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The most qualified lead is a “hot lead,” or sales qualified lead ready to make a purchase.
Qualifying leads could be the most important step of the lead qualification process.
When marketing and sales teams work to build lead qualification frameworks, marketing efforts become easier, and you’ll have a successful business.
But lead qualification is a never-ending cycle. It’s a cold fact about the sales process and something to remember when you qualify leads.
This blog will walk you through the fundamentals of sales qualification, present the different frameworks you can use, and provide pointers on disqualification and conversational tip-offs to listen for.
An unqualified lead has yet to be nurtured down the sales funnel or sales cycle. This can be due to several reasons. Perhaps they may not be sure if they need your solution.
Or maybe they don’t have a sufficient budget. Whatever the reason, unqualified leads are those who do not fit your ideal customer profile and are not ready to make the purchase.
At this stage, the lead is an Information Qualified Lead.
Using a marketing automation platform, the IQL is directed to a thank you page with a link to download the offer and receives a follow-up email with the same download link.
A few days later, the lead receives another email with additional information about what they downloaded.
Top-of-funnel leads have the ‘look and feel’ of your current customers or buyer personas.
On the other hand, a warm lead is someone who has shown interest in a product or service either by following your company on social media, signing up to your email newsletter, as a referral from a friend or previous client, or some other expressed interest.
These leads are simply prospects who have shown interest in learning more about a product or service.
Sales qualified leads are often called “hot” leads because they are at the very end of the marketing funnel. These leads meet three or more of the BANT criteria.
They have had a fair number of interactions with the brand through the marketing department and are in a position where prompt outreach from a sales rep can help them choose your company, rather than a competitor.
They meet demographic criteria (decided by the marketing team), usually revolving around job role, company, and industry.
In addition to being a demographic fit, top-of-funnel leads have demonstrated early-stage interest in your offering.
The major difference between a sales qualified lead and the other categories is immediacy.
Not only will the lead fit a target profile, but they will have the resources, ability, and desire to buy relatively soon. SQLs have a high likelihood of making a purchase.
They understand the solution and the value.
The first step is determining whether the lead is a good fit for what you’re selling, while the other is looking at how interested they are in your offerings.
When looking at a prospect’s “fit” and establishing criteria, start with the BANT methodology, which looks at four factors in a buying decision:
Budget: Financial capacity of lead to make a purchase based on budgetary constraints and willingness to spend
Authority: Does the person being contacted have the authority to make the purchasing decision? Who else can pull the trigger on a purchase decision?
Need: Usefulness of your product or service to the lead’s wants and solving their needs. These questions will top your qualifying questions.
Time: Whether there’s an urgency to purchase your product or service
ANUM stands for authority, need, urgency, and money.
Here, the top priority is to verify if the contact has the decision-making power, with money being the last thing to consider.
Notice the parallel of BANT here? This framework works best when client businesses do not have a properly established hierarchy or organization that defines roles and decision-making.
Your conversation style and comfort zone might also play a role in your reference framework.
These questions benefit from encouraging potential leads to open up about their needs, frustrations, and pain points.
Should you decide that the lead is qualified to move forward in the process, you can use this information to tailor your pitch and deliver a more effective proposal later on.
The sales team receives the prospect’s details and makes contact. This is often in the form of a call.
They try to learn more about the client’s needs, purchasing power, budget, authority to make purchasing decisions, and timeline.
Sales teams frequently use discovery calls to determine if a lead is ready to pursue sales.
Defining Your Lead Criteria
Lead qualification involves prioritizing sales activities toward leads that are most likely to generate revenue.
It’s done by establishing qualification criteria for scoring leads, then distributing top prospects accordingly.
This creates a more efficient sales operation and increases lead-to-customer conversions.
Lead criteria require looking at your other sales leads’ and buyers’ habits.
This can include investigating demographic data like business or organization, location, job title, and company size.
Remember the positive implications and consequences of getting or losing the lead.
Buyer habits are often also helpful indicators, and you may want to investigate how MQLs interact with your marketing assets.
Analyze how they act compared to other leads who have successfully become customers.
Obtaining Marketing Qualified Leads
For MQLs, your goal is to further qualify them with nurturing and eventual outreach from your sales team to get them sales qualified.
