If your sales and marketing teams don’t have a thorough lead qualification process, consider this: Most of the leads that come into your sales funnel aren’t qualified. It’s true. In fact, just 25 percent of your leads are legitimate and should advance to sales. Which means that marketing teams are wasting time by gathering unqualified leads and sending them to sales reps, and those reps then waste energy selling to leads who most likely won’t make a purchase. What’s worse is that sales and marketing may not even agree on which leads are the best ones. They operate in silos, which could be preventing your company from generating more revenue. Companies where sales and marketing teams are well aligned see 36 percent higher customer retention and 38 percent higher sales win rates. Qualifying your leads is crucial for both sales and marketing. But fortunately, there are several options on how to do it effectively and even how to qualify your leads in real time using social data enrichment.
One of the main benefits of qualifying leads is aligning sales reps and marketing managers around an ideal customer profile. Both teams understand the specific traits, objectives and goals of customers who gain the most from your solution, and they work together to find and nurture those types of prospects. Lead qualification makes your sales process more efficient because marketing and sales focus on only the best leads, and website tracking and predictive lead scoring solutions from SalesWings can do a large portion of qualifying leads for you.
The process of effective lead qualification establishes collaboration between two of your most important teams and increases the overall efficiency and effectiveness of your sales process. Keep reading to find out how.
The Basics and Benefits of Qualifying Leads
In modern organizations, alignment between sales and marketing teams is crucial. But that collaboration often breaks down when it comes to lead quality: Sales reps complain that marketing doesn’t send over good leads, and marketing managers complain that sales isn’t following up with the leads that are sent. Those problems are a result of not having a proper lead qualification process. In contrast, the benefits of qualifying leads are that marketing sends the best leads over to the sales team, and sales reps know to prioritize follow ups with those leads. This creates alignment around qualified leads and prospects, increasing collaboration and efficiency between the two teams. All of that sounds great, but how do you actually start implementing a process for qualifying leads within your own organization?
Lead qualification helps you better understand whether or not someone makes a good prospect for the sales team. Many teams qualify leads with the BANT method, where you qualify a buyer by determining that they have:
Budget for your solution
Authority to make a purchase
Need for the product or service you offer
Timeline of making a purchase decision in the near future
Asking about a lead’s budget and timeline can be pretty straightforward. Trying to understand if they have the authority or a real need for your solution, however, can be somewhat more complicated. For authority, you can ask who needs to sign off on making a purchase or which team members are involved in the final decision. To determine actual need, you really should understand the lead’s pain points and whether your company can actually solve those, as well as gauge the lead’s overall interest in your product or service. Sales reps waste a lot of time selling to leads who have a need and want to adopt a solution, but don’t have the budget or can’t make a buying decision on their own. The BANT method can help solve this.
For teams with a complex sales process, consider adopting an even more comprehensive approach like MEDDIC. This lead qualification tool helps you uncover a prospect’s:
Metrics for success with your solution
The Economic buyer, who has discretionary approval to make a purchase at the company
The Decision criteria, such as technical and commercial requirements
The Decision process that needs to occur before a contract is signed
The Identified pain experienced by the lead that your product or service can solve
The internal Champion within the organization who can sell on your behalf
This is a lot of information to gather about a lead. Many teams start by using BANT to create sales qualified leads (SQLs), then reps can hop on a discovery call with prospects and use MEDDIC to turn those SQLs into qualified sales opportunities. But don’t rush to get all of these questions answered within the first five minutes of the phone call; start by listening to the prospect. You might get some of your questions answered by simply letting the prospect freely talk! Then proceed to bring up the rest of your questions naturally within the conversation.
Effective Lead Qualification Requires Accurate Data
Manually collecting data on your leads can take time ― a lot of time ― and most buyers aren’t really concerned with talking about lead qualification topics. Less than a quarter of buyers are interested in discussing budget, authority and timeline on the first sales call. You don’t want to ruin a potential relationship by forcing leads through your qualification process. So how can you appropriately qualify new leads without forcing them to talk about topics they aren’t even interested in? Technology, of course! Fasten your seat belts, because you’re about to learn how to qualify your leads with real time social data enrichment.
Website activity can tell you a lot about someone’s interest in your solution. Website tracking and predictive lead scoring, for example, allows you to track a lead’s activity on your website after they fill out a form or click on the link in a marketing email you send. Every time the lead visits or interacts with your website, it alerts the contact owner. A lead who has been visiting your website often likely has more excitement and urgency around making a purchase. Or they might just be visiting often to reach the latests post on your thought leadership blog, which is why website tracking also allows you to see which pages, specifically, leads are looking at. A lead who visits your blog and resource center might just be looking for more information, but one who spends a lot of time on the pricing or demo pages are probably closer to sales-ready. Website tracking allows you to prioritize the latter.
