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March 13, 2022

Are you looking for ways on how to qualify leads? If so, you’ve come to the right place. In this ultimate guide, we’ll teach you everything you need to know about qualifying leads effectively.

From the types of questions you should ask to what information you need, we’ll cover it all! 

 How to qualify leads

Our comprehensive guide will show you how to do it right.

This ultimate list of questions about sales qualification will help you to know what to ask your prospects.

It’s a fork in your road for you and your prospect. They’re a good enough match for your product/service to warrant discussing next steps or it’s time for you to part ways.

However, it is not easy to make that call. This is where sales qualification comes into play.

Asking the right questions will help you determine if the relationship should be continued and what next steps to take if the deal is viable. This guide will help you understand the basics of sales qualification. It will also present the various frameworks that you can use. It will also provide tips on how to avoid disqualification and what conversational tip-offs you should listen for.

how to qualify leads

What is sales qualification?

Sales qualification is the process by which you determine if a lead or prospect has the potential to become a customer. It is done during sales calls and is crucial when determining whether customers will stay with you long-term. You could talk to hundreds of leads per day without sales qualifications.

But you would only end up with one or two closed deals. It’s an essential part of any sales process, as it allows you to focus on qualified prospects who are more likely to buy from you. But why is it so important? 

Why is sales qualification important?

Sales qualification is essential for sales organizations as it greatly improves close ratios. You run the risk of pursuing leads that aren’t right for your product because of budgetary constraints, organizational challenges or other factors.

Sales qualification is a better way of doing business. This allows you to target leads most likely to buy the product, thereby saving you time and effort.

There are several more reasons why sales qualification is important:

  • If the lead isn’t qualified, you can move on and spend more time with prospects who are more likely buy.
  • You can target a smaller group of buyers to help you offer a more personal selling experience.
  • You can learn about the buyer’s needs and provide a better solution.
  • You can be sure that most of your activities will have a positive effect on revenue.
  • You can create different sales qualification process for different verticals, and keep a list that feels personal.

Let’s suppose you try to sell your product on a lead that you don’t qualify. If the product is not a good fit, the customer may return it for a refund or engage in a social media tirade.

You can provide a highly customized solution to improve post-purchase satisfaction by deliberately qualifying prospects through a discovery phone call.

What does the sales qualification process look as a whole? Let’s take a look.

Qualification Process for Leads

The pool of leads generated by your sales, marketing, acquisition, product, and product teams is the starting point for lead qualification. This pool of leads may be generated by website submissions, even if you work in a smaller company.

how to qualify leads

There are numerous types of leads in a sales organization:

  • Unqualified Leads – Unqualified leads aren’t nurtured enough in a flywheel to be passed to a sales team.
  • Marketing Qualified leads (MQLs),: These leads are qualified to receive marketing communications, such as email campaigns and content offers.
  • Sales Qualified leads (SQLs),: These are qualified leads who are ready and available to connect with a sales representative and start the sales process.
  • Product Qualified Leaders (PQLs ) : These PQLs have expressed strong interest in the product through either signing up for a freemium subscription, or signing up to try it out for free.
  • Conversion Qualified leads (CQLs),:A CQL is a potential customer who converted on your website by submitting a form or pressing a click-to-call button.

The leads are then entered into a lead qualification framework. Here you can ask a series of qualifying questions to determine if they’re a good product-fit. The qualified leads are then used in the sales process.

The nurturing sequence is where disqualified leads are fed into the sales process. They’ll hopefully warm up to the product and make purchases later.

Let’s look at three crucial aspects of lead qualification: qualifying questions, qualified prospects, frameworks, and how to qualify leads.

What is a qualifying question?

A qualifying question allows the salesperson to determine if a prospect is a good fit for their product or service. This could be based on need, budget or authority, urgency, or any other factor.

A good qualifying question should be open-ended. Asking a closed-ended question such as “Is this a priority right away?” The buyer is asked to give an answer.

Better would be “Where does it fall on your list business priorities?” The prospect will be more honest and transparent if you don’t ask them for an answer.

Here are some great qualifying questions:

  • What business problem can this product solve?
  • What has stopped you from trying to solve this problem?
  • Do you know what is your budget for this project?
  • Are you using any solutions? Are you using any methods to solve this problem?
  • What is your primary priority in solving this problem? Which functionality would you consider most important?
  • After using this product, success looks like a newfound ability to communicate with others effectively and build strong relationships.
  • Would you be the daily user? Who in your company would use this product every day?
  • What are the friction points in your day that you feel this product can help with?
  • What decision-makers would be involved with the purchase of this product’s?
  • Would it be okay if I followed-up on mm/dd/yy?

