Qualifying Leads: How to Identify and Score Qualified Leads

It's not uncommon for marketers to equate leads with sales — the more leads you have, the greater likelihood of sales and profit.

However, savvy marketers and brands these days know too well that placing so much emphasis on lead quantity doesn’t work anymore.

Looking solely at numbers is misleading. In the end, it's the quality of your leads that can make a real impact on your brand’s bottom line.

For instance, why would you put a lot of effort nurturing leads coming from Los Angeles when you’re a small business targeting New York residents?

What’s the point of sending a follow-up email to a student who downloaded your whitepaper detailing a common problem (and offering solutions!) encountered by enterprise CTOs?

An Inbound Marketer's Guide to Qualifying Leads

At Lean Labs, we totally get it!

As a small inbound marketing agency, we have a lot of leads that flow through our website. Yet not all of these leads are sales-ready. Plus, it’s part of our mission to not just work with anyone who is ready to give us money.

We are in a position now where we can pick and choose which potential clients to work with based on their budget, mindset, and desire to 10x their band. This means we have established an efficient way to identify and qualify leads through automation. It has work wonders for us and our clients.

If you’re a beginner trying to piece it all together without feeling overwhelmed, this lead qualification guide is for you.

In a nutshell, this guide will help jumpstart your lead generation efforts by ensuring that your leads are more qualified and properly nurtured before the official hand-off to your sales team.

This guide is divided into three digestible sections:

  • Why Lead Qualification and Scoring Matters
  • A Primer on How to Qualify Leads
  • Qualifying Sales-Ready Lead with Lead Scoring

Why Lead Qualification and Scoring Matters

It pays to separate the good, high-quality leads from those who are just looking around for the following reasons:

Lead qualification and scoring can help improve a brand's future lead nurturing campaigns.

A closer look of marketing promotions and channels that produce high-quality leads can help you make informed decisions the next time you come up with another strategy.

Lead qualification and scoring can help brands quickly gain their prospects' trust.

When you identify and score leads, it’s easier to send content that is relevant to them. The more value you generously offer these leads, the faster you can build a customer-brand relationship founded on trust.

Lead qualification and scoring can help boost a collaborative relationship between sales and marketing teams.

Marketing and sales teams are often thought of as cats and dogs respectively. Every so often, the two don’t just get along. The good news is that qualifying leads early on can help improve the dynamics between sales and marketing teams. Your marketing team can finally come up with targeted campaigns and hand off sales-ready leads to the sales department.

Furthermore, both teams won’t have to waste time and resources crafting campaigns and chasing unqualified leads. When both sales and marketing are on the same page, everybody wins.

A Primer on How to Qualify Leads

Research suggests that the less companies know about their KPIs (key performance indicators), the less likely they are to meet their revenue goals. According to HubSpot’s 2017 Marketing Statistics, 74 percent of companies that weren't meeting or exceeding revenue goals are clueless about the specific qualification of their leads (visitor, lead, MQL, SQL, or even unqualified).

With that said, here’s a breakdown on how to qualify leads:

General Lead or Subscriber

A prospect becomes a lead when he or she has taken an interest in one of your lead-generating content offers. In most cases, a lead has provided their email address in exchange for value-filled content from your website. A new subscriber who downloaded one of your eBooks is a good example.

A note on general leads — they may have given you an email address but keep in mind that you’re still lacking identifying data about themselves yet.

Marketing-Qualified Lead (MQL)

HubSpot defines an MQL as a lead who is more likely to become a customer compared to general leads based on lead intelligence derived from closed-loop analytics. The new subscriber who downloaded your eBook might be considered an MQL if they are within the target industry or business size that you’re after.

Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)

Subsequent website visits for more sales information and more content downloads (like demo requests, free trial offers, buying guides) after the initial visit are good signs that an MQL has turned into an SQL.

Other signs of sales readiness include the following:

  • Returning to your website multiple times (e.g. looking at customer case studies, reviewing product and pricing pages continuously, etc)
  • Increasing number of email opens and clickthroughs to your offers
  • Downloading content that solves a specific pain point

SQLs may sound like the most promising leads but MQLs. or the ones in the mushy middle, are just as important and should be given the same attention.

What’s an unqualified lead by the way?

You don’t want to waste your time with unqualified leads. To help stay away from them, both marketing and sales team should work together in defining what a quality lead means to your business.

Take a look these red flags that unqualified leads typically present themselves with when your sales team gets in touch with them:

  • They are not the the decision makers or they are unwilling to let your sales team talk to decision makers.
  • They are unaware about your company.
  • They are unsure about what you’re offering or uncertain about their needs.
  • They don’t have enough budget to say yes to your offer.
  • They are geographically located outside your territory.
  • They are using obviously fake contact information
  • They are not opening your emails.

Using Lead Scoring to Identify Sales-Ready Leads

So how do you ensure that only the most qualified leads are passed from marketing to sales?

Qualifying leads through lead scoring is the solution you’re looking for.

A lead score, often expressed as a numerical value, is used to measure the extent of a lead’s sales-readiness. Typically, a score is assigned to a prospect based on certain actions ( that you've decided on as implicit buying signals) that he or she has taken. These actions include but are not limited to contact form submissions, number of page views, demo requests, social media follows, webinar attendance, and more.

Here are a few examples of identifying data and actions that can possibly impact their lead score:

  • Site searches - Searching within your site is an explicit sign of interest.
  • Page views - More page views almost always means greater engagement.
  • Nature of downloads - A lead who downloaded a buying guide can have a higher score than a lead who simply signed up for your newsletter.
  • Email clickthroughs - Clicking certain links in your email means they’re interested to know more.
  • Job position - The head of marketing gets more points in contrast to the marketing intern because the former is more likely to make buying decisions.
  • Company industry, size, and location - A lead from a small business in Texas is less likely to become sales-ready for a Washington D.C. area provider of fiber internet.

While you can use any scale you’d like for scoring leads, using a point system from 1-100, with 100 the most ready to talk to your sales team) is a good start.

Getting Started in Qualifying Leads

Brands big and small are always on the lookout for that one magic formula to help pin down sales-ready leads. But alas, it doesn’t exist!

In reality, marketing and sales teams should work together to develop their own formula in qualifying and scoring leads. Like many aspects of building businesses, lead scoring requires an experimental approach. You're not likely going to get it right the first time but the only way to make progress (and perfect your lead scoring model!) is to start now.

It's also worth noting that a lead's activity can change from time to time. As a result, a lead's score may periodically fluctuate up and down.

Finally, manual lead scoring can be a struggle for both marketing and sales teams when implementing lead nurturing campaigns. It makes sense to use a lead management platform like HubSpot that allows teams to establish a lead scoring criteria and do re-scores seamlessly.

Is your marketing team qualifying and scoring leads? We're all ears so tell us about it in the comments below!

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