A Basic Guide to Qualifying and Exploring Leads

Many organizations — particularly early-stage tech and SaaS companies — struggle with allocating the time and resources needed to qualify their leads properly. However, there are consequences for those who don’t, like wasted sales time prospecting unqualified leads and lower-than-average close rates.

Lead qualification is key to improving your sales team's productivity.

There are several effective strategies that can help you explore leads. But first, let’s remember the two different kinds of leads.

Inbound Leads. These leads essentially come to you through the content you distribute. Maybe they found your website through an online search, saw your social media post, read your blog, filled out a survey, or attended a webinar. They also could have downloaded one of your white papers, case studies, or eBooks.

Outbound Leads. Your sales team went searching for these leads. Outbound leads are generated by meeting people at trade shows, through phone calls, networking, and cold-emailing.

Managing the Lead Qualification Process

Your leads are only as good as your process for qualifying them. As much as we wish we could, we just aren't going to be able to convert every lead into a customer. Fortunately, here's what your organization can do to explore and qualify your leads.

  1. Plan for Every Stage

  2. Facilitate Sales & Marketing Communication

  3. Use Sales Outsourcing

  4. Set Up Lead Scoring

  5. Create Lead Nurturing Campaigns

Look at qualifying leads as a scientific path, where there's little room for deviation. Finite processes and pre-set procedures make sure everything proceeds as planned and every contact possible turns into a qualified lead. It also decreases the time sales wastes talking to contacts who are NOT qualified leads.

Everyone involved needs to understand what they should be doing and when they should be doing it.

You would think these two teams would be natural comrades, but there can be tension that disrupts your process for handling leads. Getting these teams on the same page with lead qualification is essential.

All the stakeholders need to commit to the process and do their part to find, qualify, convert, and close qualified leads that come through your door.

Employing a third-party vendor to do appointment setting and find prospects saves your sales team time on the front end, and gives them a larger pool of qualified leads to work.

Keeping sales on higher-value tasks gives you a greater return on the investment (ROI) you made in their compensation, and will most likely result in more lucrative closed deals to boot.

By assigning contacts a point value when you first "meet" them, and then adding to it when they take actions that signal they are a qualified lead, you build an efficient system.

If the lead hits a predetermined scoring number, then they are passed to sales so they can begin prospecting and moving them down the funnel. If the lead's score doesn't increase, they may not be a worthy prospect. Or, they may just need some lead nurturing.

Some contacts can eventually turn into qualified leads, even if they aren't right now. It just takes a little effort to warm them up.

Send them interesting, informative content that helps them solve their pain points and invite them to webinars or to view videos. The goal is to get them to see your company as a trusted thought leader and entice them to move through the sales funnel.

A Note About Expectations  

Once leads are passed to sales, it's critical that the follow-up is thorough and timely. In this age of wanting everything instantly, qualified leads that wait for a day or two are going to lose their heat. Team leaders need to set clear, measurable expectations of what, when, and how the sales team follows up for maximum impact.

Know When to Say Goodbye

Many sales people have chained themselves to unqualified leads, determined to turn them into customers. Don't do this.

If contacts can't be warmed up with lead nurturing and their lead scores never change, it may be time to move them out of the funnel into a re-engagement campaign. Yes, this is disappointing, but sales can use these efforts on real leads that are more likely to purchase soon.

Creating a productive sales team that successfully closes business hinges on a strong lead qualification process. Set it up correctly by gaining marketing and sales buy-in, and executing a step-by-step plan for making it work. Your organization will end up enjoying high close rates and more sales per reps that can be directly traced back to your lead qualifying efforts.

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