How to Supercharge Your Closing Rate with Solid Lead Qualification

by Workbooks Online

Workbooks explain how lead generation works, and why it’s critical to get it right.

Leads are hard enough to get. When you do finally have people to sell to, you already know not everyone is going to turn into revenue. So why do so many companies treat every lead equally?

Here’s the reality: only 25 per cent of the leads you collect are legitimate and potentially ready to buy. The rest will likely need more nurturing before they’ll even think about whipping out their credit card.

What’s more, about 61 per cent of B2B marketers send every lead to sales regardless of how sales-ready those leads are. The result, of course, is a massive waste of time, money, and energy in chasing leads that your sales team has no chance to close.

Adding lead qualification to your process is a great way to prevent this. Lead qualification is how companies determine whether a prospect fits your ideal customer profile (ICP), has a high chance of becoming a customer, and, most importantly, has a high chance of becoming a successful long-term customer.

Here’s how lead qualification works and why it’s critical to your sales success.

Marketing qualified leads versus sales qualified leads

Leads can enter your sales funnel in various stages. For example, you might get leads from webinar signups or a download of a whitepaper, or you might have leads that fill out a request form for pricing. Both have shown some level of interest in your business, but the two are starkly different types of people.  

The leads that sign up for a webinar (or other types of content) are referred to as marketing qualified leads (MQLs). These are closer to the top of the funnel: they have become aware of a problem, and something you’ve done has attracted their attention.   

To help them learn more about who you are and what you do, you won’t want to send these leads straight to sales. Rather, you want to nurture these leads through marketing to establish a relationship.   

Leads that request pricing are a whole different kettle of fish because they’ve shown some interest in purchasing. Maybe they want to compare your pricing with another company. Or maybe they’re comparing different packages and features against their budget. They’re no longer spinning around the top of your funnel, but they are close to making a decision.  

These are the leads that are ready to speak to a salesperson, aptly called sales qualified leads (SQLs). Your sales team’s goal isn’t to generate interest in a product but rather to help interested parties find the best fit solution.   

When you separate the MQLs and SQLs, your sales team members can focus on the best opportunities to convert prospects into customers and avoid spinning their wheels with leads who aren’t ready for a sales conversation. They can also spend more time with each lead instead of “turning and burning” them by letting follow-ups slip through the cracks. In turn, closing rates increase alongside profitability — a win/win for everyone. 

How to create a lead qualification process

No salesperson wants to waste their time on a lead that will never convert. Yet, that’s the reality for many businesses because they’re not implementing a lead qualification system.  

To start qualifying your B2B leads, consider using one of the following two methods. 

The BANT method

IBM created the BANT method, which stands for BUDGET, AUTHORITY, NEED, and TIMING. These are the four criteria you’ll use to judge each lead to determine their potential to convert.   

  • Does the prospect have the BUDGET to buy? 
  • Does the prospect have the AUTHORITY to make the buying decision? 
  • Does the prospect’s NEED align with what your product or service can offer? 
  • What is your prospect’s TIMING to make a decision?

You can create qualifying questions as part of your sales process to uncover these answers. If the answer is “No” to the BUDGET, AUTHORITY, or NEED questions, the prospect is considered unqualified, and your sales team can avoid wasting their time. If they meet these criteria but feel no urgency to purchase, then it might be wise to send them back to marketing to continue nurturing the relationship.  

Another caveat worth noting is that leads that don’t pass the AUTHORITY portion may still be salvageable, too. In this case, find out who the decision-maker is and see if you can create a new lead to hand over to marketing. You’ve already done a thorough job at getting someone from that company on your side, and they can advocate to the decision-maker while your marketing team continues to nurture the relationship. At some point, the real decision-maker may end up as a sales qualified lead. 

The GPCTBA/C&I method

Formulated by the inbound marketing experts at HubSpot, GPCTBA/C&I stands for GOALS, PLANS, CHALLENGES, TIMELINE, BUDGET, and AUTHORITY / CONSEQUENCES and IMPLICATIONS. This is an expanded version of the BANT method that looks at additional qualifiers:  

  • Does the prospect have measurable GOALS? If so, you may be able to help them quantify their goals with your product or solution. 
  • Can your product help them achieve their PLANS in a quicker, easier, less costly way? ROI should be the focus here. 
  • What CHALLENGES are stopping them from achieving their goals? 
  • Is the prospect facing any deadlines that are influencing their decision-making TIMELINE? Without a discernible timeline, chasing this lead might not be worthwhile. 
  • Do they have the BUDGET to purchase from you? 
  • Do they have decision-making AUTHORITY? 
  • CONSEQUENCES & IMPLICATIONS focus on a sense of urgency — what will happen if you don’t reach your goals or solve your challenges?

When you focus only on qualified leads, you’ll have a much better chance of achieving optimal outcomes. 

How your CRM can help you manage lead qualification

Qualifying leads is all about finding people who are the best fit to buy from you. When you can do this at scale, you can understand what a qualified lead looks like from the start.   

Your CRM can be a valuable tool to help you identify sales-qualified leads. By automatically capturing buy-ready behaviours and finding common denominators among people who fit your ideal customer profile, you’ll be in a better position to capitalise on the best leads and preserve your sales team’s time and energy.