept to keep in mind is lead value. Lead value is how much money you can expect to get from one specific lead. If you expect a lead to make one or two low-quality purchases from you, they will have a lower value. But if you expect a lead may become a repeat customer, especially one who makes high-dollar purchases, they are a much more valuable lead.
Basics of lead qualification
Lead qualification is an organized process by which you can evaluate and predict the quality of your leads. This process is based on data you collect about different leads, so you aren’t just guessing which leads are likely to turn into customers. You can also disqualify leads that aren’t likely to provide much value, saving you time and resources.
Lead qualification should be at the heart of all your company’s sales and marketing efforts. You won’t get the ROI you need from your marketing if you’re shooting blind, hoping to reel in the occasional quality lead or repeat customer. Lead qualification structures those efforts, allowing you to make informed marketing decisions and ensuring your resources are spent where they count.
The importance of lead qualification
So why should your company spend time and money investing in lead qualification in the first place? Lead qualification is one of the best ways to improve your return on investment in lead generation. It transforms your lead generation efforts from random guessing to a fine-tuned machine for revenue.
Lead qualification can also help you create a better customer experience, since you’re custom tailoring each lead’s experience to their needs. It reduces the amount of time and resources you spend on leads that won’t generate any revenue. And it unites your marketing and sales teams, providing them with a streamlined process that allows them to collaborate better.
Lead qualification vs. lead scoring
In addition to lead qualification, your business may also want to practice lead scoring. Lead scoring is a system that allows you to easily express lead quality in quantifiable terms. You give each lead a score that expresses how valuable they are and that will change as they make their way through your sales funnel.
There are two basic types of lead scoring: implicit lead scoring and explicit lead scoring. Implicit lead scoring is based on lead behaviors – how they interact with your site and what they show most interest in. Explicit lead scoring evaluates leads based on demographic information about previous successful customers.
Why disqualifying leads is okay
At first glance, it may seem like ruling out leads is counterproductive. After all, why should you give up on a potential sale if they’ve shown any sort of interest in the past? But disqualifying leads is actually one of the smartest things you can do for your lead generation ROI.
When it comes to running effective sales and marketing teams, time is of the essence. When your team spends time chasing leads that aren’t going anywhere, you lose money. By disqualifying those leads, you not only prevent that fruitless effort, but you can also dedicate that time to other, more promising leads. The bottom line is that you need to value quality over quantity.
Lead qualification levels
There are a few different levels you can refer to when qualifying your leads. The main levels you should be aware of are organization-level, opportunity-level, and stakeholder-level qualification.
Organization-level lead qualification is the most basic tier, looking at whether a lead fits into your target customer profile. You might check if they’re in a location and industry you can sell to and whether they match your target profile.
Opportunity-level lead qualification assesses the quality of the leads that have passed the organization-level check. You may start to look at how you can solve problems for this lead and how much they'll benefit from doing business with you.
Stakeholder-level lead qualification makes sure the lead you’re pursuing has the power to make buying decisions for their organization. This is especially important for B2B companies that need to make sure they’re working with the right contact in their lead organizations.
There are a few different frameworks your company can use to qualify leads. One of the most popular frameworks is the BANT framework.
BANT stands for budget, authority, need and timeline. It asks if the lead can afford your products or services, if they have the authority to make purchasing decisions, if they need your products or services, and how soon they’re likely to make a purchase.
Another popular framework is the MEDDIC framework, which looks at metrics, economic buyer, decision criteria, decision process, identify pain, and champion to perfect your lead qualification efforts.
MQL vs. SQL
When you start getting into lead qualification, you’ll need to look at marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and sales qualified leads (SQLs).
MQLs are near the top of your sales funnel and include leads who have just discovered and begun to interact with your company. They are eager to learn more about your company and are prime candidates for marketing campaigns.
SQLs are near the bottom of your sales funnel. They are almost ready to make a purchase and just need a little extra care and encouragement to make them feel comfortable committing to a purchase. Your sales team will need to handle these final negotiations to make sure your lead knows about a specific need your company can address and to establish a timeline for finalizing a sale.
