What the Experts Know About Qualifying Leads
So your marketing team has followed all the best practices, captured and leveraged intent signal data, broken through the noise with messaging that resonates, and generated a nice long list of leads. Congratulations!
While building that list is a commendable feat, don’t go heading down the street for a celebratory latte just yet. It’s what you do next that will help you identify the leads that are worth following up with — the leads which are the most likely to turn into customers.
Since we don’t have a crystal ball to tell us which leads will sign on the dotted line, and when, the best we can do is make educated guesses, using the tools we have available to us. Fortunately, sales teams have been qualifying leads for as long as anyone can remember, and the ones who do it well have left some clues to their success. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
Firm Up Your Personas
Your buyer personas always play a key role in qualifying leads, so before you start digging into your list, make sure those personas are up to the task.
If you’ve identified some gaps in your personas, here are a few proven practices to help you get them up to speed:
- Look at the purchase history of your current customers and identify repeating patterns.
- Use intent signal monitoring to get inside the minds of your target audience, and understand the problems they’re looking to solve.
- Conduct surveys with current and potential customers to better understand their pain points, as well as their processes for approaching major purchasing decisions.
- Look at industry trends to find out what your target accounts have at the top of their priority lists.
Ask The 5 Key Questions
With your buyer personas in place, begin the qualifying process with five key questions. Your lead’s responses to these inquiries will give you a solid impression as to whether the account is worth pursuing, so take your time, and be sure to get the information you need.
Also, resist the temptation to ask your lead everything at once. If people feel you’re pumping them for information, you’ll scare them off. If you pace yourself and engage your leads in a real conversation, they’ll be much more likely to give the information you need.
1. Is your lead the decision maker?
Remember, leads come in from almost any level within an organization — think about the intern who may be tasked with building a “long list” of vendors for filling a particular need. As you engage each lead in the qualifying process, find out what role (if any) he or she plays in the decision making process. If your lead is not the decision maker, ask him or her to work with you to get the attention of the person with final purchasing authority.
Keep in mind that, especially in larger organizations, major decisions usually involve more than one person, at more than one level. Engage your lead’s help in understanding the decision-making matrix and gaining the attention of key players in the process.
2. What products or services in the same category has the prospect purchased?
Come up with a list of products and services in the same category as your offering, and ask your lead if his or her organization has purchased any of them in the recent past. If so, find out as much as you can about the purchase and the decision-making process behind it. This simple conversation can give you valuable insights about what’s important to the organization and whether it amounts to being a qualified prospect.
3. What is the lead’s comfort level with their current or related products or services?
As you engage your lead, you may discover that the organization has already purchased a product similar to or somehow related to yours. If so, find out more: dig deeper to find out what they like about it and what they would change if they could. This information will be a valuable asset once you progress into the presentation phase, because you can speak directly to their experience and their preferences.
4. What is your lead’s timing?
If you’ve identified an interest in purchasing your product or service — either through conversation or through intent monitoring — see if you can find out when the organization might be looking to make a decision. Timing can depend on many factors, including budget cycles, major events such as mergers or acquisitions, upcoming legislative or regulatory changes, and changes in leadership. Engage your lead to share as much as possible about the organization’s timeline, then use that information to plan your follow-up activity.
If you use an intent signal monitoring platform, be sure to track the organization and “listen” for spikes in online activity related to your product or service. A sudden increase in activity could indicate that a decision is forthcoming, thus giving you the chance to leapfrog your competitors, and re-engage the lead at the perfect time.
5. Which Persona Best Matches Your Lead?
By now you should already have several personas representing the ideal customers for your product or service. Compare the information you have about your lead to the personas you’ve created, and identify which one aligns with him or her. This simple exercise can help you and determine whether the lead is worth passing on to your sales team; it can also “fill in the blanks” and offer clues about the best way to engage the lead in the future.
Once you’ve matched your leads with personas, you can categorize them based on your results, making your list easier to manage.
Be Honest and Relatable
As you engage your leads in the qualification process, remember that you’re conducting a real conversation — with a real human being. Be honest about what your product or service can and cannot do, and if the person asks a question you can’t answer, promise that you’ll get the information for them — then do it. Connect with your leads on a human level, and be relatable. Yes, you are the authority in your field, but it’s still important to meet them where they are. If you demonstrate sympathy and understanding over their problems rather than leaping straight to the solution (i.e., buying your product), you’ll be much more likely to build a relationship.
Lead generation is a powerful practice for filling our funnels — we just need to remember that not all leads are created equal. By planning and implementing a solid lead qualification process, we can ensure that our sales team spends their time and energy on those most likely to become customers, boost our bottom line, and become the advocates we need to be to grow even further.