Lead Qualification for Financial Services: Six Steps to Take

Finance Leads

Scaling your agency isn’t just about selling more or better, it’s about building a repeatable process that helps you drop bad finance leads fast.

The better you know what the ideal customer for your financial product(s) looks like, the easier it becomes to prioritize the right business leads. The result? Higher close rate, more revenue, and a happy sales team.

Lead qualification in financial services sales is the lynchpin to ensuring that you only work with only the best quality leads. In this guide, we’ll show you how to achieve just that.

Why you’ll benefit from a high-powered finance lead qualification process 

Setting the right lead definitions and stages is crucial for a solid sales pipeline and helps you decide your activity at each of the sales pipeline stages.

A strong lead qualification process helps you understand who your reps are selling to and the potential lifetime value of each lead that’s currently in the pipeline.

It won’t take you long to see the huge benefits of this, but here are a few examples: 

  • Better use of time. Ever have days when you know you’ve been on the phone with your leads for hours, but you haven’t managed to move any of them forward in your pipeline? Lead qualification will enable you to only speak to your best leads.
  • Better follow-ups. Speaking of best leads, they’ll never go cold again because you’ll know when to check in with them. You’ll gain tighter control over your sales process!
  • Higher return on investment. Qualification won’t bring you more money; you still have to close those deals yourself. But because you won’t be selling to the wrong people anymore, your time spent selling will inherently have higher value.
  • Lower churn. When you only sell to your best, most qualified leads, it means you’re selling to those that extract the most value from your services. Their customer experience far exceeds the one a bad lead would have, so you’ll keep more customers and increase their average lifetime value.

Step 1: Set the right lead definitions for your financial services

Focusing on the customer is one of the growing trends in financial services. According to Deloitte’s Banking Outlook report, the transition from a product-obsessed mindset to one of genuine customer centricity is essential for long-term sustainable growth in the banking industry.

Customer experience is becoming the primary way financial services brands differentiate themselves from their competitors, as the Digital Trends in Financial Services report by Econsultancy and Adobe found.

However, you cannot serve your customer well if you’ve attracted the wrong kind of customer.

And for that, you need to know what a qualified finance lead looks like for your organization—not just for your sales team, but across all sales and marketing departments. After all, there’s a chance your lead has seen your marketing efforts before even speaking with you. According to one study, 47% of B2B buyers view three to five pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep.

Your lead definition should be based on demographics, behaviors and activities. The best place to start defining a quality lead is by looking at the existing customers of all your financial products and identify patterns. These patterns might be:

  • Company size, industry and budget
  • The channel they first contacted you through
  • Main questions your customers asked in their purchase process

Next, ask yourself the following:

  • Which ones have been with you the longest?
  • Who has spent the most money with you?
  • Who was a breeze to sell to and have productive conversations with?

Use this ideal lead checklist to make your lead definition even better:

    ☐ Lead matches ideal customer persona

    ☐ Business challenge aligns with solution

    ☐ You have access to the decision-maker(s)

To make sure lead definition is treated the same way across sales and marketing teams, these are the questions both teams should agree on:

  • What characterizes a good, most qualified lead?
  • What does an unsuccessful lead often look like?
  • What are the red flags to look for in leads?
  • What sources seem to produce the most qualified leads?
  • Which website forms, lead magnets and pages imply the highest level of interest (and thus require immediate follow-up from sales)?

Step 2: Make lead qualification part of your process 

The sales process can seem overwhelming at times, but it doesn’t need to be. There is a recipe for success.

The most productive sales processes are:

  1. Clearly defined
  2. Predictable
  3. Measurable

If your team’s sales process isn’t well-defined, predictable and measurable, there’s a chance that you don’t have a formal lead qualification baked into it, especially for finance.

As a result, you may end up closing deals with customers that end up churning soon or cost your customer support team a lot of time and resources to support and maintain.

For example, let’s say you have two insurance sales agents. They’ve both closed a sale on the same day three months ago, and you’re now reviewing the experience of these two customers since they’ve bought your insurance packages.

