Did you know only 25 percent of leads are legitimate sales qualified, and 79 percent of marketing leads never convert? Moreover, on average, 73 percent of leads are not sales-ready, and 50 percent are qualified but not yet ready to buy.
These stats spotlight the importance of prioritising the right leads and letting go of the irrelevant ones to better manage the time of your sales teams.
In this post, I will define the process of lead qualification, when to use it and then give you a comprehensive guide into the most effective methods for filtering leads.
What is lead qualification?
Lead qualification is a process of determining whether or not a lead is a good fit for your business and hence eligible to proceed to the next stage in the sales cycle.
An integral part of your sales process, lead qualification helps you ensure your sales and marketing resources are allocated properly. It is simply a better way to do sales that allows you to pursue the leads who are most likely to buy from you.
Lead qualification is typically a multistep process. It consists of first collating your lead profiles and then assessing whether the lead is likely to fit an established customer profile for your target audience. If the lead is deemed a fit, he or she becomes a prospect. Done right, lead qualification can save you time, energy, and ultimately your bottom line.
Now that we know what it is, let us talk about why you need to use qualification methods, when to use them in the sales process and which methods are there from which to choose the right one for yourself.
Why should you qualify your leads?
Data shows 61% of B2B marketers send all leads directly to Sales; however, only 27% of those leads will be qualified. This goes on to show how integral lead qualification is to your marketing and sales process.
To help iterate its importance, consider these three reasons why nurturing and qualifying leads is critical to successful sales:
- Saves time by giving you leads that have higher chances of converting
When you pay close attention to your buyer personas and only target the leads that match those profile attributes such as identify factors, such as industry, company size, location, and buyer’s role, you set yourself for higher chances of closing that sale.
- Helps you deliver a more personalised experience to the targeted leads
As you are only targeting a smaller section of leads, you will be able to deliver relevant and personalised engagement for them. You may even be able to do account-based marketing by giving your prospects offers based on their unique needs, that are likely to resonate with them.
- Improves close rates and boosts the company’s bottom line
Outlining your nurturing and qualification processes based around tried-and-true methodologies helps you know exactly where prospects are in the buying process as well as and how much time, effort, and money are required to convert them into customers. A laser-focused lead qualification mechanism thus leads to improved close rates and boosts revenue.
At what stage should you qualify your leads?
Sales qualification is a constant process that will occur at every stage of the sales cycle until the lead reaches the final buying stage. However, the earlier you can qualify leads, the better, and the reason for this is simple—when you are not qualifying leads early, you are wasting time. Your sales reps are talented individuals who specialise in closing deals, and giving them a filtered list of leads to work with early on will translate to more conversions.
Ideally, the lead qualification process should come into play between the periods where leads are considered cold traffic and where they become full-fledged leads. Doing so ensures you have a structured plan for your sales funnel. It also helps you get some insight into the path that your lead is likely to take towards the purchase, thus making it easier to anticipate and solve their challenges.
Before moving to lead qualification, it is important to set criteria for qualifying and disqualifying your leads.
The criteria for qualification starts with defining an ideal customer profile (ICP). An ideal customer profile, commonly referred to as an ideal buyer profile, defines the perfect customer for whom your organisation solves a problem.
Identifying your ICP pool empowers you to prioritise some leads over others, since the ones who fit the ideal customer profile will be more likely to convert, find value in your product or service, and make you the most revenue over time. An ICP is also very useful if your organisation utilises ABM, or account-based marketing, allowing you to focus on selling to targeted accounts that fit your organisation.
What methods of lead qualification can you choose from?
Lead qualification methodology defines what characteristics of a lead matter the most for your business goals and which qualifying questions to ask to filter down your leads.
Read on to find out which of the 12 sales methodologies fits your sales process the best.
BANT Sales Qualification
The BANT sales qualification method, devised by IBM, is designed to help your sales team get valuable information about sales leads. Its goal is to enable salespeople to spend more time selling to leads who are ready to buy.
The definition of BANT and the questions you should be able to answer are as follows:
Budget: Can your lead afford to buy your product or service?
Authority: Who makes the final decision to buy in the organisation?
Need: Does the solution you propose meet the needs of your lead?
Timeline: What is your lead’s timeline for buying?
Strengths: In general, BANT applies to all different kinds of buyer personas so it is an easy framework to implement at almost any sales organisation. This framework is best used in conjunction with thoughtful questions that flow naturally in a two-way conversation.
ANUM Sales Qualification
Developed by Ken Krogue, the ANUM sales framework takes the principles from the previously championed BANT framework and scrambles them to prioritise Authority over Budget (or Money).
ANUM breaks down into the following stages:
Authority: Is the lead a key decision maker?
Need: Does your product or service solve the lead’s needs?
Urgency: Is the lead going to make up their mind soon, or will it be a drawn-out process?
Money: Do they have the money to buy your product or service?
