Lead qualification process - How to qualify your leads?

Avatar Tine Naegels

By Tine Naegels

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In the dynamic business world, understanding your prospects has never been more crucial. In a crowd of potential customers, how do you pinpoint who's genuinely interested in your product and who's just window-shopping? Enter the art of lead qualification.

What is lead qualification?

Imagine a world where your sales team chats up hundreds of leads every day, only to end with a handful of closed deals. Doesn't sound efficient, does it?

Lead qualification is the intelligent way to sift through potential buyers, ensuring you're not just working hard but smart. This way you’re ensuring that most of your sales activities lead to real revenue.

Why should you qualify your leads?

  1. Boost marketing efforts: It optimizes marketing results and improves close ratios.

  2. Save time: Say goodbye to chasing leads that don't fit and focus on ones more likely to buy.

  3. Personalize selling: With a clear focus on specific buyers, you can tailor your selling experience.

  4. Understand buyer challenges better: It’s easier to offer a solution when you truly know the problem.

  5. Grow your business Ensure your efforts positively influence your revenue.

Think about it: you sell a product to an unqualified lead, and if it's not the right fit? They might just request a refund or, worse, rant about it online and everyone they know.

The lead qualification process

This process kickstarts with a mixed pool of leads that come from various sources—marketing campaigns, product teams, acquisitions, or even simple website form submissions.

Depending on the nature of your business and the size of your team, these leads can be categorized as:

  • Unqualified Leads: The raw prospects who've just entered the funnel and are yet to be nurtured.

  • Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs): These are the leads who've shown interest in your marketing efforts—be it through email campaigns, content interactions, etc.

  • Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs): Leads who've passed the initial phase and are now ready for a direct sales pitch.

  • Product Qualified Leads (PQLs): Leads who've shown significant interest in your product, either through a freemium model, free trials, or product interactions.

These leads are then fed into a Lead Qualification Framework. Within this framework, a series of qualifying questions are posed to determine whether the leads are a good fit for the product or not. Based on the responses and other determining factors, leads are divided into two primary categories: qualified and disqualified leads.

  • Qualified Leads: These are the leads that align well with the product or service, showcasing significant potential for conversion. Once identified, they're fed directly into the sales process, ready for more personalized interactions and, ultimately, conversion.

  • Disqualified Leads: Not every lead will immediately be a perfect fit. Those that don't initially qualify are placed into a nurturing sequence. Here, they are given more time, information, and encouragement, hoping they'll warm up to the product and eventually become customers later down the line

Lead qualification ensures every dollar you spend on marketing and advertising is a smart investment, with better returns & profit margins

From MQL to SQL/PQL: Using lead scoring & grading

Lead scoring and grading helps determine if a MQL will be a successful customer, BEFORE entering the sales pipeline. This will make your whole sale process much more effective and efficient.

  1. Lead Scoring: It's a pivotal method that ranks prospects based on their potential conversion probability. Through a points system, leads earn scores based on their interactions—email clicks, content downloads, video views, etc. This helps sales and marketing teams prioritize and strategize their outreach.

  2. Lead Grading: This evaluates leads based on the data they provide. It's about understanding the quality of a lead—are they a CEO or an intern? Do they fit the buyer persona? Such insights can immensely improve conversion rates.

Combining lead scoring and grading can give a holistic picture of a lead's potential. For instance, a CEO with a top-grade and a high score would be an ideal lead. But a college intern, even with a high score, might not be the best fit.

Learn more about scoring & grading in this blog post

From SQL to successful customer with Lead Qualification Frameworks

Sales qualification frameworks are the tools that ensure every step you take is in the right direction. They help identify the characteristics that most closed-won deals share.

Each of these frameworks offers a unique approach to lead qualification, and businesses often choose or customize them based on their specific needs and the nature of their sales processes.

  • BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline): Developed by IBM, BANT is one of the oldest and most widely known frameworks. It focuses on the following criteria:

    • Budget: Does the prospect have the necessary budget for your product or service?

    • Authority: Is the person you're speaking with authorized to make a buying decision?

    • Need: Does the prospect have a genuine need or challenge that your product can address?

    • Timeline: When does the prospect intend to make a purchase?

  • CHAMP (Challenges, Authority, Money, Prioritization): CHAMP is a more modern approach, taking into account the changing dynamics of sales processes:

    • Challenges: What are the main challenges the prospect faces that your product can solve?

