The world of sales today is even more competitive than it was just a few years ago. Accelerated by the sea of companies and consumers who need these companies, the job descriptions of sales reps are getting tougher and tougher, with 61% believing it was easier five years ago.
The sales executives of yesteryears had much to struggle with but were free to concentrate on their customers completely, as opposed to today’s sales professionals who are able to spend a measly 34% of their time actually selling. It is no surprise then that the adoption of an organized process to save time has become the new norm. Surprisingly, only 18% of sales professionals prioritize improving the efficiency of their sales funnel.
And this is where they fall.
With most reps being concerned about closing the sale, the awareness and discovery stage of the sales process is often undermined. And when the first stages suffer, the proceeding ones are bound to bear the consequences.
This is why the growth of any company relies so much on identifying and qualifying sales leads.
What Exactly Is a Sales Lead?
The first step in a buyer’s journey is identifying their challenge. Once the individual or business becomes aware of their need, and if it matches what your product or service offers, they become your leads — someone who may eventually become a client.
There are several ways to generate leads. While a lot of these are must-do(s) for good leads, the others depend entirely on your business model and marketing strategy.
So, What Is Sales Lead Qualification?
Evaluating the leads to ascertain whether they are worth spending your time, efforts, and resources on or not are called sales lead qualification. In simple terms, qualifying sales leads turns them into prospects.
While the sales funnel may give you the impression that qualifying leads is a one-time affair and is only carried out in the discovery stage, in reality, it is a task required at each step.
A bad habit appearing in many companies is to put reps in the unenviable position of trying to hit their quota by feverishly working through as many opportunities as they can.
But this isn’t necessarily the ideal solution. Data-driven sales teams are finding that it is usually more effective to spend more time on qualification earlier in a sales cycle in an effort to only deliver the best opportunities to highly paid account executives.
- Fergal Glynn, Marketing VP, 6 River Systems on Saleshacker
Sales-qualified leads can be useful to your organization in the following ways:
- They take less time, money, and resources to nurture.
- They reduce the sales team’s workload.
- They are quicker than non-qualified leads in terms of reaching the decision stage.
- They can help you understand your buyer persona better, which will eventually lead to a more refined sales funnel.
While sales lead qualification has obvious perks, qualifying potential customers properly is a huge challenge for sales reps, with 22% considering it as the most difficult part of the sales process, and failing to do so can lead to disadvantageous outcomes. Statistics prove this statement — with 67% of lost sales being a direct result of sales executives improperly qualifying leads before taking them through the full sales process.
To help you through it, we have created a step-wise process of lead qualification that is sure to make things easier for your sales team.
How Can You Qualify Leads?
Lead generation follows four steps that are essential to qualify sales leads perfectly.
1. Lead Enrichment
When you verify existing data and include additional information on your leads to enhance your data, it is called lead enrichment. Good data management practices that ensure your data is high-quality, accurate, and up-to-date can increase your lead generation efficiency by a staggering 152%. Usually, such work required painstaking manual effort previously, but, fortunately, there are now smart AI powered data platforms available that enrich your data without biases in a jiffy, increasing your sales team’s efficiency tenfold.
2. Lead Profiling
Summarizing and segmenting your leads based on the data they contain is referred to as lead profiling. Filtering your list based on your leads’ characteristics and behavior can allow your sales team to create customized and more efficient strategies. Lead profiling can highlight leads that are closer to your ideal buyer persona and gauge their level of interest in your product or service through their activities and interactions.
3. Lead Scoring
Based on your profiling, you can assign a score to each category to help your sales team prioritize. For instance, if the lead is from a location you don’t sell to, you can deduct its points. If the lead has offered their contact information even if it was optional on your form, has visited the demo request page, or has a high click-through rate on the subscription emails sent, you can add points to it.
Adopting a lead-scoring algorithm system can increase your conversion rate by 20%. Your sales team can create a different strategy based on each group or cluster of groups with varying degrees of importance attached to each to streamline your sales pitch and ensure that the leads can be led to conversion smoothly.
4. Lead Routing
The distribution of incoming leads amongst the sales executives is known as lead routing or lead assignment. Mostly automated, this assignment can be based on any criteria you choose, with it even being as simple as all of Monday’s leads assigned to one agent, all of Tuesday’s to another, and so on. However, more sophisticated systems route their leads more strategically, depending on the leads’ location, potential deal size, and other factors.
Quick lead routing leads to faster follow-ups and, eventually, better relations with your potential stakeholders.
What Is the Ideal Framework for You to Qualify Your Sales Leads?
While you now know which steps to take to qualify your sales leads, you still have a big hurdle ahead of you. Did you know that at least 50% of your prospects are not a good fit for what you sell? These lead qualification measures need to be teamed with a reliable and relevant approach for them to benefit your company in any way.
It is essential to agree on a qualification methodology that your sales team can follow to ensure no miscommunication and maximum efficiency. Lucky for you, you have several options at your disposal, and we’ve listed out the most useful ones to help you choose the best fit.
