Marketing is all about leads – either generating them from a standing start when your business has no brand awareness or ensuring that there is a steady stream of them once you are up and running.
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.
Types of lead qualification
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. 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.
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.
You can also take qualification a step further and commit to BANT. 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?
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.
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- 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.