It’s 2021 and running a business has never been so exciting.
But things are only exciting when we’re winning – or at least are in with a chance of winning.
In other words, running a business sucks when we’re wasting valuable time on leads that were never going to convert.
Lead qualification is what can give you a shot at glory, saving you time, money and resources. Because here’s the thing: The market is more competitive than ever and buyers have more power. When weighing up which business to choose, they can take their pick from you and several other companies.
They like to take their time, too, with only 50% of leads ready to buy .
As such, whilst leads aren’t paying customers just yet, lead nurturing is key. It’s crucial that you invest your time and energy into trying to convert leads that have real potential, and less time and energy in leads that aren’t really interested in what you’ve got to sell.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at how to qualify leads to maximize conversions.
But first …
What is lead generation?
Before we jump into explaining how to qualify your leads, it’s important to touch upon the process of lead generation itself.
Essentially, lead generation is the initiation of consumer interest in your products or services. It’s all about making an interaction with your (hopefully) customer-to-be and it’s completed when you’ve managed to collect their contact data, such as an email address.
Lead qualification, meanwhile, is a key part of the lead generation puzzle. Whilst lead generation lets you amass a sizable pool of leads, it’s lead qualification that helps you separate the wheat from the chaff so that you focus only on leads that matter .
Lead vs Prospect
Sometimes, it’s easy to get confused between a lead and a prospect. I’ve seen this happen a lot because there’s just a subtle, yet significant difference between a “lead” and a “prospect”.
A lead is an individual who has reached out to your company for more information. For example, perhaps they’ve completed an opt-in form and handed over some personal details in exchange for info.
A prospect, on the other hand, is an individual who has actively engaged in dialogue with a member of your sales team. They are higher up the chain than leads and are ready to be further ‘warmed up’ and eventually converted.
Here’s How to Qualify Your Leads
First, let’s clarify why qualifying leads is so important.
Lead qualification is a process that helps you determine whether a lead is actually a prospect. It’s a crucial part of your sales process for severals reasons:
- It saves you time and money that might be otherwise wasted on trying to convert a lead that’s not ready to buy.
- It allows you to segment your audience and prepare personalised offers
Lead Qualification Standards
There are 3 different lead qualification standards:
- Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) – These are leads that your marketing team think are qualified. Perhaps the lead has completed an opt-in form, downloaded an eBook or signed up to a webinar
- Sales Accepted Lead (SAL) – Once a lead has been qualified by the marketing team, the sales team takes a closer look at them. If after further evaluation they’ve decided that this is a qualified lead, they will send them onto the next stage. If they think work is still to be done, they might send them back to the marketing team for further nurturing
- Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) – Both your marketing and sales teams have reached an agreement that the lead is ready to buy. This assessment might not be entirely accurate, which is why you need to take a closer look at the lead to determine whether this is true or not. For example, do they have the necessary budget to buy what you’re offering right now?
Design your ideal buyer persona
In order to start qualifying your leads to see whether there is a chance of them becoming a customer, you need a set of criteria that will help you design your ideal buyer persona. Essentially, a buyer persona is a detailed description of the customer you’re targeting.
Depending on the niche where your business operates, you might want to create several personas to target a few audiences that might be potentially interested in your products or services. Here’s a simple recipe for designing your buyer profile(s):
1. Gather personal data
To get a general idea of who your customers are, you should gather basic data, such as:
2. Segment your audience
Once you’ve gathered a large set of data about your audience, it’s time to segment it. Essentially, segmenting is all about putting your customers into groups, so that you can target them with different, more personalised offers later.
There are several aspects you should think of, such as: the size of each segment as well as their value. You can choose to divide your customers into groups depending on their buying behaviour, their age, geolocation or whichever criteria makes most sense for your marketing purposes.
Bonus tip: If you add chatbots to your website, you can automatically segment your website visitors by assigning them with the right tag
3. Create a buyer persona template
After organizing your data and dividing your customers into groups, you can begin designing their actual profile. It’s a good idea to create visual templates. We did that at Tidio with our buyer persona (George) and it helps everyone in the company to remember who we are marketing to:
You can use tools such as Canva, Visme , or Venngage to create visually appealing buyer persona templates that you can easily access and customize again and again, for each target market your business focuses on. This can help your marketing team get a full grasp of who your customer is in a more comprehensive way than with a basic list or report.
Get in touch with a decision maker
Okay, now that you got your customer profile ready, it’s time to think about reaching out to the person responsible for decision-making. Depending on whether your business targets B2B or B2C clients, you need to a) find where they are hanging out b) see if they fit your criteria c) contact them to make them a part of your lead funnel.
To find the contact data of the decision makers, you can use tools such as Hunter or VoilaNorbert to get their email addresses. You might also try to reach out to them via LinkedIn.
Use lead qualifying tools
If you are thinking by now that lead qualification is hard work, well… it’s not child’s play, but it isn’t rocket science either.
Luckily for you, there is an abundance of tools you can use to make the process easier.
You can also use tools like Tidio to get this information via chatbots.
Other tools to consider:
Hello Bar , meanwhile, is a lead capture and CTA tool that adds a sticky banner to your web page. This type of CTA can help you drive more leads for upcoming events such as webinars.
