Finding the Needle in the Haystack: How to Qualify Leads

— May 14, 2017

Although companies sometimes advertise to millions of people, not all of them will be interested in purchasing the business’s products. Which people or businesses are likely to buy? The lead qualification process seeks to answer this question. A sales department that can focus on only people who are ready to buy, or qualified, is more likely to be successful at acquiring customers. Therefore, many marketing teams invest in qualifying leads as ‘likely’ or ‘able’ to buy before handing them off to the sales department. Companies that have separate marketing and sales departments often call this process sales lead qualification because a lead, once qualified, will be contacted by a salesperson.

Unfortunately, lead qualification is not simple because a qualified lead is a different person for every company. Coca-Cola may consider a thirsty person with $ 10 a qualified lead. However, this person would not qualify as a lead for The Boeing Company. Airlines ready to purchase new airplanes would be a more qualified lead for Boeing. Most companies have to develop a unique set of requirements to qualify their leads. The lead qualification criteria vary from business to business, but there are some common methods to qualify leads. Surf Air, an airline subscription company, is used as an example to illustrate the different methods.

Two Methods to Qualify Leads: BANT and Lead Scoring

One of the most common ways to qualify a lead is to determine if the lead’s budget, authority, needs and time frame align with a company’s product. This is often abbreviated as BANT lead qualification. For the example of Surf Air, marketers would need to confirm:

  • Budget: the lead can pay the $ 1950 per month subscription fee
  • Authority: the lead can sign up if he or she decides Surf Air is a good fit
  • Need: the lead travels via airplane for trips less than 1200 miles
  • Time frame: the lead travels more than once per month

A CEO of a California-based company that has multiple locations could be a qualified lead. He or she would likely have the budget to pay the fee, the authority to decide, the need to visit all the locations and a regular travel schedule. The CEO’s assistant would not be as well qualified. Although he or she could determine the budget, need, and timeframe, the assistant would likely not be able to make the final decision. The CEO would be better qualified than the assistant using the BANT lead qualification process.

Another way to determine a lead’s interest in a business’s product is to score the lead’s action. Each action that a lead takes moves the lead forward or backward in the qualification process. However, each action is not worth the same amount. A lead visiting the Surf Air website would not necessary be scored highly. The score may be increased if he or she browsed more pages. Surf Air also offers buddy flights, which would be scored more highly than a person visiting the website. More actions lead to higher scores. More complex actions also typically lead to higher scores. Signing up for a newsletter would give a lead a higher score than simply visiting the website. Once a lead’s actions score a certain number (depending on the company), the lead can be considered qualified. At Surf Air, browsing the website may not be enough to be considered qualified. However, for a less expensive product that is often purchased online, browsing the website may qualify a lead. It’s different for every company.

Lead Qualifying Assistance

The process of tracking a lead’s fit with BANT or a lead’s score can be complicated. Many marketers have thousands of leads at a single time. To track each lead’s progress through qualification, many businesses rely on lead qualification services. One of the most popular is Salesforce, which is a customer relationship management service. A business using the platform would find leads using and then qualify the leads through Pardot. Both of these programs are part of Salesforce. The programs allow businesses to set up different flows for different customers, based on their progress through lead qualification. At SurfAir, leads that browse the website have a different contact experience (through automated emails) than leads who complete a buddy flight. Salesforce and other lead qualification services work to track a company’s lead qualification criteria.

Leads qualification processes differ from company to company depending on the type of product that a company is selling. Inbound lead qualification, which qualifies leads that have responded to marketing and media, is a complex process. Some companies, like Surf Air, may need to focus on the more wealthy customers that can afford an expensive product. Other companies, like Boeing, may not even qualify inbound leads that are individuals because few individuals can afford a Boeing aircraft! While every company’s lead qualification criteria may be different, various services are available to help businesses track leads and whether they are qualified. Once leads are qualified, the sales team has an easier job selling the product because they already know the lead has the right budget, authority, need and timeframe for the product.

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Author: Dan Sincavage

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