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Lead qualification: why it matters and how to sell to the right leads

Lead qualification: why it matters and how to sell to the right leads

Talking to the right leads is important to any business: time is limited, and it would be a shame to waste it on leads that will never pan out. It’s not about how many potential customers you talk to - but about reaching the right ones. The ones that convert, buy your products, and ultimately end up referring your business to other potential customers. And that’s where lead qualification comes in.

A qualified lead is a prospect that meets all qualification criteria such as budget, decision-making authority, a need for the product/service and purchasing power.

But how does lead qualification work? What is the difference between Marketing Qualified Leads and Sales Qualified Leads? How do you proceed with a qualified lead? This quick guide will set you on the right track.

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What is lead qualification?

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Lead qualification is the process of determining whether a lead fits your ideal customer profile, and has a high chance of becoming a customer. A lead is a prospect that should meet all predefined qualification criteria - such as budget, decision-making authority, need for a product/service and purchasing power.

The perfect lead is already interested in your products and services. He’s not just looking for a way to solve a problem, he already knows how to do that, and believes you can help him.

In essence, you want answers that reveal more about your potential customer, and how well you match up. Answers to questions such as:

  • Why are they interested in your product or service?
  • What are the pains you could solve?
  • What kind of value are they looking for?
  • How are they currently solving or coping with the problems they face?

How to qualify leads

Depending on which criteria matter most to your business, you can implement one of the existing lead qualification methods as a framework:

  • BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline)
  • SPIN (Situation, Pain, Implication, Need)
  • CHAMP (Challenges, Authority, Money, Prioritization)

The BANT framework has gradually become the staple in many industries. It reveals four main pieces of information:

  • Budget: does your prospect have the means to buy your product?
  • Authority: is your prospect in the right position to make a purchasing decision?
  • Need: does your prospect experience a business pain you could solve?
  • Timeline: when is your prospect planning to buy? 

Lead qualification isn’t exact science - in large part it simply means empathising with the person you’re talking to and reading between the lines of what they’re saying (or not saying). What drives them? What are they looking for? What could you offer? Answers to those questions will get you a long way in finding the perfect fit.

What are good qualification questions?

A quick summary of questions that will help you seperate the wheat from the chaff, using the BANT framework: 

lead qualification questions BANT infographic

Lead qualification from MQL to SQL

What are MQLs and SQLs?

Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) are more likely to become customers than non-qualified leads. These leads have explicitly expressed interest (by filling out a form, subscribing to your newsletter, …) but are not quite ready to fully commit.

Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) are leads that are ready to be pursued by sales. To qualify as an SQL, leads must display intent to buy your product - and meet all qualification criteria to be a right fit.

“In many businesses, sales processes are slowed down when marketing sends off leads to sales that have no intention to buy just yet.”

To determine when a lead is ready to talk to sales, you can assign lead scoring: determine which qualities and actions prospects must take to advance from MQL to SQL. For instance, signing up for a free sample, consultation or trial is a clear indication that a lead might be ready to buy your product.

You qualified the right leads, now what?

Now you can start following up: contact leads in a timely manner, and be clear about the next steps. Will you contact them to schedule a meeting? Be sure to end any conversation by thanking them for their time, and reiterating the main conclusions of your talk.

Most importantly: don’t scare off leads that aren’t ready to buy. When there is no compelling event, there’s no point trying to force a sale - instead, provoke leads to think about their challenges and solutions, and keep the conversation focused on how you could help. Provide a positive experience, nurture leads, and keep in touch until the time is ripe.

Ultimately, your ability to find, qualify and convert the right leads will be the root of your business’ success. Selling to the right customers not only means more revenue, but also leads to referral sales and happier customers altogether. Asking the right questions, listening closely and focusing on challenges and needs of your prospects are the most important elements of a successful strategy.

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