Conceived by IBM, this well-known methodology stands for Budget, Authority, Needs, and Timeline. The prospects receive validation if they meet three out of these four items. To get the answer to your own question about an item, you need to ask your prospect certain things too. Here are a few examples.
Budget – Does the prospect’s budget match your product or service?
- Do you have a budget?
- If so, what is it?
- Which other avenues are you investing in?
- What is likely to affect the budget?
- How flexible is your budget?
Authority – Does your prospect have the decision-making authority to sign-off on a purchase?
- Who else is involved in the purchasing process?
- Do you anticipate any disagreements on the purchase from someone from your team?
- If so, what is their position in the organization?
- Do you know the reason for their denial to buy?
- How can we change their mind?
Needs – Can the prospect’s business need to be satisfied with what you offer
- What challenges is your organization facing?
- When and how did you identify them?
- What is their source, in your opinion?
- What do you think is the right solution for them?
- Why have they not been addressed yet?
Timeframe – When is the prospect planning to implement a solution?
- Is there a deadline by when a solution should be in place?
- What are the consequences for the organization if it is not in place by then?
- How heavily will the timeline factor into the purchase decision?
- How long is the organization expected to take to make the purchase decision?
- Would it be suitable for you if the solution is implemented by so and so date?
For a detailed overview of the BANT analysis with relevant examples, click here.
While BANT has been popularised because of its effectiveness, times have changed since its inception. Prospects in the era before the internet used to rely entirely on the salesmen to identify their challenges and offer a solution. However, now, most have already done their research and know exactly what they want. This is where GPCT comes in. An approach based on Goals, Plans, Challenges, and Timeline.
Here is the information you need to find out and the kind of questions you need to ask when using the GPCT framework.
Goals — What are the prospect’s goals?
- What are your organization’s goals?
- What are your personal goals?
- Do these goals intersect, and how?
- Are you expecting any hurdles in reaching your goal?
- What is the priority of these goals in the organization?
Plans - What are your current plans?
- How do you plan to achieve your goals?
- Are your team members in agreement with this plan?
- Do you have the right resources to implement this plan?
- Do you have a plan B?
- What kind of product/service does your current plan require?
Challenges — What challenges is the prospect struggling with?
- What are the challenges your organization is facing?
- How do you propose to resolve them?
- Do you think you can deal with these challenges internally?
- According to you, what kind of product/service can help you overcome these challenges?
- What are the measures you have taken to address them yet?
Timeframe — When does the prospect need the solution implemented by?
- Do you have a deadline you’re working with?
- What are the consequences if you’re unable to implement the solution by that particular time?
- By when will you start on implementing your plan?
- Will you be able to revise the timeline if it is found to be unrealistic after going through all the options?
- Can you reach your goals and manage your challenges internally with this timeline?
We suggest you go through other relevant blogs focused on GPCT to know more about it.
A major concern with traditional sales methodologies is that their focus prioritizes the seller’s needs over the prospect’s. This can put off the prospect, and you could end up losing your sale altogether. CHAMP helps to establish the importance of the prospect’s requirements over the seller’s by identifying their concerns before going over how the seller’s product or service can fit into the picture. CHAMP stands for Challenges, Authority, Money, and Priority.
The following questions will help you understand what you require from the prospect and how to extract that information.
Challenges — What are the prospect’s concerns?
- What do you see as a challenge for the organization?
- Is it a personal challenge as well?
- How do you plan to tackle this challenge?
- Do you believe your team has the resources to do so?
- What steps have you already taken towards implementing a solution to overcome this challenge?
Authority — How much influence does the prospect have on the decision?
- How many people are involved in the decision-making process, and what are their roles?
- What concerns do you think they may have?
- How do you think these concerns can be managed?
- Would you prefer it if this discussion is carried out with someone else from your team?
- How are purchasing decisions usually made with products/services like ours?
Money — How much money can the prospect invest in the solution?
- How much do you expect you will need to invest in this solution?
- Have you set a budget to implement the solution?
- If so, how flexible is it?
- Who has the authority to approve or make changes to it?
- When does your finance team plan to allocate the budget for this solution?
Priority — What is the priority of the implementation of the solution in the prospect’s organization?
- When are you planning to begin the implementation?
- By when do you wish to close it by?
- Are there similar projects being carried out in the same time frame?
- If so, is their priority higher or lower than this one?
- Are you looking at other similar products or services to tackle this challenge?
One of the more modern methods, the MEDDIC framework places a great emphasis on figuring out how qualified the prospect is and whether it is worth the efforts to get into the sales funnel or not. Companies with longer sales cycles usually go for this methodology. MEDDIC is an acronym for Metrics, Economic Buyer, Decision criteria, Decision process, Identify pain, and Champion.
To ensure that you have a clear understanding of each item, the questions you ask your prospect should provide the answer to your main one. We’ve listed a few examples below to help you through it.
Metrics — What are the prospect’s quantifiable expected gains?
- What are your quantifiable goals?
- How will you measure the success of the project?