Customer A has made all payments on time so far, and they contacted you a month ago about an add-on to their policy. They’ve also made an effort to let you know how easy it has been to choose their policy.

Customer B has had two late payments. They’ve been difficult to reach, and when you’ve managed to do it, they’ve had several questions about their contract with you, as well as a complaint on pricing.

When you review their journeys from lead to customer, you discover that Customer A was thoroughly qualified in the sales process, while customer B wasn’t.

You need to know exactly what information moves your lead through to the next pipeline stage. Thanks to that, you’ll know exactly where each of your finance leads stand, and you’ll be able to predict how likely they are to buy and measure the impact of each sales activity.

By making lead qualification a strong part of your sales process, you’ll build a loyal customer base that won’t just keep using your services, but also happily refer you to others.

This is what the next step will help you achieve.

Ultimately, developing an effective lead qualification process enables you to better motivate, train and celebrate your team!

Step 3: Ask the right questions

Next, you need to know which questions to ask to get the right information about your lead so you can progress them to the next stage of your pipeline.

The right questions allow you to determine how serious a lead really is about following through and becoming a customer. Avoid asking anything vague and generic in order to personalize the process for your lead.

Focus and specificity are key.

A framework such as BANT (budget, authority, need, and timeline) is a great and simple way to identify the best questions to ask. Your sales conversation will always move in the right direction. Instead of spinning your wheels with the wrong lead, you’ll move on to your best ones quickly.

Establish budget:
 This is essentially the value your lead has placed on your service. Having a ballpark figure on their budget lets you know what you’re working with and what services and packages, if any, you can offer as a solution to their needs.

Example: You’re selling investment management services. Establishing attitude to risk means asking questions about the investment fees your lead is willing to pay based on the funds they hope to invest. On top of that, does their budget cover your advisory and transaction fees? This will tell you if they are able to afford your service, as well as which tier of it.

Authority:
 By establishing who is the lead decision maker, your sales reps are in a great position to speed up the process instead of jumping between conversations with multiple people that don’t have the power to make decisions.

Example: You’re talking to a couple that is looking to start investing together. However, all of your conversations have been with the spouse that isn’t the breadwinner—their partner is the one making financial decisions based on their career progress. By involving them in the conversation sooner, you can shorten the sales process.

Needs:
 Exploring and identifying a prospect’s exact needs helps you further qualify them into a lead, while also allowing your interactions to be more personal. Understanding the person’s needs better can even help establish a rapport which will lead to improved customer experience down the line.

Example: Is your lead investing for the first time and want to feel confident about their financial future? Are they a seasoned investor looking for more support on more complex or risky investments? Understanding this early helps you tailor your further questions, as well as the solutions you offer.

Timing:
 As a fully seasoned sales machine, you and your team will be all too familiar with the importance of timing. In this instance, it’s key to know what timeline or time restrictions your lead is working to.

Example: How soon is your lead looking to start investing in using your services? How does your process fit into their daily life? These questions will help you adjust your conversation, as well as prioritize leads accordingly.

Use BANT to develop questions for your specific financial services and their benefits.

By implementing this straight-forward process you’re able to gain insight into a potential lead’s situation, allowing you to focus on the right finance leads and take action accordingly.

automate financial services

Step 4: Automate some steps of the qualification process

Your sales reps are busy. Scheduling meetings, entering data, looking for new prospects, and staying up-to-date on industry news makes finding time to actually close deals seem almost impossible.

In fact, one study revealed that a sales rep’s day is packed with an average of 94.4 activities including sending emails, making and taking phone calls, leaving voicemails and using social media.

What if you could automate a lot of that workload for them? According to PwC’s Financial Services Technology 2020 report, more than half of the activities people are paid to perform can be automated. Automation won’t remove these people’s jobs, it will enhance them.

Your sales reps can spend more time selling and less time on admin by automating many functions throughout the sales process.

Automation has many benefits. It streamlines the sales process and lessens the possibility of human error, freeing up you and your team’s time to use more effectively.

