Ask any seasoned marketing professional why they qualify a lead, and they’ll tell you it’s to figure out whether or not a prospect is the right fit for their product.
At its core, lead qualification is an ongoing process that helps you identify who your customers are, who they aren’t and where they’re at in their buyer’s journey.
One pain point many businesses struggle with is having the right number of leads, but those leads are:
a.) Not consistently converting.
b.) Stuck in the sales cycle.
c.) Lost or drop off at late stages in the buyer’s journey.
Knowing how and when to qualify your leads has an impact on all of your marketing and sales efforts. It should function as a well-oiled machine, making sure your sales cycle is healthy and fully operational. When it comes to improving the lead qualification process, it starts with aligning your sales and marketing teams. Here are 3 ways to do just that:
Pre-qualify and disqualify
Simply put, don’t send unqualified leads to your sales team.
Although the pressure on marketing may be to deliver a certain number of SQL’s over to sales every month, handing over those leads prematurely before truly knowing whether they’re qualified or not can cause frustrations and take time away from pursuing those leads who ARE sales-ready.
What marketing can do is pre-qualify inbound leads and do a little preliminary research into whether they meet your general buyer’s profile before getting the sales team involved. A simple LinkedIn or Google search is a good way to get started. Find those job titles and any other relevant information that enriches the data you already have on those prospects so that when the time is right, sales has a pretty good idea on who they’re talking to.
When it’s time for marketing to pass those leads on to your sales team, make clear definitions and set criteria on what it means to be an MQL, SQL and Opportunity in your pipeline and establish a lead handover process.
Defining sales definitions and establishing a straightforward handover process early-on will inform your teams on who takes ownership of which leads and at what point in time to avoid confusion later on.
Don’t be afraid to disqualify. A lower volume of leads moving through the pipeline could be a good sign, meaning that you’re qualifying and disqualifying the right prospects, keeping both marketing and sales in sync, where marketing can filter out the unqualified, and sales can spend more time nurturing your SQL’s.
Reach out to sales team for feedback
Getting feedback from sales is absolutely necessary when it comes to improving how you’re qualifying leads and defining them throughout the sales cycle. It’s an opportunity to gather insight on who the sales team is engaging with most, which leads aren’t progressing in their buyer’s journey, and most importantly WHY.
These insights are golden and are a good indicator for when it’s time to do some data analysis on your leads.
Take a sample from your CRM of the leads that are stuck in the MQL phase and haven’t been touched in weeks, months or even years and conduct a lead assessment analysis. Ask questions like:
Does this person fit my buyer personas?
Are they the right person/decision maker to talk to?
What are their current needs? Am I the right solution?
What types of communication and interactions have they had with my business?
Search for trends and commonalities in your analysis. Examining those leads who are “stuck” in the pipeline will help you gather valuable insight on how to move those leads further along in their buyer’s journey, whether it’s through more targeted marketing or switching up the sales communication. A little research should help you determine how marketing and sales can redefine or re-qualify those MQL’s, SQL’s and Opportunities moving forward.
The sales cycle is a multi-level journey than it is a one-way street. SQL’s regress to MQL’s, lost opportunities return six months later with revived interest, and so on. Re-nurturing old leads is a good way to keep the pipeline hot with qualified leads, enabling you to:
- Maintain relevancy and demonstrate your legitimacy time and time again.
- Keep the conversations going and continue feeding the mutual investment between both parties. Leads ARE an investment and so are your marketing and sales efforts. The last thing you want to do is abandon a qualified lead just because it’s not the right time.
- Actively maintain healthy lists. Gain insight on whether your re-nurturing efforts are effective or not and know when to let go.
Re-nurture inactive leads every three to six months. Using full-stack marketing automation SaaS is a good way to seamlessly integrate re-nuture campaigns into your lead management efforts, preventing SQL’s and Opportunities from falling through the cracks.
Increase lead response time and use marketing automation if possible
The shelf life of an online lead is short-lived. Immediacy is essentially the requirement to engaging with your contacts when they need you most.
Leads are more likely to engage with you within the first five minutes from when they reach out to than they are just 20 minutes later. According to a lead management study by MIT professor James Oldroyd, the chance of qualifying a lead after that first hour drops down to a mere 10 percent, and if you miss that window, there’s a good chance your lead will turn cold. When your team follows up on leads is just as (if not more) important than any marketing campaign or sales pitch.
Take a look at your average lead response time. How close is it to that five-minute mark? One way to start thinking about how to improve lead response times is through marketing automation.
Automate sales touchpoints using workflow triggers. For example, a lead fills out a form on your webpage requesting a demo, which triggers an automated email sent to their inbox thanking them for signing up and asking when they want to schedule their demo. Setting up automated workflows based on triggers and CTA’s on your website will help sales and marketing increase lead response time and start qualifying more leads early-on at a much faster pace.
When it comes down to it, sales and marketing need to work together to improve the lead qualification process. In modern day business where hybrid roles and collaboration are thriving, aligning sales and marketing efforts to work towards a shared goal will not only streamline your lead management processes, but ensure you’re getting the most return on investment. Establishing an effective lead qualification process now by aligning sales and marketing means that your business is scalable for achieving growth, increasing the number of qualified leads in your pipeline and winning more opportunities long-term.
Learn more about how to achieve true sales and marketing alignment to optimize your lead qualification processes and win more opportunities: