Customer Success

The Keys to Good Lead Qualification

January 17, 2011

Every step in the sales process requires ultimate attention to detail and efficient time management. But one of the toughest and most under-managed aspects of that process is the lead qualification stage.

There are a lot of reasons for that. Not only is the qualification stage particularly hard to define for most expansion stage companies, but it can sometimes be exceptionally difficult to execute.

There is no universal definition, so companies must identify what a “Qualified Lead” means to them. It may depend on the marketing and sales dynamics of the company, or the management team’s expectations. But before you can truly improve lead qualification, you must define it.

So what is YOUR definition of a Qualified Lead?

If your sales and marketing management teams agree on the expectations of a qualified lead, all parties involved will understand the proper protocol before the selling process begins. More importantly, everyone will agree on who is responsible for acting on that lead.

Rick Cook at Inside CRM addresses five truths about lead qualification, highlighting ways that companies can more objectively determine how they define a qualified lead. Among his truths, Cook acknowledges the sometimes gaping divide between sales’ and marketing’s method for lead qualification.

For sales, that can mean a lead that’s ready to buy today. For marketing, it may mean a lead that checked a box on a website. That’s a significant gap and a company’s lead qualification process will lack efficiency until the two organizations agree on criteria that lies somewhere in the middle. If you need help doing that, lead generation author and expert Brian Carroll provides five ways for companies to come up with that universal lead definition.

So then how do you define a Qualified Opportunity?

The goal of every qualified lead is to turn in to a qualified opportunity. But, again, companies often have various criteria that will ultimately help define when a lead has moved to that stage of the sales process. Simply put, a qualified opportunity should be defined by a particular set of criteria, which must be agreed upon by the company’s sales and marketing organizations.

Once that’s set, the company’s sales teams can use them to filter leads produced by the marketing department’s demand generation efforts. The result is a lead with demonstrated interest and/or attributes aligned to your ideal customer profile. A qualified lead should position sales for the best chance of success.

The goal is to establish minimum defining criteria. That way, when a qualified lead finds its way in to the hands of the sales teams, it’s easy to clearly establish the absolute baseline requirements it must have in order for the sales team to pursue it.

Here are some possible minimum defining criteria:

Contact Info

Your sales team can’t waste its time chasing prospects. Contact info criteria should include:

  • Full name and company name
  • Title and department
  • E-mail and phone number

Demonstrated Interest or Call to Action

This criterion could include a lead’s request for a demo, the fact that they downloaded information from the company’s website (whitepaper, product specs, etc.), information filled out on a web form, or a direct communication with someone in the organization indicating that they want to move to the next step.

Additional Qualifying Criteria

Some qualifying criteria can be more numbers driven. If a lead possesses a particular number of users, employees, or publications, it may meet your minimum qualifying criteria. It could also include the lead’s Alexa ranking or Google Page Rank.

Auto Qualifying Criteria

Some criteria should automatically qualify a lead. That could include:

  • A lead score based on a series of behavioral inputs.
  • Specific data points that fit your ideal customer profile. This could include any of the above criteria that align specifically with your company or product. For example, if you sell SQL Server tools, the title of “SQL Server Administrator” would be an auto qualifier.

Auto Disqualifying Criteria

On the flip side, there are some criteria that should immediately disqualify a lead. They could include:

  • The lead is a direct competitor.
  • They have a fake name (i.e. Donald Duck), fake phone number (i.e. 555-555-5555), or fake e-mail (i.e. [email protected]).

Whatever criteria you use to help better define your leads, it’s important that both sales and marketing agree to them. That will help improve communication between the two departments and the efficiency of your lead qualification process will benefit greatly from it.

SVP Marketing & Sales

<strong>Brian Zimmerman</strong> was a Partner at OpenView from 2006 until 2014. While at OpenView he worked with our portfolio executive teams to deliver the highest impact value-add consulting services, primarily focused on go-to-market strategies. Brian is currently the Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at <a href="">5Nine Software</a>.