July 14, 2017
There are numerous milestones to celebrate in the life of your company. I remember the day when we implemented Google Analytics on our website at Saleswings and saw traffic come in for the first time. Exciting times! Soon we got our first, hundredth, and thousandth free trial signup. A remarkable experience. Now, as _your_ company continues to grow, you may encounter what many consider a luxurious problem: **you have too many leads for your sales team to handle. ** You need a way to identify the qualified leads from the bunch, and determine who is worthy of a sales call, and at what moment. “Sales and marketing alignment” moves from boring old business jargon to absolutely essential.
A timeless lead qualification framework
Before we hop into to how lead qualification evolves as your company grows, let’s cover BANT. It’s a classic framework to qualify leads. Some think it’s outdated, but it still highlights the bits and pieces of successful lead qualification. B = Budget: Can the lead afford to buy? A = Authority: Does the lead have decision-making power? N = Need: Is the lead’s pain big enough for our product to solve? T = Timing: Is the lead ready to pull out their wallet and buy? As BANT displays, you need to distinguish between who, what, and when. You don’t want to pass leads from marketing to sales who don’t check the BANT boxes. With this lead qualification framework in mind, let’s hop into how it’s applied to early, growth, and mature stage companies.
Early stage lead qualification
At this point, you’re probably in beta and already have your first customers. The number of leads coming in the door is moderate, and you have a better understanding of who likes and and doesn’t like what you’re building. This is a fun stage. It’s the perfect time to get sales and marketing in the same room to define what characteristics define a qualified lead (remember BANT!). Is the ideal lead a CEO in a Fortune 500 company, or a head of sales in a small business? Where are they based? What are their pains? Marketers calls these target personas, sales calls them “hot leads.” Creating personas ensures marketers focus on building the right message and lead nurturing campaigns to cultivate desire for your solution. For early-stage companies, qualifying a new lead takes a mix of manual work, common sense, and support from basic sales tools—often in the shape of Chrome extensions. Since your lead flow is moderate right now, your sales team can use a few of these tools to help qualify leads:
- **Social media: **You can learn a lot from their LinkedIn and Twitter profiles. Using a CRM that provides social insights, like Nimble, your sales team can view a lead’s social profiles directly in their contact records. FullContact also has a helpful Gmail extension which shows social media profiles after a lead sends an inquiry.
- **Technology fit: **Does the lead use technologies on their website that integrate with ours? How about a competitor’s? Datanyze quickly shows you what web technologies a lead’s website uses.
- **Email tracking: **Are leads reading your emails? Leads who open emails and click links are more likely to be interested in buying. YesWare, Cirrus Insight, and MixMax are a few helpful tools.
- **Website tracking: **How often are leads visiting your website over the course of their customer lifecycle? More visits indicates more interest. SalesWings provides a simple way to identify and track your lead’s website visits. A customer journey marketing solution can help you send automated messaging in response to those visits.
All of these tools help flesh out the customer profile. Combined with additional tools to gage interest level, your lead qualification will be running like a well-oiled machine.
Growth stage lead qualification
At this stage, happy clients refer new leads. Your growth marketing efforts are in high gear. You’ve set up a lead nurturing journey to ensure no one falls through the cracks, and your lead flow is on the rise. How do you handle the growing number of people knocking on your company’s door? Efficiency is the key. Since you’re generating more leads than your sales team can contact, consider adding qualifying fields to your signup and landing page forms to get the BANT answers you need. You can use a landing page builder like Unbounce, Instapage, or NinjaForms. Here’s a number of form fields you can mix and match to see what draws in the most qualified leads:
Budget related form fields
- What’s your budget for a solution?
- What other solutions are you looking at?
- What solution are you using today?
Authority related form fields
- What department do you work in?
- What’s your job title?
Need related form fields
- What problem are you aiming to solve? (Use a dropdown)
- What’s your biggest challenge today?
- What’s your website URL?
Timing related form fields
- What’s your timeframe to implement a solution?
While increasing the number of form fields will increase friction for new lead signups, it means more motivated (and qualified!) leads will come in the door. Furthermore, capturing this BANT data will help you segment your leads for future personalized marketing.
Mature stage lead qualification
Mature stage companies have a massive flow of leads. Their contact database is ever-growing, and identifying sales-ready leads requires more than smart form fields. There are four primary ways companies at this stage to approach qualifying leads.
- Use marketing automation to help leads self-serve their way to a purchase while only sending higher revenue value leads to sales. It’s the high-touch model versus the low-touch model, powered by automation technology.
- Hire an army of inside sales reps to hop on the phone and qualify leads.
- Make a personalized lifecycle nurturing machine to filter for leads who engage the most with your content. Then, only send meeting invitations to those leads. **Pro tip: **Add a multi-channel touch to your email marketing with SMS or an on-website message.
- Implement a predictive lead scoring solution, like Infer, which takes a number of identification signals into account to grade leads based on their likelihood to convert. If you’re on a budget, solutions like SalesWings that qualify leads in real-time based on their website engagement could help. You could also adjust manual lead scores with the Change Score shape in Autopilot.
Qualifying leads starts with doing the homework to understand your clients. Define personas early on to target the right leads and to create targeted lead nurturing campaigns. As your company grows, tune up your qualification game with smart forms to filter leads. At scale, automation and predictive lead scoring will be your best qualification friend. **Hungry for more? Dig deeper into how to **qualify and assign leads to sales__. **