What is a Qualified Lead? Lead Qualification: Definition & Techniques
You know that old saying, “time is money”? It’s true. The more time you spend chasing bad leads, the less time you have for good ones. That’s why it’s important to set criteria for what makes a lead worth pursuing. Lead qualification is critical to the success of your overall lead generation strategy. This will help you focus your efforts on leads that will likely result in a sale and save you time and money.
What is a Qualified Lead?
A ‘qualified lead’ is one that you can reasonably expect to make a purchase in the near future. This means they must have the budget and be likely to spend it on your product or service. What is their purchasing history like? If you provide a service for businesses – are their competitors also potential to be your target clients? These are all questions that need answering before you can tell if a lead is worth pursuing.
Qualified lead definition
A ‘qualified lead’ has the potential to turn into a paying customer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will. You need to find out why they are interested in your product or service – are they just curious? Are they looking for information before making their decision?
But how do you figure out if someone is qualified? Some simple questions can tell whether or not they’re worth pursuing:
- What industry do they work in?
- Do they fit into any of your target demographic groups (age, gender)?
- Would their company be interested in your product/service?
- How much budget the company has for your product or services?
- Do they have the authority to make purchasing decisions?
- Is the timing right?
Asking yourself these questions can help you figure out whether or not contact with a lead is worth pursuing and is essential for prioritizing your potential leads.
The Benefits of Lead Qualification
When you’re pursuing new business, it’s important to focus your efforts on leads that have the potential to turn into paying customers. Qualified leads meet specific criteria that you set, indicating a higher chance of converting into sales. This allows you to narrow your focus and pursue opportunities that are most likely to bear fruit.
There are several benefits to qualifying your leads:
- It allows you to save time and money by pursuing opportunities that will likely result in a sale.
- It helps you build better relationships with potential customers by ensuring that you’re addressing their needs and requirements.
- It can help you close more deals by ensuring that you’re targeting the right prospects.
How to Set Criteria for Lead Qualification
When you’re setting criteria for what makes a lead qualified, it’s important to consider the role that each customer adopts. For example, when selling food to restaurants, you’d look for different factors compared to when selling food to individuals. That said, some common elements can be beneficial across all business types. Here are a few that can be helpful to consider.
- Annual Revenue – The annual revenue of your customer generally indicates how much they have to spend on goods and services, so if you’re selling this type of product or service, it should be taken into consideration. For example, if you’re selling bread to restaurants, you might focus on leads with at least $500,000 in annual revenue.
- Number of Employees – While sales often increase with the size of a company, there’s also more administration and bureaucracy that you’ll need to navigate. That said, if your product or service is geared toward smaller organizations, you may want to focus on businesses with fewer than 50 employees.
- Industry – Different industries have different purchasing habits and may respond better to certain marketing strategies. For example, if you’re selling food products, a manufacturer might be a better prospect than a restaurant. At the same time, a business-to-business company might be more lucrative than a business-to-consumer one.
- Location – Where your customers are located can affect the success of your sales and marketing campaigns and which channels you choose to focus on. For example, if you’re selling food to restaurants, you might want to prioritize leads that are in close proximity to your location.
- Type of Business – Different businesses will have different needs that could be addressed with your product or service. For example, suppose you’re selling software to enterprises. In that case, your lead generation strategy has to be highly tailored to enterprise-level pain points and challenges, and you may also require to adopt account-based marketing (ABM) approach.
- Demographics – Different demographics have different purchasing habits that affect your sales numbers. You’ll want to focus on how much someone makes, where they live, and other factors that influence purchasing decisions.
- Intent – While there are many benefits of qualifying your leads, it shouldn’t be done by fishing for information or leading the lead. Instead, take a genuine interest in the needs and requirements of your leads, expressing how you can meet them. You can also ask questions that relate to their business so that it’s clear they’re qualified to make a purchase.
The types of questions you should ask to qualify a lead
- How did you hear about our company?
- What is your budget for this project?
- When is the earliest you would need this product or service?
- Do you have any other vendors in mind?
- Why are you interested in our company’s product or service?
- What are the deadlines for this project?
- How would you like to receive this product or service?
As a business owner, a marketer, or a salesperson, you know that a sale is all about relationships. You have likely experienced firsthand how important it is to build rapport with your customer base and maintain open communication with them. This can be especially true when it comes to new leads – if they aren’t willing to share information about their company or if they aren’t ready to engage with you, it may not be worth your time and energy to pursue them.
In an effort to save time and money on wasted leads, many companies have begun setting criteria for what makes a lead worthwhile. In other words, they are defining what qualifies as a “qualified lead.”
Tips for qualifying leads
When pursuing potential customers, it’s important to qualify them to make sure they are worth your time. Here are a few tips for doing just that:
- Know what you’re looking for. Make sure you have a clear idea of the qualities that make a lead worth pursuing. This will help you avoid wasting time on leads that aren’t likely to turn into sales.
