In the world of sales and marketing, the journey from a contact form submission to a closed deal is not a straightforward path. It’s a well-orchestrated dance.
It takes a collaborative effort between the marketing and sales teams to turn a prospective client into a loyal customer.
Often, marketing is in charge of the initial inbound lead qualification. But this is usually automated and far from perfect. Which is why sales plays a pivotal role in further qualifying leads to ensure that they can actually be successfully converted into a closed deal.
Let’s delve deep into the importance of sales and marketing working together to qualify a lead, the criteria you can use to qualify a lead, and the common pitfalls you should avoid.
After reading this article, you’ll understand the ins and outs of transforming contact form submissions into paying customers.
What is Lead Qualification?
Lead qualification involves determining whether or not an interested economic buyer is actually a good fit for your product or service.
It is a step at the very beginning of the sales process where you evaluate and categorize prospects to determine how likely they are to actually become a customer of your business.
Something to be aware of is that lead qualification for marketing and sales isn’t the same.
Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) are owned by the marketing team and are often generated in response to marketing content. Sales Qualified Leads (SQL) are leads that are further qualified by the sales team after the leads engage with sales reps.
What is the Difference Between SQL and MQL Leads?
Marketing Qualified Leads and Sales Qualified Leads are distinct stages in the process of converting a potential customer into a paying customer. Let’s take a look at the key differences:
Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs)
- Are owned and managed by the marketing team.
- The marketing team defines the criteria they meet (e.g., demographic, company size, engagement level).
- Once an MQL meets a certain interest level, it will be handed off to the sales team.
Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs)
- The sales team owns them, and they are often handed over from marketing.
- They meet criteria set by sales and go beyond basic interest, for example, budget availability and timeline for making a purchase.
- They are further along in the sales funnel than MQLs and have higher potential for conversion.
The critical difference between MQLs and SQLs is ownership, criteria, and purpose. The closer the prospect is to making a purchase, the more likely it is that the sales team will manage them.
Both stages ensure a streamlined process for converting leads into customers, with marketing nurturing the leads until they are ready for direct interaction with sales.
Why Lead Qualification Matters More Than Ever
So why is lead qualification important in a sales process? A straightforward method for lead qualification saves your business time and money. You want to focus your attention and sales efforts on the leads most likely to convert to customers.
Lead qualification helps because you optimize your resources, and your team doesn’t waste time on leads that aren’t a good fit for your business.
Here are some more reasons to standardize your lead qualification process:
- Improves sales productivity – By knowing which leads are a good fit for your product or service, you can focus your efforts on the deals that are most likely to produce results.
- Boosts conversion rates – Categorizing leads and ensuring they are a fit for your product or service increases the chances that they will become paying customers.
- Allows for efficient resource allocation – When you don’t waste resources trying to convert leads that aren’t qualified, you save both time and labor costs. A targeted approach to conversion means more efficient sales and marketing teams.
- Creates shorter sales cycles – If you qualify leads before they enter your sales pipeline, you will already have some important data available to help you in the decision process of whether they are a good fit or not. This means you’ll need to spend less time qualifying them as good leads.
- Achieves higher ROI – The amount of resources you spend on attracting prospects will reap a better return if you focus only on the qualified leads.
- Improves the customer experience – The data you get from lead qualification ensures that you have important information on hand before your potential customers even enter the sales process. This will allow you to have a meeting that is more tailored to their needs and enhance their experience with your company.
- Creates alignment between sales and marketing teams – A clear lead qualification process allows for a smooth handoff between the sales and marketing teams. Ensuring the right level of nurturing for a lead, depending on where they are in your sales funnel.
- Provides data-driven insights – A lead qualification process gives you clear insights into trends, customer behaviors, and preferences. You can use this data to inform future marketing and sales strategies.
- Reduces churn – When you ensure a customer is a good fit for your product from the get-go, there’s less chance they will churn. The data you get from lead qualification will give you a good understanding of how your product can fulfill their needs. So that you can help them fully understand your product and how it will impact their business. Increasing the likelihood of them becoming loyal clients.
What Do You Need to Know to Qualify a Lead?
The information you need to qualify a lead will depend on your industry, product, and whether you are a Business-to-Business or Business-to-Consumer company.