How to turn leads into MQLs and SQLs
Create compelling content
One of the best ways you can turn leads into MQLs is by creating compelling content. Your initial lead generation strategy will need to involve eye-catching graphics, good hooks, and content designed to garner interest. Once you have leads’ attention, you need to make sure your content continues to draw them in, providing them value and building trust in your company.
Focus on your marketing content – social media posts, blog posts, email campaigns, and website content. Make sure it’s aligned with your target customer base, providing the information they need and offering them real value. Avoid cheap filler content, overused marketing buzzwords, and a content campaign that pushes too hard on sales first, customers later.
One of the best ways to keep customers moving through your funnel and into MQL territory is to provide them incentives to do so. What could be better than getting rewarded for learning more about a company and how they can solve your problems? Your leads should always feel like they’re winning by moving further into your sales funnel.
Hone in on your target customers’ pain points and use those as a starting point for your incentives. Place opt-in offers on all your site pages that will make customers feel like they’re getting more value for their money by acting now or taking the next step. Even offering a discount in exchange for an email address can give you an important tool for keeping leads moving through your funnel.
Use lead magnets
One of the best ways you can convert an MQL into an SQL more consistently is to use lead magnets. Lead magnets are small incentives that persuade a lead to give you contact information in exchange for some benefit to them. Once you have their direct contact information, you have a direct path to nurture those leads.
One of the most popular lead magnets is a discount on a purchase in exchange for an email address. You can also offer access to premium content or even a free ebook if they sign up for an account or your newsletter. You might also consider using free consultations or demos in exchange for contact information.
Once you have leads, it’s time to make sure you nurture each of them and meet their specific needs. This is where the lead qualification frameworks we discussed come in handy. You want to make sure your marketing and sales teams are prioritizing the most potentially profitable leads.
For instance, you could set up automated systems that will reach out to leads if they abandon a shopping cart mid-purchase or visit a service information page without asking for a consultation. Consider pain points and make efforts to proactively address them in your content marketing. And continue to follow up with all your valuable leads: out of sight, out of mind is a real concern, and you never want to be far out of your leads’ minds.
Learn from successes
One of the best tools you have when it comes to converting leads to MQLs to SQLs is your history of previous successes. You’ve already set up processes that have worked, so why not learn from them? You should evaluate your previous successful sales and look for common elements among those processes.
Did your leads move to the MQL phase when you sent them a personalized email or offered them a free consultation? Did they move to the SQL stage when you followed up on an abandoned shopping cart or reached out to them to address their pain points? And what seemed to be the deciding factor for your previous customers that converted them from leads to sales?
Look for drop-offs
No matter how good your lead qualification process is, you’re still never going to achieve a 100 percent lead conversion rate. And that’s okay, lead drop-offs are to be expected and can be powerful learning experiences for your company. One of the best ways to refine your sales funnel is to take a look at your lead drop-offs.
When you lose a lead, take a look at what step in the process they dropped out on. If you see trends developing, you’ll know that something about that step isn’t working for you. Your team can look back at correspondence with those leads and figure out what needs to change to make your process better.
Perfect your approach
Your sales funnel should be constantly evolving. Your customers’ needs and your approaches are going to change over time and as your company grows. Your company needs to be agile enough to change your approach to lead generation, qualification and nurturing as needed.
Schedule regular evaluations with your marketing and sales teams to review your sales funnel and lead qualification approaches. Take a hard look at where you’re succeeding and where you’re failing and how you can change your process to make it better. Being willing to evaluate where you are and what isn’t working will help you create an optimal system for your company.
Knowing how to qualify a lead can help make your sales and marketing teams more efficient and save you time and money. Make sure you’re creating compelling content to move leads through your sales funnel and optimize conversion rates. Then, make sure you’re learning from your successes and failures to create a better lead management approach and improve your lead qualification.
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