Strengths: ANUM focuses on authority (and thus lead qualification) right off the bat before digging in any further. Rather than nurturing a bad lead, sales reps can quickly determine if they need to shift their efforts toward making contact with the decision-maker in the company or department. By taking this approach, salespeople avoid wasting their own time with unqualified leads, as well as their contact’s time, who in reality might not be able to push the sale forward.
MEDDIC Sales Qualification
The MEDDIC sales qualification process, devised by Jack Napoli and Dick Dunkel, helps you know and qualify your audience. This process emphasises better customer qualification—in other words, determining whether or not you should expend effort getting a customer into your sales funnel.
MEDDIC stands for:
Metrics: What is the measurable impact of the solution?
Economic buyer: Who is the financial decision-maker?
Decision criteria: The criteria used to compare vendor options.
Decision process: How does the company make decisions?
Identify pain: What is the primary pain point? What is the cost of not addressing it?
Champion: Who is a key player who can influence the decision process?
Strengths: The MEDDIC model helps you understand your leads and determine who you should be selling to. When you sell to the right people with the right approach, you will close more deals. It is best used when dealing with complex, enterprise-level B2B selling environments where you need to identify the right people to drive sales.
FAINT Sales Qualification
This sales qualification process devised by Mike Schultz, helps you focus on five main qualifiers to develop your leads into warm leads for your sales team.
FAINT includes these five key points:
Funds: Do they have the money to buy your product?
Authority: Is the lead a key decision maker?
Interest: Is the lead interested in the solution you are offering and/or can you get them interested in it?
Need: Does your product or service solve the underlying need of the lead?
Time: Is the lead willing to settle on a timeline for closing the deal?
Strengths: FAINT offers a more streamlined and all-encompassing sales framework than traditional methods, making sure your time and resources are used effectively and that the leads you follow provide a positive return.
CHAMP Sales Qualification
CHAMP Methodology devised by Insight squared is a buyer-centric lead qualification approach that places challenge (or the need) in the foreground.
CHAMP stands for:
Challenges: What are the challenges your lead faces within their business?
Authority: Is the lead a key decision-maker in their organisation?
Money: Do they have an allocated budget for this project?
Priority: Do they have a time frame for this project?
Strengths: By using the CHAMP framework, your sales reps will be more focused on helping leads understand their challenges. Once a challenge gets identified, an opportunity gets created. Such an approach helps salespeople quickly qualify their leads.
GPCTBA/C&I Sales Qualification
GPCTBA/C&I is a sales qualification process developed by Hubspot to best qualify the all-around situation of whether a lead can benefit from your products and services.
Here is a breakdown of each part of this sales qualifying process.
Goals: What are the quantifiable goals your lead wants or needs to hit?
Plans: What are the current plans that they will implement to achieve these goals?
Challenges: Can you help a lead overcome their company’s challenges; ones they are dealing with as well as ones they (or you) anticipate?
Timeline: When do they need to achieve their goal and when can they implement their plan?
Budget: Do they agree on the potential ROI of the solution and can they invest in your solution?
Authority: Is the lead a decision-maker and/or have they involved a decision-maker in the sales process?
Negative Consequences: What are the negative consequences if your lead does not achieve their goal?
Positive Implications: What are the positive implications if your lead reaches their desired goal? Can your product help the lead mitigate the risk of not achieving his or her goals and further increase the chances of achieving them?
Strengths: The benefit of GPCTBA/C&I is that it allows salespeople to gather a huge amount of information. If a salesperson’s product is complex, highly differentiated, and stands to become an integral part of the lead’s business strategy, having these insights is incredibly valuable.
PMAP Sales Qualification
PMAP is a spin on the older methods such as ANUM and BANT and gives a fresh, buyer-focused perspective on the sales methodology.
Here is what it stands for:
Pain/Need: Is this important enough to do something about it?
Mobiliser: Is the person you are talking to able to evangelise your solution and help you move the needle to win the deal?
Authority: Do you have access to the person, or at least some of the people in the buying committee, those who will ultimately make the decision?
Project: Do they have a project around this initiative that is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound)?
Strengths: The benefit of PMAP is that it follows the same sequence as the Buyer’s Journey through the awareness, consideration, and decision processes. Every sale starts with an awareness of the need and ends with a decision upon consideration of the solution which is exactly the order PMAP follows.
NEAT Sales Qualification
N.E.A.T Selling is a sales framework developed by The Harris Consulting Group & The sales hacker.
Here is a breakdown of the acronym:
Need: What does your lead need?
Economic impact: How are those needs impacting finances?
Access to authority: Who has authority and how can you reach that person?
Timeline: What is the practical timeline of getting the deal?
Strengths: N.E.A.T. Selling focuses on listening and understanding first hence, is considered to be more effective as a lead qualification process. It helps you understand your leads’ needs while eliminating leads who would not be a good fit for your solution.
SNAP Sales Qualification
SNAP, developed by Jill Konrath, aims to address the issue of too much information and too little time for customers to make decisions. In this fast-paced selling environment, salespeople need to get right to the heart of the issues.
To do this, SNAP follows four principles:
Keep it simple: Reduce the complexity and effort in the decision-making process to make it easy for leads to seal the deal.
