How to Qualify B2B Leads & Stop Barking Up the Wrong Tree

The imagery is apt: The dog chases the cat up a tree only for the cat to jump to a different tree, leaving the dog hopelessly wasting its time barking up at the trunk of the wrong tree.


Well, this happens all too often in sales and the experience can be quite ruff (sorry about the pun).

 

Reps can spend precious hours chasing prospects who never really had the capacity or willingness to buy at all. SDRs can send email after email, make calls, and even spend hours talking on the phone, only to eventually realize the sale was doomed from the start.


And the impact of this is not just measured in wasted time, it can also cost the company money, resources, and some aggravation too.


One thing is clear: alleviating this time- and resource-waster is crucial to optimizing your sales process. 


The process of B2B sales qualification though can be tricky. How am I to know which of these names on the list have the potential to actually buy and which will lead me on a wild goose chase and waste my precious time?


That’s where sales qualification comes in.


What is lead qualification?


Qualifying a sales lead, also known as lead qualification or sales qualification, is the process of determining whether a lead has the potential to become a customer. 


This is usually done by the sales team through understanding various factors about the specific lead, including their budget, needs, and their role and authority within the company. 


Sales reps will qualify their leads early in the sales process in order to know which leads to follow and which to let go.


Why do you need to qualify leads?


The simple answer is that this is the best way to optimize your sales process.


By qualifying your leads, your sales team can make sure that they’re only spending time and resources on those people who truly have the desire, need, and capability to buy your product. 


A sales rep should work on qualifying their leads as soon as possible in order to determine whether they are tire-kickers or not.


Plus, with more time to spend on the higher quality leads, sales reps can better personalize their sales by learning about each prospect’s needs and showing how the product can solve their specific pain points. 


They can then create a personalized sales experience that will be more effective in converting this prospect into a buyer.


But how do you qualify leads? Stick with us, we’ll get there.


Understanding the different types of leads


Traditionally, leads come in through marketing or cold outreach, are then qualified and passed on to sales, who enter them into their sales pipeline.


Marketing will often work to create campaigns that target a large number of people that have the potential to become leads. They will then qualify these leads to determine whether they are fit to receive more targeted ads or more marketing materials. 


Those leads who indicate to the marketing department that they’re highly interested in the product will be passed on to the sales team.  


MQLs vs. SQLs


Leads qualified for marketing are very different than those qualified for sales. Because marketing also aims to spread brand awareness, brand authority, and to educate the population about the service, the goal is not only to bring in new leads. 


In fact, Gleanster Research found that an average of only around 25% of all leads brought in from marketing are fit to enter the sales process.


Here’s the difference between these two types of leads:


Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) definition: 


Leads that have been qualified by the marketing team after having engaged with marketing materials and matched predefined criteria. These criteria can be location, company size, role, vertical, etc. They are then passed to the sales team for further evaluation. Usually, this is the broadest of the leads groups.


Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) definition:


This refers to leads that have been qualified by the sales team as having the necessary criteria in order to move forward in the sales process. This is usually determined by using one of the qualification methods we discuss below.

Wait, but what are PQLs and where do they fit in?


Nowadays, more and more companies are using product-led growth strategies to promote their solution. This method lets users try the product before buying it.


Leads brought in this way are usually more qualified than MQLs because they have already expressed enough interest in your product to actually use it.


Product Qualified Leads (PQLs) definition: 


These are leads that have been qualified by the product team, usually because they’ve tried the product for themselves using a free trial or by using a free version of your product. You can also gain PQLs by gaining insights from your interactive marketing demos


Asking the right questions


When it comes to qualifying leads, sometimes it’s all about asking the right questions and avoiding asking the wrong ones. (You can hear more about that by watching this video.)


When determining whether this lead means business, you’ll need to ask qualifying questions.


What are qualifying questions?


Qualifying questions help the sales rep learn more about whether the prospect is likely to become a customer. 


These questions are usually open-ended, allowing the salesperson to steer the conversation with the prospects while also giving them the chance to express themselves freely. 


We list many examples of qualifying questions throughout the tips below. You can use them as is or as a guide to creating your own qualifying questions that better fit your company and requirements.


Ok, now the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Here’s how to actually qualify your leads.


6 expert lead qualification methods  

1. Good ol’ fashioned research

Want to see if this lead means business? Get out your fedora and your favorite spy trench coat and find out some more information about them. 


You can gain a lot of useful information about your prospects by looking their website up on Google or by searching their individual profile on LinkedIn. 


Create a list of some of the things that are most important to look for in a buyer. These may include the company they work for, the size of the company, and their position within the company.


You can also use your network to further look into the company and the prospect. 


Here are some things you may be able to find out through your research and networking:


  • Who makes the buying decisions in the company? Who should you be reaching out to?
  • What do they need? What issues are they having with their current system?
  • How much are they willing to spend? What does their overall funding look like?


