Qualification, or disqualification, is one of the more difficult things to do as a sales representative. Salespeople are typically coached to make these decisions using the BANT method, i.e, budget, authority, need, and timing.
The BANT method gives an overarching picture of the customer based on their budget requirements, who makes purchasing decisions for their business, their needs and pain points, and their timeline for finding a solution. While this strategy is valuable and provides prospective, it is a rather outdated method. There is still more information you can gather from your leads that these questions don’t give you that ensures you’re selling the right way and to the right people.
In addition, no matter how skilled you are, some leads just aren’t ready to buy yet even if you’ve compiled a full profile that says otherwise. That’s ok, they’re not ruling you out forever, but it’s important to learn how to distinguish these people from the rest so you’re not wasting your time.
Considering this, we’ve spoken to HubSpot experts in an attempt to uncover their sales qualification tips that you can use to nail down leads and close more deals.
Overlooked Sales Qualification Tactics, According to HubSpotters
Assign homework after introductory conversations.
Qualify the business’s need first.
Reference previous conversations.
Align and work with marketing teams.
Leverage social media.
Ask customers about their frustrations.
Get them to explain their history.
HubSpot sales leaders have significant experience in qualifying and selling to leads. We’ve spoken to them and compiled a list of eight overlooked sales qualification tactics that deviate from standard methods. Let’s go over those below.
1. Assign homework after introductory conversations.
Deanna Povec, Senior Channel Account Manager, says that an overlooked tactic is assigning homework to leads at the end of your conversations. She says “If I send them a video or read a post, are they invested enough to take 10 minutes to look over them?”
As she says, if a lead takes the time to look over this information, it’s probably safe to say that they’re interested. They care about the potential value you can provide them, and they’re curious to see if the additional information will supplement what you’ve already shared with them.
2. Qualify the business’s need first.
Mintis Hankerson, Senior Sales Manager, says that an overlooked sales qualification tactic is to focus on qualifying the business’ needs first. She thinks that sales representatives often focus on asking “Can you sign by x date?” when they should be asking “When do you need to see results?”
When you ask this question, the lead's response will help you understand the severity of the business need and how eager they are to obtain a solution. You can prescribe a start date and ask if the timeline is achievable, and any hesitancy will let you know that they may not be ready to commit to a solution yet. Hankerson says “If you qualify for the business need that is leading to a purchase you ensure that the prospect has the same urgency and priority level on making a purchase to solve their business pain.”
Essentially, by giving them a set start date you’re letting them know that you’re ready to proceed with next steps. If they aren’t yet ready to buy and are still in the decision stage, you’ll likely sense uncertainty on their side or they’ll simply say “No that doesn’t work for us.”
3. Reference previous conversations.
As nice as it would be, deals aren’t usually closed after one single conversation with a lead. However, the length of your conversation cycle is actually a valuable tool for qualifying your leads. If you reference parts of previous conversations when speaking with prospects, you can get a sense of how they’ve retained information, what has (or hasn’t) resonated with them, and whether they’ve put additional thought into your conversation.
If they haven’t retained much, or display signs of not understanding your first conversation, it might be a clear indicator that they aren’t as serious as you are. Povec says that, when she uses this strategy, the goal is to see if they can effectively regurgitate how HubSpot can help them. If they can’t do this, Povec says “It might be a clear indicator that they are not ready yet and it might be time to part ways.”
4. Conduct pre-research.
Pre-research is the opposite of qualification tactics like cold calling. Rather than reaching out to prospects you’ve never had contact with and don’t know anything about, it involves uncovering all possible information you can get on a specific lead before making contact. Povec, says “Doing pre-research by asking yourself questions like ‘Does the company fit the mold of our target audience?’ If yes, I can confidently make a call and know that the conversation will be more of a discussion of how I can help their business, rather than a bit of an educational phase.”
Doing this gives you a segway into a conversation with a customer and, rather than pitching to them from position zero, you already know about their business and how you can serve them. You can make a compelling case to the prospect you’re calling, emailing, or visiting at their place of work. You already know that you have something of value to offer them — more specifically, you’re not pitching blindly.
Networking is a common strategy for acting on the information you’ve collected during pre-research. It’s a form of sales canvassing, and it typically occurs at events that salespeople attend because they know prospective customers will be there. If there’s a guest list available, obtaining this information beforehand can help you prepare for potential customer interactions.
