What is lead qualification?
The lead qualification process is a way of sorting potential customers according to how likely they are to make a purchase in the future.
Companies create an ideal customer profile (ICP) that represents what their “perfect customer” would look like. Then, all sales leads are compared to that profile in order to qualify them.
Why is lead qualification important?
Without lead qualification, a sales and marketing team wouldn’t be able to differentiate between leads. Since some leads are more likely to make a purchase than others, it makes sense to focus resources on those potential customers who are the most likely to make a purchase.
By helping you focus on only your best leads, lead qualification saves time, energy, and money.
What types of leads are there?
Leads are broken down into stages of increasing quality.
1. Unqualified leads
Unqualified leads are at the lowest level of lead qualification. These leads are either unsuitable (because they are very different from the ICP) or aren’t nurtured enough to be forwarded to the sales team.
2. Marketing qualified leads (MQL)
Marketing qualified leads are those that have been found to be promising by the marketing team.
These potential customers have usually responded to lead magnets like ebooks and/or freemium opportunities. This shows that they have some level of interest in a company’s product or service and indicates that they can be moved down the sales funnel.
3. Sales accepted lead (SAL)
These are leads that have been qualified by the marketing team and handed off to the sales team. At this point, the sales team will evaluate the lead for themselves and decide on how to proceed.
4. Sales qualified lead (SQL)
Sales qualified leads are the ones that have been accepted by the sales team and evaluated as being of the highest quality. This doesn’t mean immediate sales, but indicates that the sales team is prepared to give them individual attention as they try to close the sale.
The lead qualification process
There are many lead qualification strategies, and the exact process you use to qualify leads depends on your business, your resources, and your goals. Here are a few examples of the types of questions that can help you qualify leads.
Are they interested in your product or service?
Sales leads who are very different from your ICP are probably not interested in your product or service. Although there might be rare cases when a potential customer who is very different from your ICP is really interested in making a purchase, these exceptions probably won’t make investing in these leads profitable.
You should focus on nurturing the leads who are most similar to your ICP.
Is it now the right time for them to make a purchase?
Timing is the important factor here, as a strong purchase intent doesn’t necessarily develop immediately. You may want to try to interest these customers in educational content rather than push them to buy now.
If they’re still some time away from wanting to make a purchase, you can still nurture them. After all, they’ll likely be interested in making a purchase in the future.
Do they have the right financial background for purchasing?
Depending on how highly priced your products are, they might only be accessible to individuals with a high income. Similarly, if you’re a B2B company, some companies might not be large enough to benefit from your product or service.
Am I talking to the decision-maker?
If you’re a B2B company, your lead qualification process should consider whether you’re in contact with someone who is in charge of purchasing decisions.