3 Essential Lead Qualification Tips
The old sales playbook of throwing as much dreck as you can against the wall and hoping that something worthwhile sticks is broken. The tactic of using call volume to hit your goals is a fool’s errand. After all, just getting through to a potential buyer is hard enough, let alone reaching someone in an active buying cycle. As the old adage goes, work smarter, not harder.
The best way for sales teams to work smarter is to spend their limited selling time with qualified leads. This starts with knowing who your best customers are. If you do a great job working with mid-sized companies in the information technology industry, doesn’t it make sense to try and find more opportunities in that niche? You also know who the buyers are at your best customers. They could be CFOs or Sales VPs, you know who pulls the trigger when it comes time to buy and who else influences the buying decision.
The key to prioritizing your sales efforts is lead qualification. This is the process of narrowing down your universe of potential buyers to a smaller group that are likely to buy your solutions and be profitable customers. Here are 3 essential lead qualification tips that will help you work on the right prospects and improve your closing ratios.
1. Start with a good target list
You know what kind of companies you want to work with. A typical ideal customer profile looks at industry groupings, company size, geographical locations and demographic characteristics. For example, your ideal customer could be an information technology company with between $5 and $25 million in revenue in the northeastern United States that has more than ten sales reps.
If you know the kinds of customers that you do best with, develop a target list that only includes companies within your ideal customer profile. Whether your buying a list, developing it yourself or using LinkedIn to come up with a target list, it only makes sense to target your ideal customers. That is the first step of your qualification process.
Be disciplined in your sales process – don’t chase leads that aren’t in your ideal customer profile. While you may develop a profitable relationship working outside your sweet spot, you’re likely to waste more time than the meager returns are worth.
2. Using marketing automation to qualify inbound leads
Your target list will make sure your prospecting outbound leads that match your ideal customer profile, but how can you qualify your inbound leads? For definitional purposes, inbound leads are those that have opted in to your sales process by downloading an eBook, attending a webinar or converted on any of your inbound lead generation offers.
You can’t control who accesses your content, but you can use marketing automation software to qualify those inbound leads. The first cut for inbound lead qualification is to qualify on demographics. In the forms on your lead generation offers, ask questions that define who the lead is. Ask for industry, company size and other criteria that help you evaluate leads against your ideal customer profile. Make it easy for people to give you this information – structure the questions so that they can be answered with a drop-down selection with a few answers.
You can also use marketing automation software to measure the lead’s interaction with your marketing process. If a lead in your ideal customer profile has donwloaded 3 eBooks, opened 5 emails and visited your pricing page 3 times, there’s a good chance that the lead is in the midst of a buying cycle.
Lead scoring in your marketing automation software can assign point values for demographic matches and interaction within your marketing process. A good lead scoring system not only qualifies your prospects, but alerts sales reps when they’ve reached a sales-ready state.
3. Don’t forget the human touch
Once a lead appears to be qualified based on membership to a target list or a match to your ideal customer profile, you need to do some good old-fashioned research to decide whether the lead is qualified or not. LinkedIn is a great source for lead intelligence for B2B sales.
By doing research on social media, you will not only be able to qualify your leads, but you will also get a good idea of what’s important to them and their companies. Don’t forget that there are multiple buying influences in today’s sales environment. Don’t overlook a potential coach or influencer in your zeal to connect with the ultimate decision-maker. You need to cover all of the buying influences to be successful.
Unless you’re a large enterprise company who sells to a wide audience, your best bet for growth is to identify a niche that you excel in and exploit it. Identify your ideal customer profile and work it exclusively. Use the 3 lead qualification tips above to spend your selling time where it will provide the highest return.