Customers are the lifeblood of any business. Without a healthy book of existing customers and a steady stream of new customers, a business can’t grow.

This is why most businesses have a sales funnel — a way of bringing in potential customers and working with them until they become buyers. This is where your marketing team and your sales team work together to create success for the company.

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Set up properly, it’s a wonderful system. However, if leads are passed too early, not followed up on, or handled poorly, your bottom line will suffer. In order for this to work, you need to understand the difference between a marketing qualified lead and a sales qualified (or pre qualified) lead.

What is a marketing qualified lead?

One of the most common ways to attract potential customers is through content marketing. By consistently creating content, answering questions, and positioning yourself or your business as the authority on a topic, you attract individuals who want to do business with you. When they look for more of what you provide, these leads qualify themselves and move to the next step of your sales funnel.

These marketing qualified leads (MQLs) will sometimes select themselves to do business with you. The limitation of these leads is that they may only fit some of your criteria.

Let's say you’ve published a wonderfully informative post on your topic. The individuals that read or download it may be looking to buy what you sell, or they may just be doing research. These individuals could be students looking for information, or even your competitors investigating your offerings.

How do you tell if your MQL is an actual potential buyer or if reaching out to them would be a waste of your time and resources?

Adding another step to the process will help you attract more “real” customers and close more sales. Using pre qualified sales leads is a way to ensure that the people who move to the next step of your funnel (and who get more of your attention) have the ability to become customers. It’s a more targeted way to approach customers and could yield some impressive results.

Focusing on pre qualified leads is one way to take an active approach to your sales process. Instead of standing by hoping your content gets the right attention and your call-to-action is strong enough to convert, you are actively seeking out leads, then vetting them on a set of predetermined criteria.

Where do these predetermined criteria come from?

There are two ways. The first is by understanding your customer avatar or buyer persona. Who are your existing customers? What problems did they come to you to solve? What are their buying behaviors? With this data, you can extrapolate out to who is most likely to purchase what you are selling.

The other way to approach this is by determining what criteria your customer has to fulfill to be able to do business with you. First, do they actually need your product? Second, do they have enough money to buy it? Third, do they have the authority to buy what you are selling (or would someone else have to sign off on the purchase). Finally, do they have a pressing need for your product now?

For example, let’s say you are selling a luxury car for $95k. Sure, you could write blogs and create videos about the benefits of driving a luxury car and capture their emails to market to them going forward, but how many of your consumers can actually afford to buy one?

Purchasing a $95k car requires a certain income level, lifestyle, and other factors. If you pre qualify your leads, you may have fewer prospects in your funnel, but they could be higher quality prospects.

Pre qualifying leads may be just what your business was missing.

5 Ways to Work with A Pre Qualified Lead

Consider your current sales process.

When a marketing qualified lead enters your sales funnel, what do you do? Do you wait until they purchase something before contacting them or continue sending them generic messaging? Do your salespeople receive their information from marketing as soon as they come in so they can reach out to them? Or, do you have a special team who handles your potential customers before they are handed off to your salespeople?

In order to move potential customers to the next stage of your funnel or customer journey, you’ll want to reconsider how you are handling MQLs and SQLs.

1. Your marketing team is responsible for managing MQLs. Your sales team is responsible for managing SQLs.

If you give the responsibility of qualifying leads to your salespeople, you may spread your sales team too thin and take their focus off what needs to be done to close their deals.

Instead of having them waste time determining if a potential customer has the ability to buy, leave that to your marketing team. Dedicate some staff to handling MQLs as they come in and vetting them for their likelihood to purchase. Once the less viable prospects have been weeded out, it’s time to get the remaining potential customers over to your sales people. They are the ones who will close the deal.

2. Be patient.

For many salespeople, their livelihood depends on the sale. However, if they jump in too soon, the lead may not be primed for action and the sale may be lost. Build adequate time for communication into your sales process, and give marketing the time they need to do their job properly before initiating the close.

3. Determine the best way to sell.

When the lead changes hands from marketing to sales, the sales rep should have adequate information about the lead to help them close the deal. After speaking with the lead and building rapport, your marketing team will have some insight into their personality and buying habits.

Sharing this information with the sales team allows them to take a more personalized approach and see a better outcome.

4. Increase your follow-up game.

Once a prospect has been deemed able and likely to buy, you need to make sure your offer stays top of mind. This is not the time to leave one voicemail and never follow-up again. The average deal requires up to five follow-ups before it is closed.

Be strategic and thoughtful with how you approach following up with your leads. Use the information you have from pre qualification to follow-up in a meaningful way.

5. Don’t ignore prospects who aren’t ready to buy.

Just because someone doesn’t currently fit your criteria for a qualified lead doesn’t mean they never will. If they seem interested but it isn’t a good time for them to buy, keep in touch with them to stay top of mind until they are ready to start working on a deal.

They may require different messaging to speak to their pain points, more education to understand the solution, or more assistance to overcome their objections. Work with them until they are ready to move on to the next stage.

Working with your marketing team to pre qualify your leads before they reach your sales department is the best way to free up time and energy for reps to do what they do best — sell.

By using these tactics, you’ll have the opportunity to better serve your customers and you’ll have happier employees in the process. Check out this post to learn more about qualifying leads for the sale.

sales qualification

 sales qualification

Originally published Dec 31, 2020 8:30:00 AM, updated December 31 2020

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Sales Qualification