5. Align and work with marketing teams.
While it may seem like you run two entirely different shows, the marketing team can be beneficial when it comes to qualifying your leads.
You can develop relationships with your business’ marketing team and pitch them ideas for content that would help you with your qualification process. You can tailor specific campaigns to different segments of the buyer's journey, so you know that leads who interact with these advertisements are genuinely interested in what you have to offer. This relationship can also be initiated by the marketing team, but, either way, cooperating with them will help you qualify your leads.
Kyle Denhoff is a Marketing Manager who worked on the recent launch of the HubSpot Sales Enterprise Hub launch. When creating content that would convert leads, Denhoff says that he knew the main objective was to target sales management professionals at corporate and enterprise companies.
In order to gain a holistic understanding of who these people are, he conducted product marketing research to understand the buying process for the audience type, how this audience consumes content, interviewed internal HubSpot sales teams, and then proposed content offers that met the audience challenges.
Although he’s not a member of the sales team, there are key takeaways from his insight: Denhoff worked alongside sales to get an understanding of their processes when speaking to the target audience group (sales management) and then used the information they provided to begin creating content that met the audiences pain points. Thus, the marketing team created content that directly addressed the needs of the target audience, so sales representatives know that leads who have interacted with the content and converted are qualified leads that have something to gain from what Sales Hub Enterprise had to offer, or are at least extremely interested and qualified prospects.
6. Leverage social media.
Social media can likely be used by all teams at your organization, from customer service to sales. Like the tip mentioned above, working with your marketing teams can help you use social media as a means of prospecting. One of the strategies worth considering is called social listening.
Social listening is the process of monitoring your business’ social media channels, and different channels in general, for mentions of brand-related keywords, topics, or mentions of competitors. By doing this, you can create lists of those who are actively engaging in conversations about your business — these people may be future customers. You’ve pre-qualified them as potential leads, and seeing their tweets is a form of warm-outreach that gives you an understanding of who they are before you initiate further contact.
7. Ask customers about their frustrations.
Asking customers about their pain points gives valuable information about the needs they’re hoping to get addressed. Asking customers about their frustrations provides more information than just their pain points — it gives specific insight into what is frustrating them about their current solution and the challenge they’re hoping to solve.
You can think of it like this: a customer can tell you that their current pain point is a long and drawn out marketing process that they’d like to streamline. This is great information, and you can easily position your software as an all-in-one solution. However, asking them about their frustrations may give you more insight into the specifics of what’s bothering them, rather than an overarching understanding.
When you delve deeper into their pain points and understand their frustrations, you’ll uncover the minute details of their current challenges. This makes it easier to qualify your leads and position your product as a solution to their specific, individual needs.
8. Get them to explain their history.
A factor that is not addressed by the BANT method is how a lead has ended up in conversation with you. Requesting a timeline can tell you how urgently they need a solution, that’s just about all it will provide. You get no insight into their previous history and purchasing decisions.
Asking leads about their past actions makes it easier to qualify them as you’ll know whether they fit your buyer persona, and you can meet them at their stage of need. For example, asking the question, “Have you ever tried to solve your problem before?” gives insight into how serious their pain points are and if they have a current solution in place.
If they respond to this question and say that they have never tried to address their needs before, this might tell you that they’re probably looking for solutions from other companies as well. You wouldn’t qualify this lead as ready to buy and pitch a deal because they likely haven’t made concrete, final-stage decisions. This lead may not pan out if they come across a better solution, so you won’t prioritize nurturing that relationship and possibly wasting your time.
However, if a lead tells you that they have tried to address their needs before and that they’ve switched between multiple different services, this gives a more holistic view of their history. They’re likely in need of an immediate solution, and understanding the reasons why they’ve moved between solutions lets you know the specific attributes they’re looking for and what you’ll use to sell them on your tool.
Diversify Your Qualification Strategy
All in all, the process of qualifying leads is a pillar of successful selling. Without knowing who your customers are and if they’re even likely to buy from you, it becomes impossible to create a sales strategy that is tailored to their needs.
These tips from HubSpot experts can give insight into high-quality sales qualification tactics that will allow you to succeed in your processes and close more deals.
Originally published Jan 19, 2021 1:45:00 PM, updated January 19 2021