Similarly, they’ll continue receiving lead scoring points as they interact with your campaign—showing additional interest and qualifying those leads.
MQLs will reach out to your marketing team for more information to help them in the middle of the sales funnel, such as case studies, a free consultation, or a product demo or trial.
The MQL stage is the most important part of the sales process in many ways.
Those in the middle tier may receive email newsletters, while those in the lower tier could get emails for free trials to increase their interest and lead score.
In reality, even the most unqualified lead has the potential to become qualified after the right interactions with your marketing.
Marketing teams must work with sales reps to develop a lead scoring system that identifies which MQLs are ready to engage with the sales team.
Rich information from personal interactions can greatly increase conversion rates as you qualify more leads for your sales funnel. More qualified leads ultimately result in higher sales.
Every effort to improve lead generation is well worth the investment.
To help an MQL advance to the decision stage, you could offer free trials, demos, consultations, estimates/quotes, or coupons.
If you’re a B2B organization, then knowing the size of the prospect’s company and its contact information is essential to qualify the lead.
You can add or take away points depending on how the size of their company relates to your ideal customer profile.
Positives of Qualified Leads
It should be no surprise that working with high-quality leads should be a key priority for your sales team.
By working with qualified leads, sales professionals can optimize how they use their time.
They can increase their sales and retention rates rather than aimlessly reaching out to every possible lead.
Types of Conversions
There are many types of actions a potential MQL can take to become an MQL. It all depends on how your business defines conversion.
With that said, let’s take a look at some of the most common forms of conversion:
Subscribing to your content newsletter
Downloading a piece of gated content
Filling up online forms
Scheduling a call
Clicking on an ad
Sending you an email inquiry
Scanning a QR code that links to a form or landing page
While a person landing on your website based on a search engine search is a form of qualification, it does not ensure a sale.
The more you know about your prospects, the closer you can get to closing a deal and the better prepared to determine if they are potential customers or tire kickers.
One way to convert MQLs into SQLs is through email nurturing. To do this, you need to create automated email campaigns with content relevant to your MQLs.
You should split your email sequence into several stages based on the marketing funnel. The goal is to ‘push’ your MQLs down the marketing funnel until they convert into SQLs.
The final few emails in your sequence contain your bottom-of-the-funnel ( BOFU ) articles and are typically used to convince your prospects why your solution fits them.
Transferring Leads To The Sales Team
This process can occur in various ways. In some organizational structures, entire team(s) handle leads between marketing and sales.
In most cases, though, leads make it directly to the sales department through a CRM system. The important aspect of this transition is pacing.
Leads “cool off” the longer they’re left waiting. After days and weeks, your solution is no longer top of mind – a competitor might have even replaced it.
There are a lot of factors that lead to someone becoming a generic lead, and there’s not much you can do besides weeding out low-quality leads and focusing on the promising, high-quality leads.
Make sure you define the difference between a lead and a marketing qualified lead MQL as it makes the most sense for your business.
Social Media Engagement
Lead Data Bank
With many businesses now using some form of CRM or marketing automation system, it is becoming easier to collect and share information.
Having a central reservoir where lead data can be collected and assessed can help prioritize prospects and ensure those with the strongest potential to convert get efficiently channeled through the sales funnel.
Hop-On The Kennected Train
Want a solid sales lead generation plan? Kennected offers a series of solutions focused on building relationships with key decision-makers to achieve this feat.
Business success is not achieved overnight. It takes time, effort, tools, skills, and strategies to reach your target results.
Kennected used this process to earn the Two Comma Club Award (for earning $1,000,000) in less than seven months, and a spot on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies in America.
Moreover, we helped over 17,000 customers fill their sales pipelines with qualified leads and increase revenue.
Our LinkedIn lead generation services can help you take your LinkedIn marketing to the next level.
For more information on how to use this LinkedIn Sales Funnel and Kennected to fill your sales pipeline with qualified leads in less than 10 minutes per day, schedule a free strategy session here.
We hope you’ve gained a better understanding of how to define your qualified leads, how to identify them, and how to generate more of them.
The key thing to remember here is that there is no all-encompassing definition of a qualified lead. It depends.
For more sales and marketing-related tips, check out our blog.