- How will the organization measure the success of the project?
- Do you have a minimum and maximum target in mind?
- Do you have metric milestones to adhere to?
Economic buyer — Who has the power to make decisions and authorize spending?
- Is anyone else involved in the decision-making process?
- Do we have their assent on the goal?
- Are they the direct sponsor of the project?
- What are their expectations from the project?
- Is it possible to directly involve them in our discussions?
Decision criteria — What are the company’s standards for making decisions?
- How have projects like ours been handled in the past?
- Are there alternatives if certain criteria cannot be met?
- What are the technical criteria that your organization follows to come to a decision?
- How will the ROI for this project be calculated?
- If there are no clear criteria, can we put it on paper?
Decision process — What does the process of making the final decision look like?
- What are the steps to reach the decision?
- Are there mandatory record-keeping requirements that we should get out of the way to save time?
- What are the technical requirements to complete the process?
- Who has the final say about the purchase decision?
- Are there any formal boards?
Identify pain — What is the prospect’s pain point?
- What do you think is the source of the concern?
- What are the consequences for the organization if this isn’t managed properly?
- Do you have a solution in mind?
- Which kind of product or service do you think can effectively handle it?
- How will it affect the organization if an incorrect decision is taken in choosing the solution to implement?
Champion — Who is rooting for you in the prospect’s team?
- Who is the individual most likely to be affected by the company’s pain?
- Who stands to benefit the most from a solution that involves our product/service?
- Does this person have any influence on the decision-making process?
Do they lean towards our solution?
- If not, what can we do to influence them?
More time-effective than the other methods, ANUM prioritizes the authority figure to make the sale. However, beware of cutting out people who will actually lead you to the decision-maker. That is the most common mistake sales reps make while using ANUM, often forgetting that they will rarely be directly introduced to the authority figure at first go. ANUM stands for Authority, Need, Urgency, and Money.
Here are the questions you need to ask yourself and your prospect when using the ANUM analysis.
Authority — Who has the authority?
- Do you have the authority to make the purchase decision?
- If not, can you connect me to the person who does?
- What is their title and role in the organization?
- How many people are involved in the decision?
- What is their primary concern?
Need — What do your prospect and their organization need?
- What is the pain point?
- What challenges has it brought forward?
- How do you plan to tackle these challenges?
- What will not doing anything about them lead to?
- Do you believe you can take care of this need internally?
Urgency — How soon does the prospect need this solution implemented?
- By when do you wish to complete the implementation of this solution?
- What is the priority of the pain point in the organization?
- How fast can the decision process go?
- What are the consequences if the solution isn’t implemented by so and so time?
- How important is it to finish it before so and so time?
Money — How much is the prospect willing to invest?
- Do you have a budget in mind?
- Has it already been allocated?
- If not, by when are you expecting it to?
- How often do you plan to renew your order?
- What is your average time to reorder?
While your ideal prospect would already have a budget set aside to purchase your product, most of the time, sales reps aren’t lucky enough to get one like that. This is where a framework like FAINT comes into play. Instead of focusing on the budget, FAINT puts the emphasis on who can and cannot afford the purchase for qualification. It stands for Funds, Authority, Interest, Need, and Timing.
The questions you ask your prospect depend on the answer you want for yourself for each item of the methodology. We’ve curated a list of the ideal questions you need to keep for yourself and the examples on what to ask your prospects to find out what you require.
Funds — How much can your prospect’s organization afford to spend?
- Does your organization have the financial capacity to make this purchase?
- Can funds be allocated to this unplanned purchase?
- How difficult is it to do so?
- How much do you think you can invest in?
- If an offer is worth the effort, can the decision-makers be convinced to reallocate budgets to this?
Authority — Who has the authority to spend?
- Who is the decision-maker?
- How many are there?
- Who manages the authorization of expenditure?
- Is it possible to get in touch with them?
- How likely are they to allocate funds to this project?
Interest — How can you generate interest in the prospect?
- Did you know that our product/service can help your organization in so and so way?
- Did you know that it stands out from the competition in so and so way?
- Did you know that not implementing a solution such as this could negatively affect your organization in so and so way?
- Did you know that so and so organizations have already benefited from this solution?
- Did you know that the product/service also has these extra features?
Need — How can our product fulfill your needs?
- What are your organization’s goals?
- How do you plan to achieve them with the current resources?
- Do you not feel that your organization needs such and such things to achieve these goals?
- Did you know that there are other organizations that have gone through the same issues you have?
- Did you know that the product/service that we offer has already helped them with their concerns?
Are You Ready to Qualify Your Sales Leads?
Sales aren’t easy. But it doesn’t have to be this tough either. Do your team and yourself a favor by implementing these techniques and properly qualifying your leads. Instead of manually managing these processes, take the help of a reputed data & sales engagement platform like Clodura to save your time and effort. Doing so will not only increase the efficiency of your sales funnel but will also provide you with more valuable prospects to deal with and improve the overall job satisfaction of your team. Happy Sales!