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By Gregg Schwartz, vice president of sales and marketing at Strategic Sales & Marketing
Lots of companies invest big money in generating inbound sales leads from their online marketing campaigns – PPC ads, inbound email inquiries, inbound inquiries from content marketing, and more – only to make the mistake of letting these hard-earned leads fall through the cracks. Too many once-promising sales leads go sour because they’re not managed properly – instead of a budding customer relationship, these sales leads turn into unanswered phone calls and dead email threads.
The reason? Insufficient follow-up and inadequate lead qualification. More startups need to create a consistent process for lead qualification: communicating with new sales leads, asking them questions, and patiently guiding them into the sales conversation process – not just assuming that they’re all immediately ready to buy. Just because someone emails your company or responds to an offer or inquires for more information doesn’t mean they’re automatically ready to buy from you. These new sales leads often require some careful attention and proper lead management in order to convert to genuine sales opportunities.
Here are a few reasons why your startup needs to qualify your inbound sales leads:
Many companies do NO lead qualification.
It’s shocking how many companies just hand over the leads to the sales team without doing any pre-qualifying questions. According to stats compiled by Hubspot, only 56% of B2B companies verify valid business leads before they are passed to the sales team, and 79% of B2B marketers have not established a formal lead scoring process.
Qualifying leads will save time for you and your sales team.
If you’re not qualifying your new sales leads, you run the risk of getting bogged down with too many bad sales leads. This causes a lot of wasted time and effort as you have to go chasing after too many prospects that aren’t really serious buyers or aren’t a good fit. As a result, your sales people get frustrated and fail to reach their goals – your sales people’s time is a precious commodity. So make sure you’re asking them to spend it on the right people and the right opportunities, instead of chasing after needles in a haystack. According to Hubspot stats, good lead management leads to bigger sales results – companies that have a mature lead generation and lead management process achieve 9.3% higher sales quota results.
Qualifying sales leads sets up a stronger long-term sales pipeline.
Pre-qualifying your sales leads not only helps identify the immediate buyers – it helps sort out the “long-range” sales leads who aren’t ready to buy yet, but who might be ready in 6 or 9 months (or more). This way, you can prioritize your efforts among the immediate buyers and the long-term prospects who need additional attention and nurturing before they’re ready to buy.
How can your company pre-qualify your sales leads? Here is a short list of quick tactics that you can put in place today:
- Add a pre-qualifying questionnaire to your initial communication with new prospects. This could be as simple as training your admin assistant who answers the phone to be able to ask a few upfront questions to inbound sales prospects, or create a short questionnaire to send via email or even to add to your website – ask new prospects to answer a few questions about their needs to find out who serious they are about buying.
- Ask simple, open-ended questions, like:
- Are you in the market for a new solution, or just replacing your existing solution?
- What types of business issues are you having with your current solution?
- How did you find out about our company, and what made you want to contact us?
- What other companies/vendors are you looking at?
- Prioritize your sales leads with lead ranking. These simple questions will give you some insight – upfront – into how “ready to buy” the prospects really are. Once you have a sense of their readiness – the “pain points” that are driving them to look for a new solution to their business problem – you can rank each sales lead on a simple scale, even if it’s just “A,” “B,” and “C.” Then you can focus on the “A” leads while giving the “B” and “C” leads more time and space for long-term lead nurturing.
There are lots of different options for how to do lead qualifying and lead nurturing the “right” way – but the only “wrong” way is to do nothing. Too many startups are missing out on big sales opportunities because they’re not doing any upfront legwork to talk to their sales prospects and find out what the prospects want and how ready they are to talk about making a purchase. Good lead qualifying will build trust and enhance your business relationships – and boost your sales – over time.
Gregg Schwartz is the vice president of sales and marketing at Strategic Sales & Marketing, a lead-generation firm based in Connecticut. His company helps technology companies and various startups and small-to-mid-size businesses in the business-to-business sales category generate sales leads and improve their sales processes.