Many brands focus on generating as many leads as possible. However, that alone does not guarantee your chances of getting the best potential customers. Lead generation fetches you all kinds of leads, and these leads are often unqualified. Wasting time on unqualified leads means you’re throwing away money you could’ve made otherwise by focusing on the right leads.

This is where lead qualification comes into play. In this article, we shall discuss -

What is lead qualification?
The importance of lead qualification
How to qualify your leads?
Lead qualification process
…and so on.

What is Lead Qualification?
Lead qualification is the process of gauging how likely a lead will become a customer.

Not all leads are equal. In fact, there are various types of leads you ought to be aware of before we discuss how to qualify leads.

Market Qualified Leads (MQL)
MQLs are leads that have expressed interest in your brand. These are leads that aren’t quite ready to be sold yet and need to be nurtured by the marketing team to the point where they are ready to talk to the sales team. You can send them email campaigns, personalized content, and more.

Sales Qualified Leads (SQL)
SQLs are leads that are ready to talk to your sales team. Your marketing team generally researches these leads thoroughly until they deem them ready to be handed off to the sales department.

Product Qualified Leads (PQL)
As the name suggests, these are leads who are interested in your product. That means they are open to signing up for a free trial or subscribing to a freemium plan.

Importance of Lead Qualification
Before we discuss how to qualify your leads, we must understand the importance or benefits of lead qualification.

Saves You Time and Money
As you may have expected, lead qualification helps you save a significant amount of time and money. However, an alarming number of sales departments spend a large chunk of their time on repetitive, irrelevant tasks when they should be selling to the right people instead.

According to Business 2 Community, ‘67% of lost sales are as a result of sales reps not properly qualifying their potential customers before taking them through the full sales process.’

When you start qualifying your leads, you realize that it is not worth spending time on every lead. Furthermore, your sales team becomes adept at identifying the best opportunities and the areas of focus for increased sales.

Helps Better Understand Your Prospects
Every sale you make is based on trust. If you can let your prospect know that you are there to help them, as opposed to taking their money any which way, your chances of turning them into a customer go up.

Lead qualification helps you and the prospect. Lead qualification involves you asking your prospects questions to understand them better. It also helps your prospects gather the vital information about your brand, product, or service that they need to make an informed decision.

You can:

Ask them questions to find out their pain points, goals, fears, etc. 
Find out what their ideal solution looks like and what’s stopping them from purchasing. 
Helps Build Relationships With Your Prospects
Understanding your prospects' needs and building relationships with them go hand-in-hand. Once you understand what they are looking for and what (if anything) is stopping them from purchasing your product or service, you are in a position to nurture these leads until they are ready to buy.

Nurturing your leads over time helps your sales and marketing teams establish context, which will help you provide personalized value to each prospect.

The more personalized value you give to your prospects, the more trust you can establish. As discussed, the more trust you build with your prospect, the higher your chances of converting them.

The Lead Qualification Process
Lead scoring is an excellent way to qualify your leads.

Lead scoring involves qualifying your leads by number. When you use lead scoring to qualify your leads, you are essentially using a scale to gauge your prospects’ interest levels in your product, with the scale ranging from not interested to ready for sale.

The factors, actions, and parameters that you use to score each lead vary with each business. However, make sure that this scale is uniform throughout the company.

Identify Your Buyer Profile
Before you qualify your sales leads or even generate them, you need to know what your ideal buyer profile is. After all, how would you know how to qualify your leads if you are unsure about what kind of customer you want in the first place?

Here are a few questions you need to answer to create your ideal buyer profile:

What defines an ideal buyer? What kind of customer do you want to work with?
What are their problems or pain points?
Which industry are they a part of?
Are you talking to a decision-maker?
Gauge Your Lead’s Interest Levels
If you are posting good content online (as you should) on social media, your website, etc., you are bound to have people engage with it. You may have people like, comment, and share your posts regularly. They might even engage with you in the DMs. You may have others who check your website for pricing options.

At this point, it is vital to understand how interested your prospect is in what you have to offer based on how they give their contact information (or how much information they give).

For example,

If they find a job application on your website or LinkedIn page, they might drop their name and email address. However, it is primarily because they are interested in the job and not in your company’s products or services. 
If they engage with your stories and take part in contests and polls to win discounts or offers, chances are they are interested in your product. 
If they engage with your content on social media and your website, there’s no guarantee that they are looking to make a purchase. But, these are leads you can nurture over time. 
Consider using a sales tool to analyze your leads’ online behavior and leverage this data to qualify your leads.

Do a Little Research
Research never goes out of style. Consider looking up your prospect’s social media accounts, website, Reddit, Amazon reviews, and other forums to find out their pain points, goals, and where they stand in general.

The Lead Qualification Checklist
The lead qualification checklist involves 5 important questions:

Is the prospect interested in my product or service?
Do they have a need for my solution?
Can they afford my solution?
Is this the right time to buy my solution?
Do they have the authority to buy my solution?
Essentially, you are trying to determine their interest levels, needs, budget, timeline, and authority. In the next section, we look at the specific questions you can ask your prospect under two highly used lead qualification frameworks to find out the aforementioned details.

