There's a really big difference between passing off leads to your sales team, and passing off qualified leads to your sales team.
While a mixed bag of leads will often leave them tied up on calls that won't translate to much for the business, a list of qualified leads will set them on a path that might actually result in a sale.
What's the best way to separate the good from the bad? Start by defining what a quality lead means to your business. This is a definition that should be agreed upon by both marketing and sales, and it will probably require a little trial and error.
In fact, you may want to start with what an unqualified lead looks like for your business and use that as a basis for the people you're ultimately looking to bring in. To help you get started, check out this list of red flags that signal your lead isn't a great fit.
7 Signs Your Lead Is a Terrible Fit
1) They don't have the budget.
If a lead simply doesn't have the budget for your product or service, there's really not much you can do to save the situation. Trouble is, determine a lead's financial standing before you pass them on to your sales team is sort of a double-edged sword. If you ask too soon, you run the risk of scaring them away. However, if you don't ask at all, your sales team might end up wasting time trying to pry this information from them.
What's a marketer to do?
We recommend sitting down with your sales team to discuss the importance of this qualifying criteria. Depending on your business, you may find that it's entirely okay to wait until the lead gets on the phone with a sales rep before budget becomes a factor. If not, it's important that you're extremely careful in your information collection approach.
Rather than blatantly asking for budget insight on the first form a visitor fills out, save this question for a bottom-of-the-funnel form. This will help ensure that your lead has had a chance to engage with some of your content and is beginning to establish a sense of trust. If and when you do include this field on a form, consider using a drop-down of choices that provide a range rather than an exact amount. This positioning is less invasive and aims to avoid pigeonholing a lead based on financials when there could be an opportunity for your sales rep to negotiate.
2) They don't have the power to make decisions.
What's their job title? While a new hire at company XYZ may have been interested in that ebook your business published last month, that doesn't mean they're in a position to call up budget and actually purchase your product or service. Even their boss' boss might not have the authority to call the shots. Then what?
To help set your sales reps on the right path, you want to connect them with actual decision makers like senior executives or someone who works directly with the company's c-suite. If you find that you're having a hard time attracting these types of people, you may want to reevaluate your marketing strategy to better align with their wants and needs as content consumers. Maybe you try creating more snackable content that lends itself to their relentless schedules, or refocus your distribution efforts to focus on more professional platforms like LinkedIn.
3) They don't have a need for your product or service.
Do you have a rough concept of what this lead is looking to accomplish? Why are they seeking your solution in the first place?
There are a number of things that could signal that a lead doesn't have a need for your product or service. Maybe they've expressed that they aren't experiencing the challenges in which your product or service solves for. Or perhaps they've noted that they are already using a vendor that offers what you do and don't have intentions of switching. Probably not worth your time, right?
At HubSpot, we use our top-of-the-funnel landing page form as an opportunity to get to know our visitors better. This includes asking them about their biggest marketing or sales challenge. While this isn't a required form field, it does present our visitors with a chance to explain what they're currently struggling with to give us a better sense of if and how we can help.
4) Their company is too big / too small for your solution.
For many businesses, company size can make or break the quality of a lead. Maybe your solution is designed for SMBs, yet you seem to be attracting a lot of enterprise leads. While enterprise leads often have more budget to allocate, you simply can't sell what you can't support, right?
To simplify the way you size up your leads, ask how big they are upfront. This is an easy -- and often expected -- question to ask on a form. In doing so, it'll be much easier to distinguish workable leads from ones that your solution can't do much for.
Keep in mind that this doesn't mean you need to throw these leads away and never look back. If you have plans to expand your product or service to meet the needs of all different sized businesses, you can revisit this list when you're ready.
5) They're located outside of your selling territory.
The beautiful thing about the internet is that it makes it easy for people all over the world to come across our business' websites. It's likely that you'll have leads coming in from far and wide. While it's exciting to see your reach growing, not all locations are going to be a fit for your company.
Depending on what you're selling, you might have some geographic restrictions that prevent you from doing business with people or businesses in certain territories. Passing those outliers off to your sales reps won't do them much good, which is why it's important to keep an eye out for where your leads are coming from.
If your business is interested in global leads, keep in mind that you can move them closer to a sale by creating tailored experiences for different locations. If you're a HubSpot customer, Smart Content will enable you to alter the content displayed on any given page based on the person's location. The best part? They don't even have to be a lead yet for it work.
6) They're not engaging with your content.
In a perfect world, leads would open every single lead nurturing email that came their way. They'd be flocking to our last blog articles and offers, waiting on any and every opportunity to tweet a quote.
While it's our job as marketers to leverage content to move leads further down the funnel, some efforts are bound to be more receptive than others. Your leads' engagement -- or lack thereof -- often serves as a strong indicator of whether or not they're going to be a good fit for your product or service.
In other words, if you find that your emails are going unopened and your links aren't getting clicked, it's likely that they aren't ready to take next steps. But if they continue to pick up what you're putting down, they'll probably be more willing to get on the phone.
Our advice? Prioritize the most engaged leads first, and save the unresponsive ones for a reengagement campaign in the future.
7) They used fake contact information.
Did your lead listed their number as 555-5555? Do they really expect you to believe the best email address to reach them at is firstname.lastname@example.org?
Let's face it ... they're just not that into you.
When a visitor uses fake contact information to covert into a lead, it signals that they aren't really interested in connecting with a member of your team. This isn't to say they aren't ever going to be interested, but false information isn't going to get you very far in the here and now, right?
When (and if) they are ready, they'll give up the real stuff. For now, let misinformation serve as a red flag for leads who simply aren't a good fit.
How to Deliver Higher Quality Leads to Sales
While having a clear sense of who you do and don't want to work with is important for both marketing and sales departments to understand, manually sorting through leads can be extremely challenging.
You might feel like you and your sales team are on the same page, but when it comes down to making the final call, it's easy for conflicting interpretations to muddy up the process.
So how do you make this process scalable as your company grows? Lead scoring.
This technique leverages a strategic scoring system that forces you to "grade" your leads based on specific properties and behaviors in an effort to surface the most qualified ones.
However, if you want to take things a step further, you may want to consider predictive lead scoring. Using an algorithm to predict who in your database is qualified or not qualified, this approach eliminates the need to identify what properties you should be prioritizing or how you should be weighing them. While both solutions make it easier to weed out leads who don't make sense for your business, predictive lead scoring aims to ensure accuracy while requiring less heavy lifting.
Want to know more about how it works? Check out this article from my colleague Rachel Sprung for more on the difference between traditional and predictive lead scoring, as well as how to determine whether or not it's a good fit for your business.
How does your business qualify (and unqualify) leads? Let us know more about your process in the comments section below.
Originally published Oct 5, 2015 6:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017