In order for it to work effectively and seamlessly for your team, it should be integrated into how you currently work and act as an improvisation of the required specific areas of the current workflow. This automated workflow doesn’t (and realistically shouldn’t) involve staff mastering new programs and skill sets to operate.

Here are some ideas to start automating your sales process:

  • Pipedrive’s Smart Contact Data feature pulls lead data from Google, social media, web listings and other public online sources so you can spend less time researching
  • Email automation platform Lemlist can automatically engage your customers and prospects in a personalized way
  • Sales engagement platform Klenty automates emails, lead nurturing for finance and follow-up activities

Read our financial services sales stack for more tools and tech that you can use to automate and streamline your processes.

Step 5: Share and celebrate relevant data

Data trends are big news in the FinServ world. While adapting is key, there are proactive steps you can take to ensure you’re not getting left behind.

According to PwC, financial institutions have more data on their customers than anyone else. The issue? In their survey, only 37% of financial services respondents said that internal data and analytics will drive their next big decision.

Regulations and data protection legislation definitely present a challenge in making the most out of your data, so here are a few ways to do this within your sales team.

Use relevant tools to conduct in-depth visual reports regularly across all of your sales pipeline stages. Metrics you’ll want to pay attention to are overall close rates, sales velocity (check back with our financial services pipeline guide for more details on this), and conversion rates from one stage to another. A visual dashboard (like the one in Pipedrive) will give you an immediate insight into the state of the current sales period.

Apply custom filters to any of your reports. This ensures your team are seeing only the data they need and empowers them to see progress and celebrate success when it happens, so the wins won’t drown in the rest of the data. Filter by geography, industry, or product to share the most relevant data with them!

Use your CRM to customize dashboards for the sales process. This helps your team members to get the most relevant information they need, whenever they need it, during the most crucial points of the sales process. They can use it to qualify leads in real time, with immediate insight into their progress through their sales pipeline.

Cross-sell financial services

Step 6: Identify customers that could become leads for other products

You want more sales and revenue, so you’re supposed to sell to as many new customers as possible, right?

Not quite. Harvard Business Review reported it’s five to 25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. 

Furthermore, a Bain & Company study on online customer loyalty revealed that repeat purchasers spend more, generate larger transactions, refer more people and buy other products from the same company.

This is a huge opportunity for financial services sales. Deloitte recently stated that, thanks to technology-enabled, front-end platforms, banks should be able to cross-sell fee-based services to their customers more efficiently.

With easy access to all customer data in a central place, like a CRM system, you can tap into opportunities to upsell and cross-sell relevant financial services. The full overview of your customer’s journey with you will help you see how their financial needs evolve.

For example, you’ve sold a first-time buyer mortgage to a young professional couple. Over time, they’ve started asking questions about long-term financial planning, so they qualify as finance leads for your advisory and investment management services.

Or you have a customer that took out a small business loan through you. About a year later, their business starts growing fast, and they need further financial support for their new needs, like leasing equipment or acquiring company cars. If you have relevant products they will turn to you.

To make sure you have the information you need to identify sales opportunities for your other products, don’t forget to:

  • Keep track of all conversations (and questions that come up) with your leads, including emails, phone calls and even casual meetings
  • Ask open-ended questions to gather as much information as possible
  • Treat your customer like a lead for the product you want to cross-sell—you need to validate their budget, authority, needs and timeline for it
  • Always deliver value! Instead of pushing a product onto someone who has already trusted you with their money, make sure they feel heard and valued

Conclusion

Ultimately, the way you structure your sales process has a massive effect on your outcomes. Not all leads are equal, but having a fully optimized lead qualification process sets you up to predict if a prospect is worth your rep’s time and effort. It also helps your sales reps tailor their proposals for maximum effectiveness.

When used well, the above tips will enable you to fully optimize your lead qualification techniques and get the best results for you, your team, and your customers to boot!

Check out The Ultimate Sales Process Guide for more on how to create a pipeline that's perfect for the financial services industry.

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