However, you can use a few generic criteria to determine whether your prospect is a qualified lead. If you want to identify good MQLs for your sales pipeline, put the following on your lead qualification checklist:
Understand Your ICP (Ideal Customer Profile)
When you know precisely who you are targeting, it makes it easier to determine whether someone is a qualified sales and marketing lead or not.
When defining your ICP, consider the following:
- Know the specific pain points your product or service resolves in your target market.
- What is your lead’s current situation, and how will your business help them achieve their goals?
- Understand the demographic and characteristics of your ICP and apply them to help filter your inbound leads. This can include details such as the industry, geographic location, company size, job title, purchasing decision power, details about the key decision maker, and the buyer intent of the lead.
- Using the Jobs to be Done framework, you can understand the emotions that typically drive your prospects’ decision-making process. This can help inform your marketing and brand messaging to appeal to the right audience and only highly qualified prospects end up in your sales pipeline.
Where Do Your Leads Come From?
Knowing where your leads come from can help you with lead scoring. Were they a referral, did they come through your website, an ad campaign, or did a sales rep cold call them during lead generation outreach?
The source of your lead helps you identify whether they are a Marketing Qualified Lead or Sales Qualified Lead and the type of attention they need from your sales and marketing teams. It can also help you better understand which channels are most effective in attracting new leads.
How to Implement Lead Qualification Scoring
Lead scoring assigns a numerical value to leads based on how likely they are to become potential customers.
When a lead is being passed from the marketing team over to sales, it’s important to have an initial assessment of whether or not they are a qualified prospect.
Using a lead scoring system helps you identify high-quality leads who need to stay in your sales cycle and require attention to convert. Lead scoring also enables you to get rid of unqualified leads.
If you collect and analyze enough information about your inbound leads, you can prioritize your sales and marketing efforts accordingly.
4 Common Lead Qualification Frameworks
To effectively qualify leads in your pipeline, a lead scoring model can help.
Create a scale from 1-5 for each category of your chosen model, then grade the people in your sales pipeline for each category. For this to be effective, using the same lead qualification checklist for each prospect is essential.
Once you have a score for each lead, the ones with the highest score are those you should focus your attention on.
What information should you collect about your leads to prioritize your lead qualification efforts? Here are a few popular lead qualification frameworks to consider using:
Initially coined by IBM, this lead qualification process is tried, tested, quick, and straightforward.
The acronym stands for:
- Budget – Does the lead have the budget to purchase your product or service?
- Authority – Is the lead someone who can make a buying decision for their business?
- Need – Do they currently need a solution like yours, or are they using a competitor?
- Timeline – Is it the right time for the business to choose a product or service like yours? If not, when will they be ready?
The criticism of qualifying your leads with this method is that it’s hard to know the current needs of a prospect, making it difficult for fast-moving businesses to get the immediate insights they require.
This lead qualification framework is more labor intensive, requiring a deep dive into the prospect’s operations to get all the relevant information.
The considerations include:
- Metrics – What results will your service provide? Will the client save time or money or boost conversions or retention?
- Economic Buyer – Who makes the purchasing decisions at your prospect’s company?
- Decision Criteria – What impacts the decision-makers to invest in something new?
- Decision Process – What does the process that the lead uses to make a decision look like?
- Identify Pain – What’s the pressing problem your product or service relieves?
- Champion – Who is the right person in the company to champion your product? Is it the person you are in contact with, or can they refer you to the right person?
MEDDIC is most commonly used for businesses that sell to large enterprises and must create a detailed pitch. It works best for high-priced products with fewer customers and isn’t ideal for low-cost products that sell in volume.
This method is a customer-centric approach that helps you identify your buyer’s most pressing pain points and helps you build relationships instead of trying to sell to them immediately.
Generating leads this way helps you educate prospects unaware your product or service exists as a solution for their needs.
- Challenges – What are your prospect’s most pressing problems?
- Authority – Who has purchasing authority at the company?
- Money – Do they have a budget for investing in your solution?
- Prioritization – When would the decision makers be able to implement your solution?
Your initial research starts with asking the most important questions to understand if your solution fits their needs.