Another important piece of qualifying leads is collecting enriched social data: who the lead is, where he/she works, the lead’s title or role, the size of the company, and the industry that company is in. Here FullContact comes in extremely handy. The solution’s People API allows you to turn an email address, Twitter handle or even a phone number into a comprehensive social profile that includes more than 100 data points. This can enable you to see who your lead is, where she works and what her role is at that organization. But having a director-level title can mean one thing at a small company and an entirely different thing at a large one. That’s where lead enrichment services come to the rescue; all you need is a domain, name or location to create a company overview complete with social profiles, basic statistics and more. Based on the company size and lead’s role, you can estimate whether they have the authority and/or budget to make a purchase.
How to Use Lead Qualification Throughout the Sales Funnel
So how does this all look in actual practice? I’m glad you asked. Social data insights, along with website tracking and lead scoring, all assist in qualifying leads from marketing to sales. But it starts with understanding what makes a qualified lead. Come up with a buyer persona that determines the role, industry, company size and other key demographic data about the type of person you want sales and marketing to target. Then share the information with both teams and make sure they fully comprehend it. You could even quiz them on it and offer small incentives for people who get all the answers right.
Once you’ve defined what makes a good lead, your marketing team can start filtering out everyone else. Lead information that’s been enriched with social data can almost immediately identify whether a lead qualifies as a potential buyer. First look at the company: Is this the right company size? Is it in an industry you can serve? Then look at the individual: Does he or she have the right level of authority within the company? Or, could this person at least act as your internal champion? Create a checklist of items that must be met in order for a lead to be prioritized by the marketing team. Then, marketing managers can segment lead lists based on that level of prioritization (as well as other demographic info like industry, region, role, etc.) for more targeted email campaigns. Each email sent within a campaign should have a call-to-action that brings leads back to your website, whether that’s via a landing page, blog post, demo video or even product announcement.
Inbound sales reps can use social data insights to do their own lead qualification. Once a new lead comes in, intelligent contact data enrichment can help them see the lead’s role, company, company size and industry and quickly decide if the lead is worth pursuing. If so, the rep can easily follow up with a quick phone call to confirm what they gathered from the social data insights, as well as better understand a lead’s interest and budget. Leads who aren’t quite ready to make a purchase can be put into a lead nurturing funnel, complete with more information about the problem your company solves, how your product or solution solves it, and customer success stories that demonstrate the solution’s effectiveness. Most, if not all, of those emails should drive traffic back to your website, as well.
When a lead interacts with your website, a predictive lead scoring solution (like the one that SalesWings has) takes notice. Leads who visit more sales-ready pages of your website (as denoted above) are marked at “hot” and prioritized for follow up by the sales team. This prioritization is vital. Research shows that companies who try to reach leads within an hour are nearly seven times more likely to have meaningful conversations with decision makers than those who waited even sixty minutes. When leads haven’t visited your website in a long time, they are marked as “cold.” But website tracking still keeps an eye on cold leads and alerts the right person if there’s any website activity. Lead nurturing is what can help you bring the “cold” leads back to life (Autopilot can greatly assist you with that). The rule is simple, once a lead becomes cold, you should not simply give up on them. What you should do instead is nurture them until they warm up again and become ready to be contacted by your sales team.
Don’t forget to keep an eye on your lead qualification processes. One of the tools you use might break, or you might simply discover a way to optimize some of the steps. Ask your sales and marketing teams for feedback on what they think is or isn’t working, then take their ideas into account when updating the way your team qualifies leads. Getting feedback is essential for buy-in. You won’t see any of the positive impacts on your sales process if no one on the team is actually qualifying leads. If you’re introducing lead qualification practices to your sales and marketing teams for the first time, make sure to educate them around why this process is beneficial and how it will help them reach their sales and lead goals. Then ask for their thoughts on what tools or technology would help with this, and even offer to let some of them test out your first iteration of lead qualification. Again, ask for their feedback. Feeling like they took part in the process of creating the lead qualification procedure will make them more invested in its success.
To sum up, the benefits of qualifying leads are myriad: Sales and marketing teams align their efforts around one key buyer persona, marketing sends better leads to sales, and sales knows which leads to prioritize ― which, altogether, leads to your overall sales process becoming smarter and more effective. Lead qualification is an essential process for both sales and marketing teams, and smart technology that utilizes social insights, website tracking and predictive scoring make the process of qualifying leads even easier than before.