Recently I visited a company's website that sells marketing automation software for large enterprises.
I was there reading some interesting and valuable content on how to solve a current pain point my team has been experiencing.
My intention was only to consume content, but I ended up doing all those activities that a potential customer would've done on their site.
But how would their marketing team know if I'm the right kind of lead for them?
How could they possibly disqualify my profile, before handing me over to their sales team?
The most simple and straightforward answer to this problem is to have an effective lead qualification process.
Good marketers may attract a broad array of people, which, of course, is a good thing.
But great marketers will know how to effectively disqualify a lead before wasting their sales team's time.
Qualifying leads is a tricky business, but having a marketing team that is wasting its time on unlikely prospects, is a perfect recipe for a funnel disaster.
But how would you know if you and your team are effectively qualifying the leads?
Is there a way to craft an excellent lead qualification process?
Well I'm here to help you reduce that anxiety, and guide you in taking a step further in optimizing your overall marketing efforts.
Why B2B selling requires more qualification?
When compared to B2C marketing, the B2B marketing game requires you to have a more targeted and strategic approach right from the beginning.
While it's bad to have fewer sales, it's even worse for you to have customers that are unfit for your product or service.
According to a popular benchmark report, 73% of the B2B leads passed on by a marketing team are not sales-ready.
As a result, there exists the buzzword - 'lead qualification.'
B2B selling requires you to maintain a good and long term relationship with your customers.
It's all about ROI, efficiency, and helping your customers make educated decisions.
That's why a lead qualification process helps you filter out those unfit customers, before you sign-up for that long term commitment with them.
Why disqualifying isn't a bad thing, after all?
We all know how much effort it takes to generate a lead.
As a result, most of the marketing and salespeople are generally unwilling to disqualify their prospects.
Their natural instinct, of course, is to try out as many leads as possible, before having to shrink their pipelines.
But trust me, this isn't the best approach.
The quality of your prospects matters more than the quantity alone.
Being in a marketing and sales profile, your most precious asset is your time.
As a result, it's far better to spend that valuable time on a few quality prospects, rather than a dozen unqualified leads.
How should marketers start qualifying their leads?
According to my standpoint, a marketing team's success is measured in terms of cost spent on acquiring a lead.
Therefore, it's ultimately the lead qualification system that helps you keep this number down in the long run.
But before crafting a lead qualification system, it's essential to answer two essential questions:
- What makes an individual a good fit for your product/service?
- What are some of their actions that help you determine their sales-readiness?
I know these are pretty broad questions and are difficult to answer in one go.
Therefore, let's try and understand the process in terms of simple steps.
How to qualify leads?
Step 1: Create Ideal Customer Profile
An ideal customer profile is a check-list of custom-defined attributes that someone needs to pass in order to be successful as your customer.
For a B2B company, an ideal customer profile might look like this:
- Industry: Telecommunications
- Size: <1,000 employees
- Location: US or Canada
- Other: Not publicly traded
The best way to formulate this is to have a joint discussion with both of your marketing and sales teams.
So get started with questions like:
- What are the economic factors that make any lead ideal for your product/service?
- Which market segments are ideal for your company?
- Are there any geographic locations that are not ideal for your offering?
- Are there any legal obligations that make any lead from a particular location unfit for your offering?
As you discuss these problems, it's always best to rely on data as much as possible because it takes the emotion out, while letting you arrive at a fact-based decision at a much faster rate.
Ultimately, it's best to arrive at a shared understanding of what an ideal customer profile looks like while keeping the result of this lead qualification process binary.
What I mean is, try to come up with a clear cut-off score to mark a lead as a good-fit or a poor-fit.
You can set a certain number of checkboxes (in your ideal customer profile), that a lead must qualify in order to be seen as a good fit.
You can even set a particular box that every good-fit lead must check off, regardless of other boxes they have checked off.
Step 2: Determine Sales Readiness
Once you arrive at an ideal customer profile, the next step is to analyze what are some of the actions that demonstrate a lead's sales-readiness.
A prospect can be a good fit for your product/service, but if they aren't interested in talking to you, it's better to leave them alone.
On the other hand, there might be some leads, for whom if you wait too long, you might lose them forever.
I know this sounds complicated, but in general, sales readiness can be determined by analyzing the purchasing patterns of your existing successful customers. There are positive and negative signals that you can see by looking at the historical data/signals.
The most successful marketers will try to set-up a system based on constant experimentation and previous statistics.
And a good system is the one that is continuously being optimized based on the outcome of past actions.
To get started, consider different lead behavior like:
- Website Interactions:
Suppose any website visitor has submitted the 'Contact Sales' form, then it's a clear indicator that he/she wants to move into the next level of the funnel.
- Social media engagement:
If someone is just following you on twitter, then he/she might be passively interested in your product. Therefore, they might need more nurturing before moving on further.
- Online or in-person event attendance:
If someone is attending your product webinar, then he/she might be actively investigating your product. Therefore, they need another level of attention.
- Email engagement:
If someone has unsubscribed from your newsletter, then it's a clear indicator that he/she is not interested or maybe it is not the right time for them to make a purchase.
So put some serious thought into what makes a lead sales-ready, and again, this has to be done by combining the efforts of both the marketing and sales teams.
Once this is done, you are now ready to categorize any incoming leads into either sales-ready leads or leads who are not ready yet.
Step 3: Qualify Leads According to Lead Qualification Matrix
Lead qualification matrix is the last step in your mission to create an effective lead qualification system.
It is basically created by combining the results - both from your ideal customer profile as well as your sales readiness metrics.
Once you're ready with results from the previous two steps, you're now ready to populate the lead qualification matrix.
Basically, a lead qualification matrix looks like this:
Image Source - Hubspot
As shown in the image above, any lead that is both good-fit as well as sales-ready, is considered to be a marketing qualified lead or MQL.
However, there is one more category that you need to add to the matrix, and that is the 'Hand Raisers.'
Hand Raisers are those leads that explicitly ask to talk to your salespeople.
Image Source - Hubspot
Again if there are too many hand-raisers to handle, you can categorize them into good-fit or poor-fit.
You can even set-up a few more checkboxes for the poor-fit hand-raisers and further qualify them, before passing them on to the sales.
Once you have all the data, just go ahead and start assigning the leads either to the sales or marketing teams to handle.
Image Source - Hubspot
- Good-fit & Sales-Ready / Hand-Raisers: Is an MQL and should be definitely passed on to sales.
- Good-fit & Sales-Unready: Should be sent back to the marketing team for further nurturing.
- Poor-fit Category:
Image Source - Hubspot
Primarily, two things can happen here:
Firstly, you can end up with a few leads in this category. This means that you can disqualify them for now and try to focus on the good-fit leads.
Secondly, you can end up with way too many leads, which, however, is not a good sign. It simply means that your criteria are too stringent or that you are not attracting good leads for your company.
The lead qualification process helps you to find the best quality leads in a fast and efficient manner.
Therefore, when it comes to process optimization, marketing managers should definitely consider this system to step up their game.