Once you have more information, you can better determine how valuable this lead is.


2. Gather data

If you’re using the right sales tech stack, you likely have access to a lot more data about your prospects than you may think.

For example, if you’re using a platform like Walnut to create interactive product demos for your marketing campaigns, you can track the leads who click through your product experience. You can even determine how interested they are by following how far they moved through the experience and whether they shared it with other people from their company.


You can also use tools like Zoominfo’s FormComplete​​ to gather loads of information about prospects who fill out forms on your website or Hubspot to gather data about your blog articles, website pages, and sales emails.


All of this information can be useful to better understand how engaged your prospect is with your content. You can also try to glean their interests, and whether your solution is the right fit for them.


3. Use lead scoring


Lead scoring can help your sales team understand each lead’s priority in relation to the others.


What is lead scoring?


Lead scoring is the process of applying a number to your lead’s interest/capability/willingness to buy. This helps with ranking your leads by how likely they are to close.


Here’s what to do when creating your lead scoring system. 


First, determine your guidelines by asking yourself the following:


  • Who needs your product?
    Create a general buyer persona and determine whether this lead matches it.

  • How interested are they?
    Track the number of times your lead interacted with your marketing materials, your emails, and your website.

  • Is their company a fit?
    Use the information they provided in your forms to learn about their company. Then check if this company seems like it can benefit from your product.


Once you have this information (or whatever else you feel is crucial to understanding whether this lead is a potential customer), assign a score to each element. 


Some lead scoring examples:


The prospect follows you on social media? 2 points.

The prospect downloaded an eBook? 15 points.


The prospect is really high up in a company that is a massive enterprise and the ideal candidate to utilize your solution? 1 billion points.


You get the idea.


Once your leads are all scored up, you can more easily determine which ones to follow up with urgently, and which seem less important.


If you want to become an expert lead scorer, consider some lead scoring software to help you out.


4. BANT/CHAMP/ANUM/FAINT


Throughout the ages, quite a few sales strategies have been developed to help sales reps know what to ask to qualify leads. 


We’ve lumped these four strategies together for the sake of this blog due to their overall similarities.


BANT


BANT is to lead qualification as Coca-Cola is to soft drinks. Or something like that.


It’s the age-old approach that has seen countless other strategies come and go but has remained a consistently practical way to qualify leads.


The approach consists of four key elements to ask the prospect, alluded to by the acronym BANT.


Budget: 


Get a sense of how important this decision is to them and how much they can dish out. Try to determine whether the prospect can spend the kind of money your solution costs.


Examples of qualifying questions to ask prospects:


  • What’s your expected ROI (return on investment) with a solution like this?
  • How much is your company spending on similar solutions?
  • How do you typically determine your budget allocation?
  • Who makes these types of financial decisions?



Authority:

Find out who you need to speak to in order to seal the deal. Usually, there’s more than one person who needs to sign off on the purchase, so don’t be too quick to brush anybody off.


Examples of qualifying questions to ask prospects:


  • Who else in your company will need to agree to this deal?
  • Who will be using our solution?
  • Is there a team of decision-makers that usually sign off on deals like this?


Need:

Establish the prospect’s need for your solution. Understand the issues they’re facing and allow them to understand how (or if) your product can solve their pain points.


Examples of qualifying questions to ask prospects:


  • What does your current process look like? Where do you run into issues?
  • How long ago did you realize there was an opportunity for things to run more smoothly?
  • How important do you feel a solution like this is for your success?
  • What are your goals and how can a solution like this help you meet them?


Timeline:

Once you understand that the prospect has the budget, authority, and need for your solution, you need to see how soon they’ll be willing to close the deal. 


Are they urgent to close the deal or do they want to take their time? If now’s not good, when is it? If it’s next year, then you’ll have to pull and perhaps try to maintain a more casual relationship with them until they’re ready.


Examples of qualifying questions to ask prospects:


  • How long have you been looking for a solution to these pain points?
  • Do you have any upcoming campaigns that you’d want this solution in place for?
  • What does the closing process look like for you?


CHAMP


Another four-pronged acronym to lead qualification, CHAMP rearranges the order of the four general categories above and applies a slightly different focus.


Instead of starting with a discussion about the budget as is suggested in the BANT strategy, this strategy encourages the sales rep to initiate a conversation about challenges and how your product can provide the solution. 


This initiates a more natural conversation and stresses the importance of solving the issues facing the prospect.


Challenges:

This step closely resembles the “Needs” stage in BANT. Work to determine the challenges the prospects are currently facing and how your product solves them.


Authority:

Like the authority stage of BANT, in this step, you are determining the person in charge of completing the sale and connecting with whoever else needs to be in on the conversation.


Money: 


Like the B in BANT, here you’re making sure the prospect has the money to spend on solving their challenges.


Prioritization: 


Similar to the “Timeline” step in BANT, you should now be figuring out how much of a priority this deal is for the prospect. Is rolling this out a matter of days? Months? Years?