    • Heartbeat (or Honey): What drives the prospect's decision? This can also be interpreted as their core need or motivation.

    • Authority: Like BANT, it's important to identify if the person you're interacting with can make a buying decision.

    • Money: Does the prospect have the budget to purchase your product or service?

    • Prioritization: How does your solution rank in the prospect's list of priorities?

  • GPCTBA/C&I (Goals, Plans, Challenges, etc.): Hubspot’s offering aligns your company with the prospect’s goals. This methodology is more inbound-focused and is a bit more detailed:

    • Goals: What are the prospect's primary objectives?

    • Plans: Do they have any plans in place to achieve these goals?

    • Challenges: What obstacles are they facing in achieving their goals?

    • Timeline: When are they planning to implement a solution to overcome these challenges?

    • Budget: Have they set aside funds for this, or is there a process to allocate it?

    • Authority: Who is responsible for the buying decision?

    • Consequences: What would be the repercussions if they don't meet their goals or overcome the challenges?

    • Implication: How will the challenges affect their business if not addressed?

  • MEDDIC (Metrics, Economic Buyer, etc.): An advanced framework mainly used for complex, enterprise-level sales:

    • Metrics: Quantifiable benefits the prospect can achieve from your solution, often used to showcase ROI.

    • Economic Buyer: The person in the organization who has the final say in the purchasing decision.

    • Decision Criteria: What criteria or features does the solution need to meet for the prospect?

    • Decision Process: How does the organization make a purchase decision? What steps do they follow?

    • Identify Pain: Recognizing the prospect's main pain points or challenges.

    • Champion: Identifying an advocate or supporter within the prospect's organization who sees the value in your solution and can influence the decision in your favor.

Is your lead generation & qualification process in place?

In summary: How to implement the Lead Qualifying Process?

1. Define your lead scoring and grading criteria

To ensure that your sales team focuses on the most promising leads, it's crucial to have a system that ranks and categorizes leads based on predefined criteria.

  • Scoring: Assign numerical values to specific actions or behaviours a lead exhibits. For example, a lead that downloads an e-book might receive 10 points, while one who requests a product demo might get 50 points. This allows you to quantify a lead's engagement level.

  • Grading: Evaluate how well a lead fits your ideal customer profile (ICP). This could be based on factors like company size, industry, or job title. A lead that aligns well with your ICP might be labeled as an 'A' grade, whereas a less ideal fit might be 'C' or 'D'.

2. Choose an appropriate lead qualification framework

Based on the nature of your business, sales cycle length, and target audience, select a framework that aligns with your sales process.

  • Consider your sales cycle: If you have a short sales cycle, a simple framework like BANT might be sufficient. However, for complex sales, MEDDIC could offer more insights.

  • Customize as needed: While existing frameworks provide a solid foundation, they might not cover all unique aspects of your business. Adjust them to suit your specific needs.

3. Equip yourself with the right tech tools like CRMs

Investing in the right technology can streamline and automate parts of the qualification process.

  • CRM Systems: Tools like HubSpot or Salesforce can help you manage and track interactions with leads. They can automatically score and grade leads based on predefined criteria, ensuring consistent evaluations.

  • Integration: Ensure that your tech tools integrate seamlessly. For instance, integrating your CRM with your marketing automation platform can provide a holistic view of a lead's journey.

4. Engage, evaluate, and continually optimize your process

Lead qualification is not a set-it-and-forget-it task. Regularly revisit and refine your approach.

  • Feedback loop: Establish a feedback mechanism between your sales and marketing teams. Sales can offer insights on lead quality, which marketing can use to refine targeting and messaging.

  • Regular audits: Periodically review the criteria for lead scoring and grading to ensure they remain relevant. Market dynamics, product changes, or shifts in company strategy can necessitate adjustments.

  • Training: Ensure that your sales team is well-versed in the chosen qualification framework and understands the criteria for lead scoring and grading. Regular training sessions can keep everyone aligned.

Lead qualification: the key to understanding your customers and grow your business

Lead qualification isn’t just a strategy—it's an evolution in understanding your customers. It paints a clearer picture of who they are, their needs, and how best to serve them. It ensures every dollar you spend on marketing and advertising is a wise investment, promising better returns and elevated profit margins.

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