How to Develop a Lead Qualification Machine

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 process be even better?

Qualifying leads 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

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 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

  • 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, 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 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.

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. Rejections are a part of life. Failure will happen. The last thing you want to impose on your sales team is a frustrating process.

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

Here are 4 simple ways to make that happen.

1. Set the right lead definitions

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

This 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 our 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 shared by your best customers and incorporate this insight into your lead definitions to keep improving your lead qualification.

Your definitions should translate directly into lead qualification 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 your 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

So lead scoring should be baked right 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.

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

Docurated’s inaugural State of Sales Productivity Report delivered some damning statistics that should scare any sales manager into action:

  • Sales reps spend less than one-third (32%) of their time selling and pitching prospects.
  • Salespeople waste one-fifth (20%) of their working hours managing their CRM, tackling administrative tasks and producing reports.

You need to outperform these percentages by as much as possible.

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 info. 

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. Cheer – then refine your lead scoring model

Remember to celebrate your successes! 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.

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 an ideal client 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 fast and incorporate learnings directly from your wins and losses.

Develop a regular monthly meeting to analyze the top 10 wins, losses and recycles of 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 process?
  • Was your lead scoring off?
  • Did the lead end up in the wrong segment?

Adjust your lead qualification process as factors change (and 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

  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. Cheer! – remember to celebrate what works, then measure and learn from your results

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

Bake lead scoring into both your marketing and sales processes to optimize your lead qualification process. 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.

And remember – even the perfect lead qualification process won’t guarantee you an increase in ROI. You and your team still have to finish the job and close those leads. But you’ll be able to find more of the best best leads faster – saving precious time to focus on the things that really matter.

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Jordie van Rijn

Jordie is an independent email and eCRM marketing consultant. Entrepreneur Magazine named him “One of 50 Online Marketing Influencers to Watch” and he is the founder of an international platform for Email and Marketing Automation Software selection.