These questions will determine if you qualify or disqualify the prospect.

What qualifies a prospect?

A qualified prospect has completed the lead qualification process.

Qualification begins and ends with the discovery call, but it is not where qualification stops. Sales reps must continue to evaluate prospects at every stage of the sales process to identify more and better characteristics. Qualification occurs at three different levels: organization-level, opportunity-level, and stakeholder-level qualification.

Qualification for Organization-Level Prospects

This is the most basic level and it doesn’t tell you anything other than that you should do more research. Refer to buyer personas if your company has them when you are qualifying prospects. Are the buyer’s demographics similar to a persona?

These are the questions you should ask at this stage:

  • Who is the prospect in your territory?
  • Do they sell to their industry?
  • What is the company’s size?
  • Does this account meet your company’s buyer personas?

Opportunity-Level Prospect Qualification

The opportunity-level qualification is where you determine if your prospect has a specific problem or need that you can solve and if it’s feasible for them to implement your product or service. Opportunity-level characteristics are the other half of a buyer persona. They provide insight into how a prospect might benefit from your product or service.

Ask the following questions to determine if your prospect is qualified for an opportunity level:

  • Are they familiar with the product?
  • Is there a problem they need to solve?
  • Are they able to assign a team or someone who will be using the product?

Qualification of Prospects at the Stakeholder Level

Assuming that your company’s solutions are a good fit for their business and that they match your ideal buyer persona, the next step is to determine if your contact can actually make a purchase.

Ask your prospect these questions to determine this:

  • Is this purchase within your budget?
  • Who is involved in the decision?
  • Are you able to define the criteria that will guide your purchase decision? Who set them?

When to disqualify prospects

If you are not able to serve their type of buyer, it is safe for you to disqualify them immediately.

You might one day be able to serve their type of buyer, but for now, you don’t have the time and resources to try to fit your offer into their business. You could also speak with the CEO of an organization that has complete budget authority and who passes stakeholder-level qualifications with flying colors.

If there is no problem, you don’t need to find a solution. First, qualify for business pain.

Keep in mind that prospects must be qualified at all three levels before you can move them up in the sales process. If your prospect is unable to answer questions about the company’s strategic goals, it could be a sign that they are not involved in the decision-making process or lack influence.

This contact should be disqualified at the stakeholder level.

Why disqualifying isn’t a necessarily a bad thing

Many salespeople don’t want to lose prospects or shrink their pipelines.

Although it is their natural instinct to try to get as many leads as possible, this is not the best approach. Quality is more important than quantity.

Your most valuable asset as a salesperson is your time. It’s better to focus your time on a few of your top prospects than on many. You will only end up closing every deal that comes your way, and you will be ignoring prospects who are likely to buy.

We’ve already discussed qualifying questions and the characteristics of a qualified prospect. All of the processes discussed so far can be organized using lead qualifications frameworks.

How to Qualify a Lead With Lead Qualification Frameworks

A qualification framework is a tool for salespeople to determine if a prospect will become a profitable customer. Although every customer and sale is unique, all closed deals share some commonalities. These shared characteristics are distilled into general traits that sales reps can look out for when qualifying prospects.

The BANT Qualification Framework

A tried-and-true sales qualification framework is BANT (Budget Authority, Need, Timeline). It is used in a variety companies and on a variety markets.

BANT was originally developed by IBM. It covers all aspects of stakeholder- and opportunity-level qualification.

how to qualify leads

The following information is sought by BANT:

  • Budget The prospect is able to completely rewrite the input in a unique way with a professional tone. buy?
  • Authority Can your contact authorize a purchase?
  • Need Can the prospect you help solve a business problem?
  • Timeline When is he prospect planning to buy?

Here are some examples of BANT questions that might be asked in prospect conversations.

how to qualify leads

  • Have you set aside a budget for this purchase? What is it?
  • Is this a priority enough to allocate funds?
  • What other initiatives do you have in place that require financial investment?
  • How does seasonality impact your funding?
  • Which budget is this purchase from?
  • Who will take part in the purchase decision?
  • How have you made purchasing decisions for similar products in the past?
  • What objections do you think you might encounter regarding this purchase? How can we best deal with them?
  • What are your biggest challenges?
  • What is the root cause of your pain? Why do you think it’s worth your time?
  • Why hasn’t this been done in the past?
  • What do you think could be done to solve this problem? Why?
  • How fast can you solve your problem?
  • What is your topmost priority?
  • Are you looking at similar products or services to yours?
  • Do you have the ability to implement this product now?

