Your business has been spreading its net, and you’ve generated a lot of leads. These are people who have shown at least some interest in what you do. However, being interested and being ready to buy aren’t the same things. If only a quarter of your leads are genuine sales prospects, then targeting your whole list of leads means 75 percent wasted effort.
To make the most of your sales efforts, you need to thin down the list to the “hot” prospects that are likeliest to make a purchase. Determining which of your leads are worth following up on is known as lead qualification.
Once you’ve provided marketing information to marketing qualified leads, a good percentage of them will reach a point where they’re on the verge of making the purchase. These potential customers are now termed sales-qualified leads. Just a gentle nudge in the right direction, and they become customers.
Why is Lead Qualification So Important
We touched on the notion that if you don’t look at sales lead qualification, much of your marketing and sales drive will be wasted on people who aren’t planning to make a purchase. Meanwhile, people who are ready to move on through your sales funnel don’t get the attention they need. There’s time to cool off. So even your best leads could be lost if you don’t give them the necessary attention to facilitate a buying decision.
By qualifying leads, you’re targeting your energy where it’s likeliest to lead to sales. Interestingly, a lot of companies don’t do lead qualification, so knowing how to do it, and following through, could be the ingredient you need to beat your competitors.
How to Qualify a Sales Lead
Qualifying a sales lead is simpler than you might think. You need to know how likely you are to get a conversion. Doing so doesn’t require mind-reading skills. Simply ask a few questions that will indicate whether your lead and your product are a good fit.
For example, you could ask a B2B client what challenges they hope to overcome if they were to choose your product. If that looks like a match, you might even go so far as asking what your prospect’s budget might be and whether they make the purchasing decision or need to present information to a decision maker. You can even ask them if they are weighing up alternative solutions. And if things look really positive, you can ask when you should schedule a follow-up call.
The answers to questions like these will give you a clear indication of who is most and least likely to buy. Unqualified leads, the ones who aren’t ready just yet, might be ready to buy later and shouldn’t be forgotten altogether. Qualified leads are on the brink of making a purchase, and it’s up to you to offer them what they need to make the final decision.
Let’s sum up the lead qualification process into a simple checklist. You want to know:
- Whether your lead is genuinely interested in making a purchase.
- Whether your product will satisfy your lead’s needs or wants in some way.
- Whether they can afford it.
- Whether they’ll need your product now or at some future date.
- Whether they are the person who makes purchasing decisions.
When to Move Qualified Leads Through the Sales Funnel
A sales funnel begins with making a whole lot of people aware of your product. Some of them will think about it and form an opinion. Having done so, some of them will start considering your product as a means of meeting a need or satisfying a want. If they decide that you have what it takes, they form a preference and may then move on to the final stage which is the purchase.
It’s a funnel because you’re working with diminishing numbers with each phase. Your job is to ensure that you don’t lose leads unnecessarily. That means knowing where your leads are on the sales funnel and taking the necessary steps to move them towards a purchase. For example, if a lead is considering a purchase, it’s up to you to provide the information they need in order to make a decision. A lead who has already formed a preference for your product is all-but in the bag – as long as you are ready to lead them towards that final step.
By contrast, a lead that knows your product is out there may not be interested in it at all. The further down the funnel your customers are, the higher the likelihood of making a sale, and the more sense it makes to deploy resources towards clinching a deal.
Lead Qualification Models: It’s all About Good Data
Lead qualification means gathering data about your prospects. And not just any data will do. So the first step in ensuring that your data is useful for lead qualification is to construct a mental model of your ideal customers. The questions you ask your leads are tailored to determine how nearly they match that model. You’re also taking their temperature to see how close they are to conversion.
All the information you gather must be recorded, and you can use a simple scoring system to determine which leads are sales qualified. But your qualification system is only as relevant as the data you gather. More is not necessarily better. Strategise according to the information that’s likeliest to indicate your leads’ position in the sales funnel and segment them accordingly.
How to Get the Information You Need
It may seem tempting to automate your lead qualification data gathering with an online questionnaire. Unfortunately, only 10 to 30 percent of people are willing to spend time on them. You can try for the upper part of this range by offering incentives, but it’s still rather impersonal.
The best way to get the data you need to qualify leads is with an in-person conversation. It’s much harder to say “no” to the nice lady or gentleman on the other side of a call than it is to decline an online survey! But response rates aren’t the only reason why one-on-one conversations help with lead qualification. A smart call agent can gauge more than just the answers they get. For example, he or she can tell whether a respondent sounds enthusiastic. And a positive interaction forms an interpersonal bond that fosters engagement.
However, you don’t want just anyone talking to your precious leads. You need likeable, empathetic people who will boost your brand’s image. They also need to talk to the right people – not always easy when secretaries filter calls to business decision-makers. In short, you need agents with consummate communication skills, and that begs the question, where will you find these paragons?
We have the answer: you’ll find them at RSVP. We’re so much more than just a call centre. Our secret? We employ drama students and up-and-coming actors. They’re eager to practise their acting skills, know how to be “in character,” and make a livelihood out of getting people to identify with them. Who better to handle your Outbound Sales and Retention?
It’s not just our agents that make an impression. Our advanced data gathering and reporting systems present you with a clear snapshot of your sales funnel, your leads, and where best to deploy your sales efforts. Are you ready to boost your sales through lead qualification? Talk to us, because your success is our success!