Streamline Your Sales Qualification Process
In B2B marketing, lead generation is only as good as the quality of people being moved through your sales pipeline. Without a process to vet, prepare and understand leads at every engagement point, sales efficiency is impossible. Sales qualification, also known as lead qualification, is how businesses ensure that they are regularly interacting with high-quality leads.
Sales qualification isn’t complicated, but it does require some thoroughness to execute correctly. Done right, it can be the difference between an under and over-performing sales team or marketing department. But what is sales qualification, and how can your business streamline its process to reap its benefits?
What is sales qualification?
Sales qualification is the process of determining where a lead is in their interest and how likely they are to move onto the next stage of the buyer’s journey.
As a rule, a lead is someone who has already completed the first phase of the buyer’s journey: shown interest. When a stranger takes enough interest in your brand, content, or product to volunteer contact information, they become a lead. But not all leads are good leads.
In fact, a significant number of leads in any marketing pool won’t convert into customers. There are too many reasons to list why, but fixating on them can leave sales teams addressing symptoms. Instead, they should focus on finding worthwhile methods to generate higher quality leads.
This is where sales qualification comes in. By implementing a process that helps reps filter out uninterested leads, businesses are better positioned to direct their resources at those most likely to turn into customers. This does several things at once:
- Reduces finances spent marketing to low conversion leads
- Reduces time spent engaging with uninterested leads
- Creates a game plan for engaging leads later in the buyer’s journey (when a sale is most likely)
- Dedicates more resources to supporting engaged and active leads
Why is it important?
Every business wants to ensure that it sees a healthy return on its investments, right? Marketing is an investment. Every cent and second spent finding, attracting and engaging with your ideal audience ultimately works to turn them into a customer.
The best sales qualification processes can even generate recurring customers – leads who make several transactions throughout their buyer lifecycle. Sales qualification works as both a sales strategy and a risk management tool.
The less resource wastage, the lower the risk of operations. On the positive side, the better the process, the fewer resources you have to spend for each successful lead conversion. So what are the stages of sales qualification? Let’s break them down and look at how to optimize each in the pursuit of a streamlined process.
The five stages of sales qualification
The thing about this process is that leads aren’t qualified once. Like the buyer’s journey, sales qualification has several checkpoints that leads can exist in at any given time. Qualification is about assessing how ready someone is to move onto the next link in the chain; otherwise, you end up with a slow-moving pipeline.
Hubspot lists the five stages of sales qualification as: unqualified, marketing, sales, product, conversion. Let’s look into each and see where the streamlining possibilities are.
An unqualified lead has not received enough nurturing to qualify for marketing. This means they have not shown a strong enough interest to comfortably say that they will engage with any future communications you send them.
This type of lead is why you’ll typically see a “receive monthly newsletter/communications” option when signing up for something via email. Opting into receiving communications is often the only thing a lead needs to do to qualify for the next stage.
Marketing qualified lead (MQL)
Naturally, a marketing qualified lead is someone who has indicated that they would like to receive marketing material from your team. This is often the point where sales reps might contact leads for a direct conversation. However, this can also happen later in the process.
Sales teams should avoid making these calls to unqualified leads, even if it is just to check if they would lie to move into the next phase. The easiest way to optimize the early part of the process is to let leads indicate interest in their own time. By doing this, your team saves a lot of time and keeps them from chasing down uninterested leads.
Sales qualified lead (SQL)
This is the point where your sales team absolutely needs to make direct contact with their leads. At this point in the process, leads have received and engaged with your marketing communications. As the halfway point, this is where leads should be transitioned towards the product.
Optimizing this stage usually means sales training. The first two points in the process should give your reps enough information about potential customers to understand their pain points and what kind of solution they’re looking for. Training would involve helping reps understand the product and how to present it to a lead through the pain point.
This is why this stage requires direct contact between reps and leads. It’s an opportunity to answer any questions a lead might have and to tell them enough about the product to interest them in it.
Product qualified lead (PQL)
A product qualified lead may not be ready to buy your product, but they are at the very least interested in trying it. This is why free trials are so important to lead qualification. Suppose someone is interested in using your product (even for free). In that case, they’re more invested than a SQL and only one point away from the best kind of lead: one that’s ready for conversion.
Conversion qualified lead (CQL)
So the lead tried your product for free, and they like it. Now what? You ask them the most important question in the buyer’s journey: are you ready to buy?
CQLs are top prize because they understand your product enough to know if it’ll work for them or not. This means the final decision point comes down to a yes or no answer. A “no” requires a follow-up to understand the failure point, and a “yes” is a sale.
Sales qualification can save resources and increase lead conversion. It just takes a smart setup and an understanding of how leads arrive at the sales point. No marketing or sales team should be without a sales qualification process, not if they want to maximize their output, anyway.
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Streamline Your Sales Qualification Process – Any great marketing or lead nurturing campaign starts with solid research and the freshest highly targeted lists. Impact Enterprise’s highly skilled data specialists can get the data, cost effectively and efficiently. Test pilots are always FREE. Services include, lead validation, data enrichment, contact research, data entry & CRM hygiene; content services include content management, influencer mapping and moderation for social media; AI Data Annotation services include image labelling, language processing and geospatial analysis.
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