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What are qualified leads?

Understand the different types of lead qualification and how you can qualify leads including coverage of BANT, MQL and SQL
Editorial team

/ Last updated on 13th October 2017

A 3d question mark on a black background with one highlighted in orange representing what makes a qualified lead

In lead generation, leads are companies who have expressed interest in your specific offering (product or service). Qualified leads also have expressed interest but also meet certain criteria set by you to gauge their level of interest and ability to purchase your product or service.

Related: What is lead generation?

Qualifying leads is a great way to understand the value in your sales pipeline at any one point and make sure your sales team is focused on closing high-value leads.

Types of lead qualification

Typically when dealing with lead generation there are two major types of leads.

What is a marketing qualified lead (MQL)?

Can be defined as a prospect who has expressed interest in a product or service provided by your company and meets certain loose criteria set out by previous customer data to ensure quality, i.e., finances, company size, need for product

What is a sales qualified lead (SQL)?

Can be mostly defined as a prospect who is ready to buy and in the buying process. This type of lead is the most valuable in any sales pipeline and is a company who are far along in the buying process.

How do you qualify a lead?

There are several ways in which you can qualify leads.

Relevance to the product

It’s critical the company is relevant to your product, meaning that they have a need or could use your product and it would provide them with enough value to consider purchasing.

Point of entry

You need the right entry point to a targeted company, either a decision maker or someone who has the appropriate authority/access/influence to decision makers who can make a purchasing decision. For example, there’s no point of contacting and engaging with an executive that lacks the authority to make a purchase or to introduce the offer to a more senior member who can take it forward.

Financial ability

Often overlooked, where data is available it’s important to determine if a prospect can afford your product or service. Otherwise, it’s a wasted conversation as they will never close.

Propensity to buy

Is the prospect genuinely interested in understanding more with the intent of making a purchase or are they just curious? There’s a huge difference.

Qualifying factors are heavily dependent on your company and the product/service; there could be many more factors added in, depending on the data available. Overall qualified leads are critical to a success lead generation and overall sales process.

A step further with BANT Qualification

Originally developed by IBM, BANT Qualification was invented as a framework to identify sales opportunities and rank them. BANT stands for:

Budget

What’s the prospect’s budget and is it sufficient to buy your product or service?

Authority

Does the prospect have the authority to make a purchase decision or the relative influence to a decision maker?

Need

What level of need does the prospect have for your service or product?

Timeframe

What timeline does the prospect have for buying/implementing your product or service?

Common sense should always be applied to lead qualification

BANT is a good dose of common sense put into a framework; it’s a great and easy way to define leads and ascertain lead quality. Although there are some issues with BANT that should be acknowledged: Budgets are sometimes hard to ascertain, and traditional budgeting alignment has changed over the years.

  • Budgets are sometimes hard to ascertain, and traditional budgeting alignment has changed over the years.
  • When dealing with a major purchase choice, several decision makers will be involved.
  • In some cases, it may be quite difficult to ascertain what is a need and what is a want.
  • Timeframe-wise things change fast in a company, and you’re reliant on your customer’s planning accuracy and honesty.

Overall, BANT is extremely useful for providing a basic framework for sales qualification, but you should always endeavour to adapt a BANT framework to your sales department’s needs with a little flexibility.

Related: What are the stages of a sales funnel?

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