Although BANT addresses many opportunities-level needs, it falls short on other areas.

One person could be the “ultimate” purchasing authority. Engage all stakeholders early in the process to secure their buy-in.

“Timeline” is another area in which BANT has a problem today. A strict BANT qualification may require you to cycle a lead who isn’t ready to buy until next years into a closed-lost list.

You might be acting too early. Send them educational resources and offer to help until the buyer is ready to buy.

MEDDIC

Jack Napoli, a former employee of technology company PTC, pioneered MEDDIC (Metrics. Economic Buyer. Decision Criteria. Identify Pain. Champion). MEDDIC requires that sales reps understand every aspect of a target organization’s purchasing process down to whether they have an internal champion — someone who will sell your product internally at the prospective company.

MEDDIC was a valuable tool for increasing forecast accuracy. This is crucial for companies selling to enterprise companies. Losing just one deal can be devastating, especially if each deal is worth millions of dollars.

HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan stated that PTC was successful because it sold a better widget. “From $0 up to $100 million, [PTC] was] successful,” Halligan said. We sold a shift in technology, from $100 million to $1 trillion.

MEDDIC is important because it’s more than just a purchase. It’s a transformation of a business.

If your company sells a product that requires a change in behavior or an average sales price, MEDDIC could be used as a qualification framework. It is vital to understand how prospects buy, why they would purchase, and who is supporting you internally in order to maintain a precise pipeline.

how to qualify leads

CHAMP Sales

CHAMP (Challenges Authority Money and Prioritization) is a similar concept to ANUM, but puts Challenges ahead Authority.

CHAMP defines authority as a “call to action,” not a roadblock. It is safe to assume that your initial contact is not a high-ranking employee. However, this doesn’t mean that you should give up on the phone.

Instead, ask questions to help you understand the organization structure of your company and determine who to contact next.

GPCTBA/C&I

It’s a long acronym but it’s very useful. The HubSpot qualification framework GPCTBA/C&I was created to address changes in buyer behavior. Salespeople must add value to the product knowledge of buyers who are increasingly informed.

Sales reps cannot just add value — they must look beyond the problem your product or service might solve to become an advisor. This includes understanding the prospect’s strategic goals and their company’s business model as well as how the issue you are discussing fits into their larger professional life.

Here are some questions to ask at each step.

how to qualify leads

Goals

The purpose of these questions is to determine your prospect’s quantitative goals. If your prospect’s answer isn’t clear, you can help clarify or establish goals with them.

  • What is your top priority for the year?
  • Do your company have specific goals?
  • Have you set revenue goals for this quarter/year.

Plans

Once you have a clear understanding of your prospect’s goals and their work history, you can find out what they’ve done to reach them. You can identify what has worked and what has not, and make suggestions for improvement.

  • What are your plans to achieve your goals?
  • What were your top achievements last year? What worked? What will you do differently in 2019?
  • Are you concerned that XYZ might make your plan more difficult to implement?
  • Do your resources allow you to implement this plan?

Challenges

It is essential to identify your prospect’s problems and reinforce that they have failed in previous attempts. Prospects won’t be customers if they don’t understand the need for help.

  • Why do YOU think you can overcome this challenge now, even if you’ve tried it in the past?
  • Do these challenges require you to have the right internal expertise?
  • How will you change gears if you realize that your plan isn’t going to solve the problem early enough?

Timeline

Your time is your most valuable asset. Your time is your most valuable asset.

  • When do you plan to implement this plan?
  • Do your resources and bandwidth allow you to implement this plan immediately?
  • Need help figuring out the steps involved in executing this strategy?

Budget

Asking “What is your budget?” is not enough. According to Dan Tyre, HubSpot’s sales director, this question is unlikely to give you valuable insight.

Instead, ask:

  • Are you in agreement about the potential ROI for
  • Are you considering spending money on a product that solves the problem we’ve discussed?

Then, get in on the action. Databox CEO Pete Caputa, former HubSpot Vice President of Sales, suggests this way to phrase the budget question:

“We have established that your goal X is achieved and that you are spending Y now to achieve X. It’s not working. You will need to invest Z in order to hire us. If Z is similar to Y, and you are more certain that our solution will get to your goal than Y, then do you think it makes sense to invest Z in order to hire us? “

Authority

This framework doesn’t require you to be a decision-maker, unlike in BANT. Your contact could be an influencer, or a coach. These are two types of internal champions that can provide insight into the thought process of decision-makers.

