By Dianne Carillo
New leads keep businesses alive. The more people there are inquiring about your product or service, the more potential customers you have. In the long run, these leads form the foundation of a successful sales program for your business.
However, not every lead is the same—and your company benefits from distinguishing between the qualities of various leads. Knowing the difference between leads that aren’t worth looking into, because they don’t fit your target audience and leads that must be pursued, because you know they fit your audience profile is crucial to a successful lead generation program. Leads that you know have a high chance of conversion are called qualified leads.
Qualified leads are more than just a name and contact details. These are leads that meet your company’s definition of a target customer. Qualified leads can be further divided into Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) and Sales Qualified Leads (SQL).
MQL or SQL?
Let’s say that you run a printing company and, one day, your marketing team receives a call from someone asking for package rates on bulk printing. He’s still canvassing for a printing company who can handle the job, he says. Clearly, this is a great opportunity to turn a lead into a sale, right? Not so fast!
Your team must be able to establish first whether the caller is classified as MQL or SQL to increase the chances of conversion.
MQLs are customers that may not be ready to make the purchase yet but are otherwise willing to learn more about the business. Meanwhile, SQLs are customers determined to make a purchase and are ready to talk about the terms of the transaction with the sales team.
Why does this matter? Going back to the example, the caller is still keeping his options open and is not likely to make the purchase immediately. Turning him over to the sales department right away may just intimidate him and put the sale at risk.
As an MQL, it’s the marketing team’s job to nurture the lead first and eventually guide them towards making a purchase later on.
Likewise, don’t turn SQLs over to the marketing team. SQLs probably have requirements and specific questions in mind already that they want to discuss with a sales officer. They’re already at the closing stage of the sales funnel so they may find marketing messages to be a waste of time.
Determining whether a lead is an MQL or SQL also saves time and effort on your part. Your sales team may give a fantastic pitch to a lead, but if that lead isn’t qualified to make the purchase for whatever reason, then the chance of making the sale is still low.
Qualifying the Lead
A tried and true way to qualify a lead is to employ the BANT method, which consists of:
- Budget: Does the lead have the financial resources available for the product or service? Is there an existing budget allotted for the purchase?
- Authority: Does the lead have the power to make the purchase? Is the lead a decision maker when it comes to the terms of the purchase?
- Need: Does the lead present a need that your business can fulfill?
- Timescale: Does the lead have a timeframe in which they will make a purchase decision?
By passing every lead through the BANT checklist, you can filter out which leads are worth pursuing and which are low-priority.
Whether you work in marketing or sales, it’s best to establish guidelines on how to qualify your leads. The BANT method is a good start, but the characteristics of what can be considered a great lead still depend on your business’ own definitions.
Schedule a meeting between the marketing and sales team, then decide: What qualifies as a good lead? What leads can be considered deal-breakers? Both teams should keep the guidelines updated to reflect any changes in operations.
Marketing and sales departments should have well-defined requirements and an appropriate service level agreement to ensure that lead generation strategies are properly aligned.
Boosting your Conversion Rates
Overall, leads bring the most value to a business when they are willing to make a purchase. Qualifying sales leads can increase your conversion rates and improve the effectiveness of generating more leads, which in turn, will bring in more profit for your business.
Dianne Carillo is the marketing communications and brand manager at PureB2B, a lead generation company that help accelerate on business solutions and technology sales processes. Dianne loves reading, and especially knowledgeable in both sales and lead generation techniques and trends. Follow Dianne at @ThinkPureB2B.