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by John Bonini John Bonini on February 28, 2013

The Critical Elements of Defining Your Qualified Leads

by John Bonini John Bonini

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February 28, 2013

The Critical Elements of Defining Your Qualified LeadsI know what you're thinking; everyone is interested or has a need for your product or service.

While I certainly hope this is true, it's certainly a very unrealistic approach if you're interested in executing a more targeted marketing campaign.

It actually blows my mind when I hear of prospects who have yet to establish a hierarchy as far as what types of prospects and leads are more likely to buy. (And believe me, I do hear of this fairly often.)

I mean, even lemonade stands managed by cute toddlers have an idea of who their SQL's (sales qualified leads) are; adult passerby's who are suckers for lemonade at a great price. (You don't see many lemonade stands flagging down other children on bikes....instead they're flagging you down in your car. They've established hierarchy.  (Those crafty little entrepreneurs.)

There's a lot we can learn from these lemonade stands. All companies should have an idea of who is more likely to buy from them, and establish a plan for identifying these types of prospects quickly.

Defining Your Qualified Leads

Why is This Important?

There needs to be some level of hierarchy when it comes to identifying qualified leads in order to effectively shorten your sales cycle.

Companies who don't, and simply feel they can "market to everyone" equally are severely missing the boat. This happens much more than one would think, as I actually heard about a potential prospect this week who was actually resistant, and in part clueless in regards to developing a strategy for identifying the criteria that would make up his MQL's & SQL's, which would provide his sales team a much more efficient and productive sales approach.

It's critically important that marketers and business owners ask themselves what prospect information is valuable to their sales process. Once this information is established, it gives both the marketing and sales initiatives a much more focused and effective strategy moving forward.

Who's More Likely to Buy?

In order to properly identify your MQL's and SQL's, you first need to have a crystal clear idea of who is more likely to buy from you.

Once again, the more vague and lazy your answers and research are here, the more sluggish your lead to close rates will be.

As mentioned earlier, develop a list of criteria that you'd consider valuable to your sales process. And start asking this information on your lead capture forms in order to set yourself up to more effectively qualify your leads.

For a B2B Company, consider the following:

    • Job title/role
    • Size of company
    • Industry
    • Biggest marketing challenge

For B2C companies, consider:

    • Age demographics
    • Sex demographics
    • Geographic location
    • Biggest interest

Obviously the criteria will vary from industry to industry, but the important thing to take away here is to become more aware of what separates your leads from one another, and start honing in on these differences and how they affect your sales process and close rates.

Develop Your Definitions of an MQL & SQL

Now that you've established what information you'd like to learn about your leads to assist in your sales process, it's time for your marketing and sales teams to sit down and discuss which criteria makes a lead more qualified than another. This is the critical aspect of the process, as whatever is decided here will determine your lead nurturing strategy, when your sales team will reach out to prospects, and also how they will sell to them.

From the information and criteria asked on your lead capture forms, consider which ones would be more likely to buy.

    • CEOs? Marketing managers?
    • Bigger/smaller companies?
    • 28-35 year olds?

Whatever you're asking from your leads on lead capture forms, establish a hierarchy to determine what the most qualified leads would look like. Both the marketing and sales teams should be working hand-in-hand in order to establish a more targeted approach in both areas.

Implement Lead Scoring

Another benefit of asking your leads valuable demographic information is that you can actually score them based on their answers as well as their behavior on your website.

Have CEOs of smaller, start-up companies proven to be a more likely buyer than anything else? If so, attach a point value for anyone who answers "CEO" and also has a smaller company as gathered from your lead capture forms.

This is an automated, efficient way to ensure that the cream rises to the top and your sales team is only getting on the phone with the most qualified of leads.

However, this can only happen once you've determined who your ideal prospects are and also developed a hierarchy to the leads you're generating. Simply marketing to everyone with no clear picture in mind invites a more chaotic  unorganized marketing and sales process.

If you're interested in learning more on how lead scoring works, be sure to check out our newest ebook, "The B2B Marketers Checklist for Accurate Lead Scoring."

John Bonini

John Bonini

John is the Marketing Director at IMPACT, responsible for the overall marketing and branding strategy. He also writes for the HubSpot Blog, Social Media Examiner, and Convince & Convert among others. He enjoys playing guitar, high-fives, and anything with marinara sauce.

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