ANUM


This four-stepped process moves “Authority” to the beginning and “Money” to the end.

Authority:
First, determine if you’re speaking to the right person. 


Who is the decision-maker?


Need:
Then solidify that there’s a need you can solve. 


How can things be better?


Urgency:
Once you know you’re speaking to the right person, make sure they have an urgency to close the deal. This is similar to “Timeline” or “Prioritization.” 


When do you need this solved?


Money:
Approach the money situation last. After you have established that there’s a need and urgency, you can better negotiate the price.


How much would you be willing to spend to solve this problem?


FAINT


This strategy is also similar to BANT, but with a slightly different focus and an additional step.


Funds:
As opposed to finding out their budget, understand their overall funds and whether they are a large enough company to afford your services. You can do this without talking to anyone from the company.


Authority:
Who can make the decision? Do some research on LinkedIn or the company’s website to find your ideal prospect within the company. 


Interest:
Reach out, build trust, and then ask questions to spark an interest in your product. Open them up to there being a better way to do it.


Need:
This step comes after interest to solidify the demand for your product. 


Timing:
Understand their urgency.


5. GPCTBA/C&I


The mother of all abbreviations in sales (which is already wrought with abbreviations) is this list of topics to cover when qualifying leads.


Goals:

Start by finding out what the prospect is setting out to accomplish. Try to quantify the goals as much as possible.

Examples of qualifying questions:

  • Are there specific goals that you’re trying to achieve? 
  • Are there certain numbers you are trying to reach?

Plans:

Next, you need to find out how they are working toward this goal.

Examples of qualifying questions:

  • What have you done in the past? Did it work? 
  • What are your current plans to reach your target numbers?

Challenges:

Understand their obstacles in achieving their goals.

Examples of qualifying questions:

  • What isn’t working? 
  • What is your main challenge with attaining your goal? 
  • What part of your process needs to be optimized?

Timeline:

Get a sense of how pressing this issue is for them so you can better understand the priority of this lead.

Examples of qualifying questions:

  • When do you plan to implement these changes? 
  • Would you like to start working on solving these issues now?

Budget:

Gain an understanding of how much they’re willing and able to allocate toward solving this issue.

Examples of qualifying questions:

  • Do you have a set budget for working out this issue? 
  • Do you understand the potential ROI?

Authority:

Even if your contact isn’t the person with all the authority to make this decision and seal this deal, they can be influential in converting that person into a believer of your solution.

Examples of qualifying questions:

  • Does the person who needs to OK this decision understand the demand? 
  • Is this a high priority for them?

Negative Consequences and Positive Implications:

Here’s where you focus on the value of your product. Let the prospect understand clearly what they stand to gain from your product or what they can lose by not buying.

Examples of qualifying questions:

  • Will reaching this goal help you earn a promotion or help your company increase its value? 
  • What will happen if you can/can’t reach these goals? 


By finding out all of this information, sales reps are equipped with all the information they need to understand the lead and whether this is worth pursuing or not. 


6. SPIN


The SPIN Selling technique represents the four types of questions to ask the prospect in order to qualify leads and close a complex deal.


Situation questions: 


Get to know the overall situation. Open-ended, general questions help you understand the prospect’s situation and what they are doing.


Examples of qualifying questions:


  • What does your current process look like? 
  • What services are you currently using?

Problem questions: 


Once you have a general sense of how they work, probe your prospects to uncover any issues or pain points.


Examples of qualifying questions:


  • Is everything running as smoothly as it could be?
  • What areas can be optimized in your process?


Implication questions: 


What are the implications of the pain points they mentioned? Let the prospect voice them themselves so that they can lay the groundwork for why they need your solution. Then explain how you can solve them.


Examples of qualifying questions:


  • What happens if you can’t resolve your problems? What happens if you can?
  • How much time is wasted because of these faulty systems? How many resources?
  • What can be accomplished if this is fixed?


Need-payoff questions: 


Use these questions to steer the client to your solution on their own. 


Examples of qualifying questions:


  • Would a platform that offers X help you resolve these issues? 
  • Would you be able to reach your goals if you didn’t have to spend time on this issue?


While the questions are intended for them to determine whether your product is the solution for them, you can also utilize these questions to see if they’re a likely customer.


Scale your sales to sell more


By alleviating time barking up the wrong tree, you can more easily spread your resources around to offer personalized sales experiences for each of your quality leads. Not only will this remove unnecessary aggravation, you’ll be able to spend the time to convert more and boost your revenue.


Get started now on upgrading your sales qualification by using Walnut to enhance your marketing and sales teams. Build personalized, interactive, crash-proof product demos to give your prospects the chance to try your product on their own and give your sales team the data they need to understand whether this is a lead worth pursuing.


Enrich your sales experience. Start creating product experiences with Walnut now.


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