Lead Qualification Frameworks to Qualify Your Leads
Here are some commonly used lead qualification frameworks:

BANT stands for budget, authority, need, and timeline. Originally developed by IBM, countless companies use this as their go-to framework for lead qualification. While talking to a prospect, here are a few questions you can ask to determine their budget, authority, need, and timeline.

Budget: The primary question is whether the prospect has the capacity to buy what you are selling. Here are some questions to ask:

Have you set aside a budget for our product/service?
What is the budget that you have set aside?
Is our product or service important for you to allocate a budget for?
What other purchases are a priority currently?
Authority: You need to find out if the person you are talking to has the authority to make a purchase decision. Consider asking these questions:

Have you purchased products similar to ours in the past? If so, how?
Who else is generally involved in purchases like this?
What objections are you expecting and how can we handle them?

Need: This component is an important part of the BANT framework. You need to find out if you can solve a business pain point with your product or service. Here are some questions you ought to find yourself asking:

What are your goals?
What challenges have you been facing?
If you could solve one thing, what would it be?
Why hasn’t this problem been solved before?
What do you think is the solution?

Timeline: You want to find out when your prospect is planning to buy your product. Here are some questions you can ask:

Is solving this problem quickly a priority for you?
Are you evaluating other products that are similar to ours?
How quickly are you looking to solve your problem?
Don’t worry, it isn’t as confusing as it looks. GPCTBA/C&I stands for Goals, Plans, Challenges, Timeline, Budget, Authority, Negative Consequences & Positive Implications. This framework allows you to personalize the value you provide them, especially since they come to you fairly informed on the sales process.

Let us take a look at each part of this framework and the relevant questions you can ask your prospect:

Goals: The first thing you want to find out is your prospect’s goals. Unless you understand their goals, you will not know what value you can provide them. If you find that your prospect’s goals are not clear, here are a few questions you can ask them:

What is your primary goal currently?
What overall company goals do you have?
Do you have fixed revenue targets for this quarter or year?
‍Plans: Once you know what your prospect’s current and top goals are, you need to find out if they’ve done anything to reach these goals. If so, find out what they’ve done, what worked, and what didn’t work in an attempt to reach their goals. Here are some questions to help you gather this information:

Have you already tried to achieve your goals?
What have you tried to achieve your goals?
What did you do last year to achieve your goals?
What part of your plan worked and what did not?
Do you have the resources to implement your plans?
Challenges: This is where you define your prospect challenges and reinforce the fact that nothing they’ve implemented is working - and that they need your help.

What challenges have you faced in implementing your plans?
Do you have the expertise and resources to solve these challenges?
What makes you think you can solve them now when you have not been able to do so all this time?

Timeline: You need to prioritize your leads based on their timeline. In other words, if they are ready to act immediately, make them a top priority. Otherwise, you can move them down the list, and nurture them over time until they are ready to be sold. Here are some questions to find out where they stand:

Do you have the time and resources to implement this plan now?
When do you plan to begin implementing this plan?
Would you like us to walk you through each part of your plan to implement it efficiently?
Budget: When asking for your prospect’s budget, be sure you find out the specifics. You want to know if they’ve dedicated a certain budget if they are already spending that money on a competitor’s product, and most importantly - make them aware of the ROI on their investment.

The ROI on your investment will be (insert ROI percentage or number). Are we in agreement?
Authority: There’s a good chance your sales reps may not get to talk to the decision-maker in the company. If you are not talking to a decision maker, you need to talk to someone who can give insight into the decision maker’s thought process - like a coach or influencer and work to get them on board.

Are the goals discussed relevant to the buyer?
Where do they rank in terms of priorities?
What concerns do you think they might have?
How can we get them onboard?
Consequences And Implications: At this stage, you want to find out the consequences of not achieving the aforementioned goals and the positive effects of using your products or services to achieve them. You can ask them the following:

What happens if you are unable to achieve the goals you’ve stated?
Will achieving your goals lead to a promotion or a demotion if you don’t?
When Do You Disqualify A Lead?
First off, disqualification is not a bad thing. Disqualifying sub-optimal leads is an effective way to save time and resources and cater to leads who are more likely to benefit from your product or service.

The short answer is this - disqualify them if they do not have the:

If it turns out your prospect does not fit the ideal customer profile, disqualify them. You might serve this kind of lead in the future. But for now, disqualify them immediately.

If there isn’t a need or interest in your product, disqualify them. Sure, you could be talking to a decision-maker who has the budget and authority to sign off on a purchase. However, if they do not have a pain point that you can solve, write them off immediately.

We suggest you analyze each case and consider nurturing leads you aren’t able to pass off to the sales team at the moment.

In this piece, we discussed what lead qualification is, different lead qualification methods or frameworks, the importance of lead qualification, the lead qualification checklist you should follow, and when you should disqualify a lead.

Lead qualification is a critical part of the sales process. An efficient lead qualification process is often the difference between a thriving business and one that dries up in no time. If done correctly, lead qualification helps you save time and build a solid relationship with your potential customers over time. Check out our blog for more quick, easy-to-read blogs on sales.