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How to Develop a Lead Qualification Machine

Lead qualification helps you find the best quality leads, fast.

But how do you know if you and your team are qualifying leads effectively?

Could your lead qualification, (and whole lead generation) process be even better?

Qualifying leads and finding ideal sales prospects is a tricky business, but having a sales team who is wasting valuable time on unlikely prospects is a recipe for disaster.

If you have the nagging feeling that you might still be able to reel in more deals with some tweaks to your lead qualification, you are probably right.

Most sales and marketing managers hold the topic of lead qualification close to their heart and we want to help you ease that anxiety so you can confidently assess the effectiveness of your team’s efforts.

Table of contents


Why proper lead qualification is critical

If you have ever been around a marketing and sales team that has complete clarity on how their lead qualification is organized and managed, you know the power a killer sales process can have on your commercial outcomes.

With the right balance of sales automation, inbound marketing, and a good dose of old-fashioned hard work from high-quality salespeople, you might even find you can churn out more leads than your sales team can handle.

This is a great problem to have.

The benefits of lead scoring start to multiply at that point, as time wasted following the wrong potential leads directly translates to missed opportunities. A quality sales process management will start to have a significant impact on your bottom line.


The best benefits of a quality lead scoring process

A lead scoring process can help you save time, improve decision-making and ensure your team focuses on ideal customer profiles (ICPs) rather than misaligned personas.

Here’s how a quality lead scoring process can help you avoid red flags and improve lead prioritization:

  • More Effective Use of Time. Lead scoring saves countless low-productivity hours. If you know exactly where leads are in your sales funnel, you can prioritize them quickly. Lead scoring will give your sales team the visibility to chase the right leads, right away. Reps can work on “hot” leads and those that make buying decisions, while marketing automation can do the less urgent task of nurturing the warm and colder leads under the supervision of the marketing team.

  • Better Follow-up. When too many leads are thrown at sales reps, they can become quickly overwhelmed and find it increasingly difficult to qualify leads effectively or determine which leads are qualified to follow up. Reps will end up working on poorly qualified leads while other better opportunities are agonizingly lost to competitors.

  • (Moving towards) Higher Return on Investment. Less time wasted plus better quality leads equals higher return on time invested. It is important to say ‘moving towards ROI’, as the qualification itself won’t bring the return. The efficiency following from lead scoring should increase ROI, but you and your team still need to finish the job and seal those deals with potential customers.


4 simple ways to make sure you’re accurately qualifying leads

As a sales manager, it’s your job to take the pressure off your team as much as possible. Selling is hard and it’s not easy to qualify leads. Rejections from sales leads are a part of life and failure will happen throughout every stage of the sales cycle. The last thing you want to impose on your sales force is a frustrating process that makes it nearly impossible to hit their metrics and goals.

If you can develop a clean, effective lead qualification process, you can ease some of your team’s anxiety. The best way to improve your team’s motivation is to prepare a process that sends an abundance of good quality leads their way.

Here are four simple ways to make that happen.

1. Set the right lead definitions

Your marketing and sales team must work together to establish clear decision criteria for what makes a qualified lead for your company.

Establishing lead qualification frameworks is much easier said than done.

You can’t expect to get the perfect outcome the first time around, but this is all part of optimization. You want to test quickly, learn fast and adapt on the run to keep squeezing more return out of your sales workflow process.

The real benefit comes from developing a model that both marketing and sales can work with to keep each other aligned and accountable for the most important business goals.

If marketing is a part of your lead management process, you need to know exactly what constitutes a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) and exactly when this contact becomes a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL). There can be no confusion about these definitions.

The best lead definitions are based on the demographics, activities and behaviors that make a lead a quality prospective customer. You can compare the characteristics and pain points shared by your best customers and incorporate these buyer profile insights into your lead definitions to keep improving your lead qualification.

Your definitions should translate directly into qualifying questions you are asking on lead forms and answering on your lead profiles in your sales CRM. This will make it easy for your sales team to decide where each lead should be placed in the sales pipeline.

2. Bake lead qualification into your process (and ask the right questions)

Pushing leads through sales stages faster than needed will lose you deals.

Sales teams (and your inbound marketing program) need to consistently uncover the right information to get the right leads to progress to the next stage quickly.