If your contact isn’t the economic buyer ask them:

  • Are the goals discussed important for the economic buyer?
  • Where does fall among their priorities?
  • What are your concerns?
  • How do we get the economic buyer to sign on?

Negative Implications and Positive Consequences

This part of the qualification process will help you determine what happens if your prospect fails to achieve their goals.

Caputa states, “If your product can help them avoid potential consequences and further aid them in achieving greater follow-up goals,”

Here are some C&I questions you can ask prospects

  • What happens if you aren’t able to achieve your goals? What does the outcome mean for you personally?
  • What will you do next after you have overcome this challenge?
  • Are you eligible to be promoted or receive more resources if your goal is achieved? If you fail to achieve your goal, would you lose responsibility?

The advantage of GPCTBA/C&I for salespeople is the ability to gather a lot of information. These insights are extremely valuable if your product is highly differentiated and complex. To be effective business partners and advisors, sales reps selling these products must step into the world of their prospects.

However, GPCTBA/C&I may not be appropriate for all sales teams. This qualification may not be necessary depending on the product you sell.

how to qualify leads

ANUM

ANUM (Authority. Need. Urgency. Money) is an alternative to BANT. A sales rep should determine if they are speaking with a decision maker when qualifying using ANUM.

While need functions in the same way in BANT as in BANT, it has been given a higher priority. Urgency is related to Timing, and Money replaces Budget.

how to qualify leads

FAINT

The RAIN Group recommends using FAINT (Funds Authority, Interest, Need and Timing) to qualify leads. FAINT is intended to reflect the fact many purchases are not planned and therefore won’t be tied to a budget.

Reps using FAINT, like ANUM, should search for organizations that have the ability to buy, regardless if a budget has been set aside. FAINT also includes Interest.

John Doerr of RAIN Group and Mike Schultz from RAIN Group say that interest is “[generating] interest by the buyer in learning about what’s possible, how to achieve a better reality than the one currently available.”

Sales Qualifying: Red Flags and Good Signs

If you have heard this one, please stop me: “It’sn’t what you said, it is how you said it.”

This phrase is the foundation of many arguments, but it’s just as valuable as gold when it concerns sales qualification. You will get as much information from your prospect through their voice and delivery than what they actually say.

These are some tips (both good and not so good) to look out for when qualifying prospects. They will help you decide whether to move forward with the sales process or disqualify them as soon as possible.

Excuses

Wait. What excuses can you make?

Excuses can help us to resolve our actions and become the person we want to be. If your prospect attempts to justify past inaction regarding business pain, you should raise your ears. Either the excuse is valid or your prospect is trying to justify why they didn’t. It is a confirmation that their pain is real.

Specificity

Prospects who are able to give specific answers to questions like “What are you goals?” ” and “When are you looking for results?” They have taken the time to think about their problem. Listen out for detailed plans, well-thought-out explanations, statistics, and other information.

Specificity also indicates that your prospect is experiencing real pain. People without real problems are not likely to spend their time thinking about the reasons they exist and how they can be solved.

However, specifics must be accompanied with reality. A prospect might say “I want quadruple my revenue in the next two week,” is using specifics as evidence that they lack business acumen.

Knowledge

Knowledge is the partner of specificity. For qualifying at stakeholder level, a knowledge check is your best option. True decision-makers will be able to understand the company’s goals, challenges, as well as its needs. It is unlikely that a contact without this information will be valuable in the sales process.

Inconsistency

If prospects have contradictory answers, it is likely that they are trying to help but don’t have the necessary knowledge. This is not a deterrent.

Instead, ask them to tell you who knows the answers and then continue qualifying the opportunity with another person.

Short answers

True business pain is a constant in an organization. Executives lose sleep over it, and employees have to deal with it daily. Prospects will be more interested in you if you project the impression that you can alleviate the pain.

If a prospect is giving you only one-word answers, it’s not someone who feels there’s a basis to a conversation. Click To Tweet

The problem could be a non-issue or the contact isn’t sufficiently knowledgeable to understand its severity. Depending on your thoughts, you can either disqualify yourself or reach out to another member.

More to You

Effective qualification is key to sales success. Your business’ success depends on your ability to find the right prospects. Happy prospects will bring you more revenue, word-of-mouth referrals, and cross- or upselling opportunities.

It is essential that you do it correctly.

Conclusion

Qualifying leads are an essential part of any successful marketing campaign. By asking the right questions and gathering the necessary information, you can determine whether a lead is worth pursuing or not. 

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