- Use qualifying questions. When speaking with leads, ask them questions that will help you determine if they are a good fit for your business. For example, you might ask about their budget or what services they are looking for.
- Use a screening process. If you have a lot of leads to filter through, consider using a screening process or a questionnaire to narrow the field. This approach works particularly well for companies that receive lots of leads regularly.
A clear definition of what makes a lead worth pursuing is a critical first step in focusing your efforts, saving you time and money.
The Lead Funnel
A lead funnel is a process that companies use to convert leads into paying customers. The lead funnel usually involves acquiring leads through various marketing channels, such as online advertisements or email campaigns. Once leads are acquired, the next step is to qualify them by determining whether they are a good fit for the company’s products or services. Only qualified leads are then passed on to the sales team, who will attempt to close the sale. If the sale is successful, the customer becomes a paying customer. If not, the lead is either disqualified or passed back to marketing to be re-qualified.
The lead funnel is an integral part of any company’s sales process and should be designed to convert as many leads as possible into paying customers.
Typically most lead funnels use three definitions:
- Marketing Qualified Lead Definition (MQLs)
- Sales Accepted Leads (SAL)
- Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs)
Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs)
A Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) is a potential customer identified as a result of marketing efforts and meets predetermined criteria that signify their potential to become a customer.
An MQL can be generated in many ways, such as through website visits, lead forms, or other marketing interactions. Once an MQL has been identified, it is then passed on to Sales for further qualification.
For example, if a company wants to generate leads through its website, it will implement specific CTAs (calls-to-action) that encourage people to subscribe to their newsletter. If someone subscribes, this will signify an MQL. It is up to Sales to determine whether or not they can convert the lead into a customer.
The main difference between a lead and an MQL is that a lead is an individual, whereas the MQL can become a customer through further interactions with Sales. MQLs can also be referred to as “leads” in some companies because they are often generated from marketing efforts. That being said, the two are not the same thing.
Sales Accepted Leads (SAL)
A Sales Accepted Lead (SAL) is a lead that has been qualified by the sales team as likely to buy a product or service and where the deal has been accepted by those involved in the process. For example, your prospect might have signed off on an agreement or proposal currently being worked up by legal or the IT department.
Sales accepted lead (SAL) is a necessary step in the entire sales process, and it’s also one of the most difficult because this requires that someone has already agreed to buy something at some point in time and then finalized the agreement. Also, it would be best if you qualified your leads through all stages, but you also need to know once the lead is SAL.
Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs)
A Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) is a lead that the sales team has qualified as being likely to buy a product or service. Arguably the most important stage of your lead qualification stages. The qualification process usually involves determining whether the lead has a need for the product or service and whether the lead is budget-approved and has the authority to make a purchase.
Conclusion? It would help if you used all: MQL, SAL, and SQL stages in your qualification process, as not all leads will reach the SAL stage straight away. It depends on many factors, including their ability to afford what you are selling, authority level within the company, budgeting cycles, etc.
Converting leads into customers
Converting leads into customers is essential for any business. There are several ways to do this and increase your chances of success, and the method you choose will depend on your business and its customers. Some standard methods include offering a discount to customers who purchase within a specific timeframe, providing a free trial or sample, or giving a gift with purchase. Whatever way you choose, make sure it’s something your customers will value.
- Make sure your sales process is effective and efficient.
- Provide excellent customer service.
- Stay in touch with your leads.
- Follow up promptly after contact.
- Close the sale.
However, again, you need to start with “good” leads to boost your results.
Tips for generating more leads
There are several things you can do to generate more leads, including:
- Creating a solid offer that’s irresistible
- Generating publicity for your business
- Offering free consultations or demos
- Asking for referrals from current customers
- Utilizing social media platforms
- Running online ads
- A combination of some or all of the above.
The challenge, of course, is to find out who’s willing to buy what you’re selling and who isn’t interested in your products or services. That said, some factors can help you determine which leads are qualified for business development. To learn more, read our detailed guide on B2B lead generation.
Lead qualification is a complicated process with many benefits. Lead qualification can help you:
- Reduce your marketing costs.
- Increase the number of qualified leads and sales for your business.
- Improve customer satisfaction through better understanding what they need from their experience with your company.
They are likely to convert into a customer with the right strategy and continued effort on your part.
The most important takeaway we want readers to have is that lead qualification should be considered an investment in growing your bottom line rather than just another cost-cutting measure like it’s often seen by small businesses who don’t know any better.
If you’re looking for expert assistance on creating a successful lead generation strategy or making sure yours qualifies all leads correctly, contact us today!
- Jumplead: Lead Generation Statistics
- Business 2 Community: 15 Need-To-Know Lead Qualification Stats for B2B Marketers (with Takeaways)
- MarketingSherpa: Funnel Optimization: Why marketers must embrace change
- Marketing Insider Group: Must-Know Statistics to Improve Your Lead Generation Strategy