Qualifying leads according to their potential is important in every sales process and especially B2B companies should have a strong interest in better lead qualification. Much time can be wasted by focusing on low-quality inbound leads instead of spending your time on the top opportunities. Lead qualification starts at the very early level of every sales funnel – the first contact with prospective clients. During the next stages, it is equally important to collect sophisticated information to categorize leads.
Qualification of inbound leads
The first stage of lead qualification starts at the inbound level. The collection process of B2B leads determines their quality. Of course, you could ask every website visitor to sign up for your newsletter before seeing any content. This will bring you many email addresses, most of them being uninteresting or false. If you choose to collect contacts at a later stage, e.g. before sharing an insightful white paper document, e-book or presentation with the prospect, you will receive much fewer contacts with a multiplied quality. The higher priced your product is, the better should the lead quality be. Especially for SaaS companies, where the product often needs to be further explained, it is important to spend time wisely with the top prospects. Our recommendation is to embed interesting documents and presentations in your website. By doing so, the website visitors can be guided through your story which makes your marketing story much more effective. If you choose Beamium for embedding documents in your website, you will be able to collect leads after the prospect looked through a couple of slides. At this stage, you can be sure that the level of interest is already high enough. Additionally, a person’s willingness to share contacts in the middle of a presentation is tremendously higher than at the beginning. Beamium furthermore collects valuable data and categorizes your leads in sales-ready and not sales-ready prospects. The earlier you start to collect information about your leads, the more effective will the later sales process become.
Finding out if inbound leads are sales-ready
At the earlier stages, it is very important to separate sales-ready leads from marketing-ready prospects. Less than 30% of inbound leads are sales-ready. The large majority of your inbound leads should be further educated by newsletters or mailings instead of sales mechanisms. In case that you have not been able to classify the sales-readiness of the prospect during the lead generation process, you need to find out as soon as possible in which stage of the buyer’s journey model your prospective customer currently is. HubSpot, an inbound marketing platform, makes it easy to determine qualification criteria for your leads and determines their lead score. By using lead scoring technologies, you will be able to decide if the prospective customer should be forwarded to the sales team or not.
The challenge of focusing on sales-ready prospects
There are multiple ways to set up lead scoring models. Overall, it is necessary to determine which checkpoints you select. If the prospect e.g. opens an e-book or constantly looks at your last marketing presentation, he could be classified as sales-ready. Until that point, the prospect should be educated by marketing mechanisms such as customer mailings, newsletter or retargeting campaigns. While one objective is to maximize the number of sales-ready leads, it is equally important not to over-qualify marketing leads. This would result in wasted time at the later stages of your sales funnel. Of course, automatization is very important for qualifying leads. The more touchpoints you collect, the easier it will be to automatically decide when a prospect is sales-ready. Hence, tracking the prospects behavior in white papers or sales pitches with Beamium, together with the useful information which you gathered through HubSpot should be supported with your personal insights.
Determining the prospect’s level of interest in sales
After handing over leads to your sales team, it is important to continue with lead qualification. The main objective of sales is closing deals. To optimize sales effectiveness, it is important that sales representatives spend most of their time with the top prospects. There are two things to consider. First, the estimated deal size. Of course, there is a difference between a junior prospect and a managing director in your pipeline. The company size, available budgets and lead time are equally important. Second, you should classify the prospect’s level of interest. It can be difficult to find out if somebody really wants to buy your product, or only politely talks to you. It is important to use target-oriented CRM systems such as Salesforce or Pipedrive to collect all the data which you get during the sales cycle. Every sales call, every email and all other interactions should be forwarded to your CRM system. In addition, the level of interest can be better estimated by using data. ClearSlide, DocSend and Beamium are three great tools for sharing documents more effectively in sales. These sales acceleration tools track the presentation viewer’s behavior and help you to decide how to follow-up best. Again, the data should be connected with the previous information which you got during the whole lead process. By doing so, it will be much easier to decide if the prospect is really interested or not.
Prioritizing the leads with the highest score
You often have a feeling that a prospect is very interested and will soon buy. That’s great and should be considered in your choice. But nothing helps you more to classify leads than sophisticated data. Make sure to spend your time wisely. The leads which now have the highest lead score should be your focus group. Try to spend 80% of your time with the top 20% of the leads – not the other way around! And then, it’s time to close the deal!
How to deal with prospects which are not sales-ready (anymore)
It often happens that the lead quality changes negatively during the sales process. It is quite normal that re-qualification in sales teams results in several leads which are not sales-ready. The new information should be considered in the lead score. Often, sales managers mark these deals as “lost” – even though they aren’t! Naturally, there are some people who will tell you that they aren’t interested in your product and that this feeling won’t change in future. Fair enough. But if you find out that you won’t be able to close the deal, there is an alternative to losing the deal: mark him as marketing-ready. The fact that the customer does not yet want to buy does not necessarily mean that he can’t become a customer in reasonable time. He maybe is not yet sales-ready and has to be further educated by your marketing mechanisms. Don’t see these challenging prospects as lost deals – they maybe are the best deals of the next year!
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