A B2B customer has 7 to 8 contacts until he decides to buy. This rule of thumb is still valid today. Especially in the corporate environment, products are complex and purchasing decisions far-reaching. With lead qualification, companies focus their sales activities on customers who are ready to buy and don’t waste resources. This is what matters if you want to quickly identify qualified leads.
Lead qualification describes the process to identify the maturity of a lead. Is the contact ready to buy and can be approached by the sales team? Does he need more information and should he be put through a lead-nurturing process? Especially in
lead qualification is essential to keep marketing and sales costs low and to focus activities on results.
The marketing team qualifies leads to segment contacts for email marketing campaigns, for example, or to pass leads to sales. Sales employees qualify leads in order to assess the chances of success of a cold call or to fine-tune their conversation in the
In the digital sales funnel, many companies focus primarily on the
B2B Lead Generation
and closing the sale. The step in between, lead qualification, is often neglected. Companies pay for this negligence with unnecessarily high marketing and sales costs.
Lead qualification understands that it is not the number of new leads that is critical to revenue, but the number of high-quality leads. Companies need data from prospective customers who are ready to buy in a timely manner and, if possible, recommend the product to others. Of course, lead generation activities should already aim for high lead quality, but differences in quality are unavoidable. To reduce costs, sales teams should use digital tools to focus their efforts on Sales Qualified Leads.
In sales, a distinction is made between Marketing Qualified Leads and Sales Qualified Leads.
Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL)
Marketing Qualified Leads are in front stages of the Customer Journey. People have shown interest in the company’s offering, but are not yet ready to buy. Typical MQLs are users who have subscribed to a newsletter or downloaded a free info product.
Sales Qualified Leads (SQL)
Sales qualified leads are people who have indicated an initial intention to buy or whose contact with the company has become so intensive that this indicates a high propensity to buy, so that it is worthwhile for the sales team to approach them.
In order to pass a lead to the sales team, they must be ready to buy. This willingness to buy can be checked on the basis of various criteria. Already in marketing, they can provide guidance on where there are still blind spots, what data still needs to be collected on new campaigns to get a better picture of customers.
There are several frameworks to qualify a lead. The best known is the BANT framework. Employees can find out the extent to which a lead meets the criteria based on data or in conversation. In digital tools like Pipedrive, they can document their assessment so that everyone on the team can see the current status of the lead.
Does the prospect have sufficient budget to purchase the product? Does he have budget responsibility and can decide on the purchase, or does he have to consult with his supervisor first? If he does not have a sufficient budget or is not the right contact person, efforts here can be kept low.
Does the user have the authority to make decisions regardless of the budget, or has the user merely been tasked with gathering information? In the B2B environment, several people are often involved in the decision (buying center). It is important that the contact person belongs to the buying center and/or can bring about a decision.
Does the lead really have a need for the specific product? Does it solve his problems or might he need a different product? If the lead does not yet feel a need, the benefits of the solution must first be made clearer to them.
Does the lead have a specific purchase intention or would he first like general information on the topic? If the lead can be categorized as an information collector, he can be warmed up via further information offers and led to the desire to buy.
In addition to the BANT framework, other categorizations are occasionally used to qualify leads. It is always a matter of better assessing the lead’s situation via targeted questions. Often, the order of the acronymized criteria reflects the different weighting for lead qualification.
If prospecting has been successful, the information companies have about a new lead is usually minimal. Sales staff lack many information building blocks to even assess BANT status. These knowledge gaps can be closed with strategic communication. This also continuously increases the level of qualification in the individual aspects.
An example: You have written to the sales manager of Erfolgs AG and he has agreed that you send him a whitepaper about your software. Whether he has the budget to buy this software, you don’t know. Equally uncertain is whether he can make the sole purchasing decision. He seems to have a need in principle, but how pressing it is is unclear. You need to gradually eliminate these question marks – with the help of personalized, relevant messages.
Face-to-face meetings are often more likely to lead to defensiveness with fresh leads. A more subtle approach is more promising. Keep pointing out the relevance of your products to the contact over a longer period of time and remind them with useful information and special offers.
Lead qualification is a time-consuming and costly process. While you can use remote presentations via Microsoft Teams or Zoom to reduce the costs associated with client meetings, the upfront communication burden remains. Companies often have to send 10 to 20 emails per lead until the lead warms up enough to make a sales pitch worthwhile.
Email marketing applications do allow you to send mass messages. But if recipients realize that the messages are generic, this can torpedo success. Personalization is essential at this stage. This does not mean that you send individual messages to each contact.
To reduce the amount of work involved in lead qualification, companies should use digital tools, just as they do in lead generation. Automate as many steps as possible so your salespeople can focus on the leads that are truly ready to buy.
If LinkedIn is your main channel for lead generation, we recommend tools like Octopus or LinkedHelper. Use them to create personalized message sequences that are automated and sent to contacts on a regular basis to keep you in the conversation.
You can send additional manual, customized messages at any time, such as short video assessments demonstrating how your solution could help the lead and their business. With screen recording software like Loom, such videos and also product presentations can be created in a matter of minutes.
If you serve many different channels, cross-platform tools are more effective. Import contacts from LinkedIn and Excel into one application and create visual workflows that let you scale the sending of personalized messages. We recommend Reply, Woodpecker and Overloop to our customers. The applications can be integrated with all common sales tools such as CRM and marketing automation tools, Slack or e.g. Appointment calendar.Outbound activities increase your knowledge. However, a sales pitch only makes sense above a certain BANT level. Whether a lead has reached this level of maturity used to be a matter of gut feeling. The assessment varied from sales employee to sales employee. As a result, opportunities are lost or leads are contacted prematurely and burned. With the Nutbaser tool, you prevent exactly that because you bring objectivity to your lead qualification.
Nutbaser was developed by German sales experts and enables an objective lead evaluation that goes far beyond the BANT standard. A total of eight criteria are identified. This is a huge advantage, especially in B2B sales, where subtleties have a big impact on close rates.
Despite the tool’s high data-based accuracy, usability is intuitive. Users only need a few minutes to nurture their leads. The information is used to calculate an overall score that indicates the current purchase probability (sales forcast).
To drive the score up, salespeople can look at where the bottlenecks are with a few additional clicks at the individual criteria level: Is there not enough budget available? Is there a lack of pressure to act? – All data is visualized in clear diagrams. Nutbaser not only shows where the process is stuck, but also independently suggests next sensible steps and thus coaches employees to improve their completion rate. We are absolutely convinced of the tool and use it ourselves. Let us introduce it to you in a free online demo.
Lead qualification is often neglected by marketing and sales. It is worth integrating this step into your own processes. If marketing focuses on nurturing leads that are still cold and sales focuses its activities on warm leads, companies can massively reduce their CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost).
How salespeople qualify a lead is subjective to some degree, but thanks to specific tools like Nutbaser, a consistent standard of quality in lead qualification can be achieved. For companies looking to organize their sales processes more efficiently, lead qualification is the starting point, with perhaps the most direct impact on the bottom line.
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