Be iNvaluable: Highlight and demonstrate the value your solution brings to stand out from the crowd of other options competing for your lead.
Always align: Keep your conversations and solutions aligned with the lead’s goals and needs so you remain relevant.
Raise priorities: Create urgency around your solution and demonstrate why the lead should prioritise this issue.
Strengths: SNAP selling is a comprehensive method that helps reps understand their buyers and the selling environment to directly address their needs and exceed expectations.
Conceptual Sales Qualification
The Miller Heiman devised sales methodology flips the script on conventional sales wisdom. Instead of leading with a pitch, Conceptual Selling encourages salespeople to listen to their leads to understand whether or not there is a mutual fit.
The idea is to get the lead to buy the concept of a solution rather than a specific product or service. In this method, a salesperson learns what the lead’s concept of an ideal solution is and what their decision process looks like, to see if the salesperson would be able to tailor a solution for them.
Strengths: Conceptual Selling values relationships and is a great model for building trust and long-term relationships with clients. Due to its focus on listening to the client and working to gain consensus from multiple decision-makers, the Conceptual Selling model helps reps make customised solutions that work better for the client. It is best used when working with large accounts or complex selling environments with multiple stakeholders.
GAP Sales Qualification
This method is all about filling the space between a buyer’s current state and future state—the gap that is at the heart of every sale and represents the value to the buyer and seller. Gap selling focuses on selling more by helping customers get from where they currently are to where they want to be. It is problem-centric rather than product-centric, meaning you put the buyer’s problems first and then determine whether your product can help.
As Keenan, founder and CEO of A Sales Guy Inc and author says, “People do not buy products, they buy outcomes.”
Strengths: Gap selling helps you develop a deep understanding of customers by putting them, instead of your product, first. By focusing on identifying the root causes of their problems, you build strong relationships by approaching selling the same way they approach buying. It is best used when sales teams can take the time to dig deep into a lead’s situation and have someone willing to answer the many questions it may take to get to the root of that problem.
SPIN Sales Qualification
The SPIN selling method, designed by Neil Rackham, helps sales reps ask the right questions to identify if the lead can be qualified and moved further down the sales funnel.
SPIN is an acronym that outlines the four main types of questions sales reps should ask their leads:
Situation: The first step is asking exploratory questions that help reps understand the client and the current business climate. They establish context for the discussion and guide the sales rep’s approach to the rest of the sale.
Problem: These are the problem questions that help the rep identify opportunities (i.e., problems to solve and gaps to fill). These questions help you discover your lead’s key pain points and allow you to hone in on the value your product or service delivers in those areas.
Implication: Once you know the problem(s), you can clarify what the implications are for not solving it. This helps reps customise their sales pitch and instil urgency in the lead as they realise what will happen if they do not solve the problem (i.e., buy from you).
Need-Payoff: Need-payoff questions help your leads discover and explain your product’s benefits themselves. Questions like “Would X have a significant impact on your [performance/profits/etc.]?” help you determine your buyer’s interest and transition smoothly to the benefits and value of your solution.
Strengths: SPIN selling helps reps develop an authentic relationship with their clients that allows them to not only sell more effectively but also create and add value for the buyer. It is best used when the lead has not identified their problem(s) or may not fully understand its implications.
What is Automated lead qualification?
Lead qualification is an important step towards improved sales and marketing campaigns and higher conversion rates. It can, however, be quite time-consuming and tedious, hence there is a need for a faster and more effective way to qualify your leads and filter out the leads worth chasing– enter automation.
Automated lead qualification significantly eases the load on your sales reps by providing them with pre-qualified leads. In fact, data shows that businesses that use automated systems to qualify their leads experience a 451% increase in sales.
Some options to automate the entire lead qualification process, and making it operate in real-time include:
- Adding more fields in your forms: This helps them get more information about the leads and thus decide whether or not they might be a good fit as a customer.
- Using a B2B data provider: This helps you get more accurate and enriched data on your leads without spending too much time getting it yourself.
- Setting up triggers based on touchpoint behaviour: You may set up automated triggers around the lead behaviour throughout your outreach campaigns that help indicate whether to prioritise or deprioritise a lead.
A sales automation tool like hubsell can help automate your lead qualification process. Our software also provides detailed intent data based on customer behaviour received on each touchpoint such as the number of email opens, response times, click-through rates, etc to help you decide which leads to prioritise.
Lead qualification, the building block of your sales process, is a way to identify which leads are the most qualified and interested in your product or service, so you can spend more time with them. It is so important for converting sales that many sales experts recommend it as the first thing you should be doing before anything else to set up your business for success. This blog listed out a comprehensive guide of 12 tried and tested strategies for you to apply. To make the process more efficient, you can enhance your lead qualification efforts with a sales automation tool like hubsell to get better leads with higher returns.
For those that are unfamiliar with hubsell, we provide an end-to-end B2B leading solution with on-demand generated B2B data and multi-channel personalised outreach automation software to generate sales qualified leads.
Book your discovery call today to see how you can scale your opportunity generation.