This lead qualification method allows you to qualify leads based on their eligibility rather than their current needs or budget. It’s best used for products that don’t have a high price tag as it considers funds available rather than a set budget.
The interest part of this framework is the biggest differentiator from BANT, as it allows you to determine how open your prospect is to new ideas and innovations. You can sell to prospects who don’t already have a budget allocated for your solution.
- Funds – Does the prospect have funds to invest in a solution like yours?
- Authority – Are you talking with the decision maker?
- Interest – Educate them on how your solution solves a problem in their business.
- Need – Is there a need for your product or service?
- Timing – Is the prospect in a position to invest in your solution right now?
Faint is more time-consuming than other methods on this list and isn’t ideal for prospects who already know their needs.
Common Pitfalls in Lead Qualification
Using a lead qualification checklist can help you avoid common pitfalls that marketing and sales teams make during the qualification process.
These are some of the common pitfalls to look out for during the lead qualification process:
- Lack of a systematic approach to qualifying leads – If you ignore engagement signals or treat all leads the same wherever they are in the sales cycle, it can lead to misalignment with their readiness to buy. Stay consistent with your criteria.
- Misunderstanding or overlooking buyer intent – Being rigorous when you qualify leads will help you understand whether or not they really intend to purchase from you. If they aren’t ready to buy, you need to nurture them, or they can quickly turn cold.
- Not defining your ICP – Assessing promising leads will be more challenging if you don’t know the characteristics of your ideal customer.
- Focusing solely on demographics – a lead may be in your target audience, but have they engaged or interacted with your business, and do they need your solution?
- Ignoring your lead score – This is an objective way to prioritize leads based on their behavior; if you overlook it, you could waste time on unqualified or low–potential leads.
- Lack of communication Between the marketing and sales teams – can lead to premature handoffs and missed follow-ups.
- Lack of documentation – Documenting your qualification process will ensure everyone is on the same page and understands why someone is a sales-qualified lead.
- Neglecting negative qualification – Qualifying leads isn’t only about following up with your most promising leads; you also need to (politely) reject low-quality leads.
- Overlooking long–term potential – A lead may not be ready to buy right now, but don’t overlook their long–term potential as a sales prospect.
- Forgetting to analyze – Lead qualification is constantly evolving; you must regularly analyze what’s working in your qualification process, reiterate, and test more.
By looking out for these common pitfalls, you will avoid any of the negative consequences of an inadequate lead qualification strategy.
Demodesk: Your All-in-One Solution to Qualification Excellence
Does manually using the above frameworks sound too much for your sales resources? Automating your lead qualification with a tool built for modern sales and success teams can boost your productivity and fill your sales funnel with an abundance of qualified leads.
Just like the sales teams at Treatwell did. Since using Deomdesk, they’ve seen a 30% increase in conversions and a 50% decrease in onboarding time.
Demodesk Scheduling: A Game-Changer for Inbound Leads
- Unlock productivity: No more manual tracking or missteps.
- Qualify leads in real time and route them to the right rep.
- Intelligent CRM sync: Perfect pairing every single time.
- Free up your sales team’s time: Stop wasting time on a manual lead qualification process.
- Focus on what truly matters – building relationships with prospects and the sale!
Demodesk Meet: Providing Your Team With Structure and Success
- A structured approach: Take the guesswork out of your lead qualification strategy and calls.
- Empowering sales reps: Built-in speaker notes and playbooks equip your agents with the right messaging to help them seamlessly close more sales leads.
- Automate CRM reporting: Automate your follow-ups and admin tasks to save up to 10 hours weekly.
- GDPR-compliant call recording & shadowing: This lets you get new hires up to speed quicker and get deep insights into which sales strategy is most effective.
- Track performance: Log meeting-related data such as no-shows and successful deal closes to help you double down on what’s working.
Start the Sales Process Right
Lead qualification works because you don’t waste resources on prospects who aren’t likely to positively impact your bottom line.
Ready to take lead qualification to unprecedented heights? Dive into the world of Demodesk and witness the future of sales and success. Thanks to Demodesk’s analytics features, you can quickly and definitively know whether each lead will become a success story.
Check it out for yourself today.