We also really like HubSpot because it’s so feature-rich. You can use it to add live chat, popup forms and opt-in forms to your website for more leads . Plus, the tool integrates with your existing CRM.
Lead Qualification Frameworks
Without a lead qualification framework and sales cycle, your sales team will find it hard to decide how qualified a lead is. Are they worth spending your valuable resources on? Who knows!
A framework gives your process more structure so that your team can qualify (or disqualify) leads with more ease. Thus, you can then focus your time, cash and resources on leads that have real potential.
The three most popular lead qualification frameworks are:
BANT stands for Budget, Authority, Need, Time Frame.
In other words, does a lead have the cash? Are they the decision maker? Do they need your product/service right now? Will they make their decision?
If a lead ticks all 4 of these boxes, they could be a lead worth chasing.
BANT is actually the oldest of all the lead qualification frameworks. In fact, it predates the internet .
CHAMP, on the other hand, is one of the more modern-day frameworks that focuses less on the seller and more on the buyer’s needs to find a solution to their problem. It stands for Change, Authority, Money, Prioritisation and it focuses on the buyer’s need to make a change in their situation – as well as how quickly they can make it.
FAINT stands for Funds, Authority, Interest, Need, Timing. It shifts the focus from budget to funds and goes off the understanding that the lead has the necessary funds to purchase your offering.
Interest is factored in heavily, as is the motivation to make a purchase.
Best practices for lead nurturing
Imagine you’re getting lots of inbound traffic . Feels pretty awesome, huh?
But traffic is just a vanity metric if it doesn’t turn into real sales.
For many businesses, this vanity metric is the bane of their existence, with stats showing that 96% of site visitors arrive on your website with no intention of buying. It’s only via lead nurturing that you can slowly persuade these same site visitors that you’ve got the solution to their problems.
Lead nurturing, then, is the process of taking your traffic and – over time – gently pushing it down the sales funnel . It takes your leads on a journey from the top of the funnel to the bottom, so that they transform from people who are a bit interested in what you’ve got, to people who are ready to buy what you’ve got.
Creating highly relevant content is crucial if you want your audience to read and engage with it. People who shared with you their biggest treasure – their contact data should be treated royally. That also means delivering them the kind of content which will be useful and solving directly their issues or answering their concerns.
For example, at Tidio we target eCommerce business owners. However, writing generic content about setting up an online store or running ad campaigns will not really be valuable, since there are many platforms where you can open your e-shop.
Since we’ve segmented our target audience with a chatbot and gathered data that tells us which lead/user uses which platform, we can create more relevant content for them. For example we can write a detailed guide on “How to successfully sell on Shopify” and send it to Shopify store owners. Then we can write a similar piece of content for BigCommerce or WooCommerce.
In this way, the content we are creating becomes personalised and can be distributed to the right customer segments.
For email marketing to work effectively, you need to first use it to understand where your lead is in the funnel. For example, if a lead is nowhere near ready to buy but you send them a ‘closing’ email, you will lose them.
So once you understand where your leads are in the funnel, you can then segment your audience and send personalised emails. Segmentation achieves two things. First, it ensures you’re not sending every single lead the same email. Second, it means you don’t need to waste time writing out thousands of individual emails.
That’s why lead qualification plays such a big role in helping businesses to do email marketing effectively. When you correctly qualify the leads before you start nurturing them, you automatically increase your chances of being more effective in your email marketing endeavours.
Segment your leads into different categories – such as age, preferences, past buying behaviour, location etc – and then personalise your emails so that they hit home with each segmented group.
Personalisation doesn’t take too much effort.
For example, here are 3 different emails sent to Landingi users right after they signed up:
As you can see, each one of them is personalised depending on the customer’s profile. All you have to do is to create your buyer persona templates and define their needs and wants in order to deliver them the content they will respond to best. There is an abundance of email marketing tools such as Moosend , Mailchimp or GetResponse to get you started on your email marketing journey.
Another great way to nurture your leads is to create an engaging community. Doing that allows you to connect with your leads and provide them with even more value. You might create a “help” group such as Tidio Community where your leads (or users) are asking questions and your support is addressing their concerns:
You can also use a different approach and take an example from Ahrefs and their insider group where apart from helping out, Ahrefs team is also sharing educational content and news related to new features.
Before a lead turns into a prospect who makes a purchase, they go on a bit of a journey that begins at the top of the funnel and ends at the bottom. During that journey, they use different channels and numerous touch points. Reaching them where they are, then, is key.
For example, you could collect lead data via an opt-in form on your website, before retargeting them with an ad on Facebook.
Chatbots are useful here, too. Chatbots are able to intelligently converse with people who land on your website. They can profile them by asking them a series of questions. Moreover, because chatbots are backed by Artificial Intelligence, they can progress each individual conversation so that the lead is nudged closer to the point where they’re handing over their data to you.
Once you’ve got their key data (such as an email address), you can then launch an email marketing campaign that further warms them up.
Both lead generation and lead qualification aren’t that hard. Qualifying leads is, however, a continuous process that takes time and effort until you get to the point where you’re laser focused on ‘hot leads’ that matter.
Once you’ve put in place a strategy and system that works, it’s just a case of monitoring your efforts so that you stay on the right track. Make sure to use tools to help you along the way too.