The introduction of the internet has faced sales teams with a significant increase in prospects to qualify. A couple of decades ago, a sales team used to invest a large amount of time in each prospect, since the acquisition of leads was limited to face-to-face negotiations or cold calls. Now, the online world provides a vast amount of potential leads acquired through different means such as inbound marketing, that can signify a juicy deal for a business. However, many of these potential leads can also be misinterpreted and result in the waste of valuable resources such as money and time. Therefore, it is highly important for a business to deeply understand how such leads can be qualified, so that no important opportunities are missed and resources are concentrated in the right prospects.
The sales-marketing cooperation
There is no universal description of a qualified lead. It is a subjective term that adapts to the objectives of diverse companies and sales cycles. A B2C business might not follow the same considerations as B2B business when qualifying leads along their sales process . Moreover, there are also differences between a marketing-qualified lead (MQL) and a sales-qualified lead (SQL). While a marketing qualified lead shows interest in the products or services offered by a business, a SQL clearly shows intent to acquire such services or products and has met diverse criteria that qualify the buyer as a right fit. Such a lead is way past the engagement process and is now ready to make a decision, but still needs the final push by the sales team. These leads represent great opportunities for businesses, since they likelihood of purchase is significantly high. Therefore, it is important for the marketing team to provide the sales time with the diverse accurate information, so that the sales team can better qualify the lead. On the other hand, a sales team should supply their marketing counterpart with a series of attributes or characteristics to look after in the diverse prospects. Both teams need to understand that in this case, quality is much more important that quality. So how can the diverse leads be identified?
Spot the prospects transition from interest to intent
Imagine that a potential customer is browsing along your website and decides to subscribe to your newsletter. How should this prospect be qualified? Did she subscribe to receive updates on your blog and should be approached by the marketing team, or because she is interested in your products and is waiting for a discount to appear on her email and thus the sales team is required to engage? Usually a lead should never be analyzed based on a single factor, since this can be significantly misleading. It is important to identify the stage of the prospect’s buyer’s journey in order to better address her specific needs. In this manner, it can be understood if more information should be provided by the marketing team, or if the lead is ready to make a decision and the sales team has a green light. This is a useful first step to qualify a lead and thus create the basis for further analysis.
Develop a lead qualification system
After the intention of a prospect has been identified, there are still various factors that have to be analyzed in order to take accurate decisions. Both marketing and sales teams should manage a checklist containing diverse criteria potential customers need to fulfill in order to move along the sales funnel. Commenting on a blog post or subscribing to a newsletter can be examples of criteria a marketing-qualified lead should fulfill, whereas an email asking for product discounts or multiple visits to a pricing website could be some criteria a sales-qualified lead should fulfill. The diverse factors taken into account highly depend on the business itself and can hardly be generalized. However, some tools such as HubSpot provide diversified lists of criteria that need to be fulfilled and conditions that have to be meet in order to create a smart lead qualification system, which can be adapted to the company’s needs.
Characteristics to keep in mind when qualifying leads
Although there is no overall formula for the criteria that have to be analyzed when qualifying a lead, there is definitively a set of attributes that should be taken into account. First, as previously discussed, it is important to comprehend the prospect’s need. What is prompting the prospect to look for solutions? Which is the situation of her business? Is there a certain degree of urgency? Are there many competitors or substitutes possibly being considered? Such facts will provide a clear picture of the buyer’s journey and will certainly help in adding the specifics to the initial qualification. Furthermore, it is important to look at the prospect’s budget. Is the potential client part of a start-up with low resources, a single mother looking to test the product, or a rich multinational company? Are the services or products offered affordable? What prices does the competition offer? Understanding this economic perspective, will help qualify the lead based on the likelihood to make an investment. On the other hand, it is also important to take a more personal look at the lead and identify his or her authority. It is not the same to negotiate with an enthusiastic working student, that with a managing director capable of making the final decision. Understanding who the prospect is, will not only help a marketing or sales team in the qualification process, it is also valuable information for the actual negotiation. Diverse background information such as the company website or social media profiles from the prospect might help in this sense. Finally, it is important to keep in mind the amount of time that might need to be invested in acquiring the lead and if such an investment is worth.
The final step: organize and track the success of your lead qualification process
There is no point on a successful lead qualification system, if it is not properly organized. The communication within a company has to be transparent, so that all members of the different teams involved know exactly which leads are being handled by which representative. Ideally, if various leads exist for one company, they should all be addressed by the same representative, since he is probably better informed on the background. Diverse CRM tools such as Salesforce or Pipedrive not only facilitate such collaborations, they also permit to follow the whole sales process step by step and thus provide a clear overview. Finally, how can you be sure if your lead qualification process is being successful? Other than the obvious increase in sales, customer satisfaction and representative performance, you can also track statistics such as time to closure. Moreover, a good qualification system will let you more or less predict when a deal will close and how much it will be worth. The rest is in your hands.
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