An effective sales process is:

  • Clearly defined

  • Predictable

  • Measurable

Lead scoring should be baked into your process at every level to help you improve your sales performance measurement.

You might have heard about BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeframe), the traditional gold standard of B2B sales qualification.

Many qualification frameworks like BANT exist, all with a slightly different approach. Acronyms like GPCT CHAMP, ANUM or even NUTCASE (indeed!) which stands for Need, Uniqueness, Timing, Cash, Authority, Solutions and Enemies, exist to help you separate qualified from unqualified leads.

Whichever you choose, the starting point is the same: make sure you ask the right lead qualification questions to understand the probability of converting your lead into a customer at any given point in the sales management cycle.

Josh Harcus, Author of Closing Culture and Marketing and Sales expert at Hüify explains the importance of this lesson:

“You need to lock in questions for every stage that has to be answered by the inside sales team. These are the questions that the inside sales team has to answer to be able to move that lead to the next stage. If they can’t answer all the questions, you have no right to move them to the next stage.

The lead qualification questions need to be templated, sales leaders must make sure their team has the process and the tools in place to execute and measure their performance correctly.”

3. Save time by automating some lead qualification steps

Our State of Sales 2020-2021 report found that only 53% of salespeople spend most of their workday selling. While much of their time is instead spent on prospecting and lead qualification, more than half of respondents regularly, usually or always struggle to find enough sales leads.

The best sales process will not add chores to a rep’s workload. Instead, your process should save your sales team time.

Some sales-dedicated CRM systems have functionality built in to improve your lead profile data, by automatically integrating any relevant publicly available information, like a phone number, email or social media handle, into your database.

The new Smart Contact Data feature in Pipedrive is a good example, allowing your sales team to save time spent on lead research.

This feature crawls the web for data about your leads from Google, LinkedIn profiles, web listings, and other public online sources - even better than outsourcing this ‘data enrichment’ process because the data is available to you and your team immediately.

Data enrichment is not just useful for lead scoring. In marketing programs, the right data will help you use segmentation and personalization to your advantage. But in the sales stage, the better your preparation, the more control your salesperson has over the direction of any call or outreach. Clear visibility of the lead’s personal background, their company’s info and a history of all prior communication with your company, will make your salesperson’s job so much easier.

4. Celebrate, and then refine your lead scoring model

Remember to celebrate your successes, and then turn your attention to using the insights from your performance to optimize your lead scoring.

Fine-tuning your process will lead to consistent improvement and increased conversion rates.

Sales feedback is indispensable. The team can monitor the type of leads that convert, giving qualitative feedback to improve lead definitions, lead scoring criteria and the timing required to receive, nurture and convert the lead. What you consider to be ideal clients and buyer personas today, might be different tomorrow.

The market moves fast. Customer preferences change, competitors adapt and your offering is likely to evolve as well. You need to have the capability to adapt quickly, improve your process to cater to new target audiences and decision-makers and incorporate learnings directly from your wins and losses.

Develop a regular monthly meeting to analyze the top 10 wins, losses and recycles from your team and see what influenced their outcomes.

Flag the leads qualified as “hot” that were lost and work out what happened.

  • Were they held up somewhere in the decision process?

  • Was your lead scoring off?

  • Did the lead end up in the wrong segment?

Adjust your lead qualification process as factors change to ensure you avoid negative consequences. Make sure you are continually monitoring and measuring to generate the data and insights you need to optimize your process.


The four-step process to improve your lead qualification

Everything we’ve described in this article boils down to four steps:

  1. Set the right lead definitions and stages

  2. Bake lead qualification into a templated sales process

  3. Save time with lead scoring, lead nurturing and simple automation

  4. Celebrate what works, and then measure and learn from your results

Great lead qualification starts with proper lead definition and a collaborative spirit between marketing and sales.

To streamline your process and generate hot new leads, bake lead scoring into both your marketing and sales processes. Never stop measuring and monitoring your past performance, or you’ll miss a precious opportunity to improve your lead qualification process. Follow these four simple steps and you can confidently assess the quality of your team’s existing process.

Remember, even the perfect lead qualification process won’t guarantee you an increase in ROI. You and your team still have to figure out how to qualify leads, finish the job and close those deals.

Find more of the best leads fast with your lead qualification ebook

Learn how to find more of the right leads faster. This 22-page ebook will help you build a scalable lead qualification process for your team.

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