Here’s the thing: not everyone who expresses initial interest in your businesses’ product or service is ready to make a purchase right then and there. Sometimes, people visiting your website are just doing their research. Other times, they’re ready to invest.
Determining who is a website visitor and who is a potential lead is a crucial part of any sales strategy, but many businesses tend to overlook lead qualification in the sales processes.
According to a recent study, nearly two-thirds of B2B companies surveyed admitted they failed to consider lead qualification when determining their targeted sales efforts, despite the fact that nearly one-fourth of their sales leads were already qualified.
What Exactly is Lead Generation?
Lead generation is defined as attracting and converting strangers and prospects into leads by using a variety of inbound marketing tools such as blog posts, eBooks, white papers, case studies, webinars, and more.
Unfortunately, not all leads that are captured are going to result in potential sales down the road, so both the marketing and sales teams must work together to make sure these potential leads are handled appropriately.
A successful lead generation process can convert a complete stranger into a loyal customer. But first, it’s important to weed out any unqualified leads.
Determining Unqualified vs. Qualified Leads
For this to work, both your marketing and your sales teams need to be on the same page about what qualifies as a true lead.
Common signs that you’re dealing with an unqualified lead are:
- They have not been nurtured enough to close the sales cycle.
- They are often unsure of exactly what your company has to offer.
- They aren’t aware that they’re looking for a solution to their problem yet.
- Your product or service is out of their budget.
- They don’t have the authority to make a purchasing decision.
While it is possible to convert unqualified leads into future customers, it can be a laborious process that won’t necessarily fit your existing lead generation and sales processes. And it can result in a lot of hard work with little to no end results.
A qualified lead is typically easier to identify, because:
- They have completed, or are in the process of completing your businesses’ nurture campaign cycle.
- They have conducted their own educational research to better understand their issue and can see how your product or service is a viable solution.
- Their budget is clearly defined and they have found your offering to fit within what they’re able to afford.
- They are in control of their budget and have the authority to make purchasing decisions.
Customers that come from qualified leads typically have low churn rates because they close on their own terms. But within your list of qualified leads, you’re still going to find that some are better than others.
Identifying the Different Types of Qualified Leads
Now that you’ve removed any unqualified contacts from your leads list, it’s time to pare down the list even further.
A marketing qualified lead (MQL) is someone who has indicated an interest in your business’ offerings based on a marketing effort. This can be anything from submitting their contact information on a form, opting into a newsletter subscription, downloading marketing materials or resources, or repeatedly visiting your website.
An MQL has shown their initial interest in buying by taking that first step to engage with your company without making a financial commitment. They’re curious - but not a sales-qualified lead (SQL) as of yet. There’s no guarantee of a sale, but they’ve shown they may be interested in more down the road.
MQLs need continual nurturing to push them towards a conversion. Marketing automations such as email campaigns, demo opportunities, and free trials help to educate the lead about your company and its offerings, keeping you top of mind while building brand trust.
An SQL is the most valuable lead for any business because this individual is in a position to make a purchase. In many instances, they’ve indicated their budget information and expressed a desire to speak with the sales team. There’s a heightened level of interest - they’ve requested a demo or formal quote and have indicated their purchasing time frame and intent to buy.
Defining the Ideal Lead Funnel
The lead qualification process is simple once you break it down. It starts with the marketing team making a list of all the leads who visited and engaged with your website. From there, you can determine the qualified leads from the unqualified leads.
Now, within the qualified leads list, it’s time to figure out who is an MQL versus an SQL. Once you’ve done that, your sales team can prioritize their conversations and address those high-value SQLs immediately. Meanwhile, MQLs should enter the lead nurturing process to stay warm until they convert to an SQL.
Starting Your Lead Generation Process
Just like your sales cycle process, it’s important to understand exactly who your ideal lead is - and who it isn’t. Start by brainstorming your ideal buyer persona. Investigate their demographic data, note their buying behaviors and habits, and better understand their priorities when it comes to solving this particular issue your product or service addresses.
Not sure where to start with creating a persona? Here's a free generator from HubSpot.
It’s also important to incorporate an element of customer feedback into your lead generation process. This will help your team to pinpoint areas of the process that have and haven’t worked with potential leads in the past.
Look for recurring trends and re-evaluate if your website and marketing content are doing their jobs in curating potential leads. Does your website have marketing content that can be consumed at each stage in the sales process? For example, is there a form or downloadable piece of content for new website visitors to request to learn more about what your organization does or sells? And once they’ve received that piece of content, does their information get entered into a lead nurturing process (i.e., an email campaign that’s automated) as they get to know your business’ offerings better over time?
When it comes to mapping out the lead generation process, both the sales team and the marketing team must work together to set and define the individual parameters for lead qualification.
Leads will look different for every business model, so work together to figure out which prospects can be converted to SQLs for immediate attention versus MQLs who will need to enter a lead nurturing process before they are ready for conversion.
It’s also important to involve your customer service team as they will provide a unique perspective about churn rates and their correlation to the feedback they’ve received from potential leads and customers.
And one of the most important things you can do is to revisit this topic on a regular basis to redefine what a high-value lead looks like to your organization. As business ebbs and flows, your team grows, and your business model shifts, it’s crucial to re-evaluate the lead generation process and update your internal lead definitions on a regular basis.
LAIRE Can Help
One of the best things you can do for your business’ lead generation efforts is to automate it as much as possible. Thanks to innovative marketing automation software like HubSpot that acts as an all-in-one marketing, sales, and service solution, both your marketing and sales teams can work together seamlessly within the same system. HubSpot’s intuitive workflow solutions make the lead generation and nurturing processes as clean, efficient, and effective as possible thanks to targeted email campaigns, trigger notifications, and customizable workflows.
Not only does the HubSpot platform make lead generation, nurturing, and management easy for your marketing department to deploy, but it has its own set of sales enablement tools that will help your sales department convert those leads into real revenue.
Worried about implementing something new? Work with a HubSpot agency like LAIRE to reimagine the lead generation process and implement the latest tools to help your sales and marketing teams do what they do best.