What Makes A “Qualified” Lead?

Robin Robins IT Marketing, MSP Marketing

Sales Qualified Lead | Technology Marketing ToolkitAh, the age-old whine of the failing salesperson: The leads are WEAK! Some people would automatically dismiss this as a lazy salesperson’s excuse (which often IS the case) – but thinking that ALL leads are good is just as foolish. There ARE times, when leads generated, are NOT qualified leads and not worth the effort of a salesperson to pursue and/or meet with, much less waste time creating proposals for. The trick is to qualify without pushing away leads that have a high potential to be a client but need to be pursued and SOLD, and that’s what I want to discuss.

Since every business is slightly different, I cannot provide a list of “absolutes” as to what makes a qualified lead for everyone. Some of our clients serve home users and find a solo entrepreneur to be a highly qualified lead, while others only work with enterprise accounts with 1,000+ users. Some clients have multiple “client avatars” that have different criteria to make them qualified.

Some leads you can instantly disqualify, such as a company that is not in the geographic market you serve or that wants something you don’t offer. However, I STRONGLY recommend calling and talking to EVERY lead before you automatically disqualify them; you never know when someone you thought was going to be a dud turns out to be an excellent lead or opens a door to a bigger opportunity you never saw coming. A good telemarketer/ appointment setter can do this work for you.

Further, I would suggest you have a tag or a way of tracking SWEET-SPOT leads – prospects that fit YOUR ideal criteria for a high-probability prospect that you’d want. We use a tag in Infusionsoft; if a prospect does NOT have that tag, we’ll leave them in our CRM and include them in GENERAL e-mail marketing campaigns but WON’T invest money in direct mail and telemarketing follow-up to get an APPOINTMENT. I just gave you a VERY important strategy for building a responsive list. Make sure you reread it and, more importantly, implement it.

Related: Marketing Deep Dive: Fix Your Follow Up – How To Ensure EVERY Quality Lead You Generate Converts Into A Profitable, Paying Customer

Now, a few things to consider when coming up with your own list of what makes a qualified lead for you. Again, some of these can be situational and they can’t ALL be determined in advance of a more extensive meeting (first appointment). However, I suggest that AFTER the first appointment, if you do it correctly, you should weed out the low-probability tire kickers, looky-loos, and price shoppers.

Niche: Are they the type of business you can help/want to help?

For example, we only work with VARs, MSPs and IT services companies – not necessarily other “IT”-related businesses. If a prospect comes to us and they are a software development company, we’ll have a quick conversation by phone to let them know we don’t have a Toolkit customized for their specific business, but that the general principles in the program would still apply. If they indicate that’s not a deal killer for them, we’ll proceed with the sales process. If not, we WON’T put a “sweet-spot” tag on them in our CRM so we don’t continue to pursue them for an appointment.

Authority: Do they have the authority to make the decision?

This can be tricky to determine on an initial phone call because you don’t know how decisions are made in every organization. For us, the CEO is almost always necessary to have on the sales call or we’ll be handed an “I need to get approval from my boss” response when we try to get them to buy. The only time that isn’t an issue is when we’re talking to a larger MSP or IT firm and the prospect is leading the managed IT services division, with both budget and the authority to spend it. A marketing manager or salesperson working at a small MSP rarely has the authority to make a buying decision, so we don’t actively try and book appointments with them. If they come in as a lead, we’ll call to see how we can assist, send them information specific to what they are looking for, and attempt to book a consult with them AND the CEO. If booking a consultation WITH the CEO is not an option, we just send them information and take them out of follow-up. They will stay in our CRM for drip campaigns, but we won’t actively pursue them anymore for an appointment.

Money: Can they easily write a check for your services?

Sometimes this is not difficult to determine, but proceed with caution. If you deliver high-level cyber security solutions and managed services, and you won’t take a client for less than $5,000 per month, a home user may be easily disqualified. However, on more than one occasion I’ve had clients surprised by smaller prospects who are willing to spend money on quality IT support because they’ve been so burned and disappointed in the past and are ready to spend more to get competent IT support. Some smaller firms may actually be start-ups with VC money. Here’s one way to qualify: on your first conversation (usually by phone), ask if they are already outsourcing their support to another IT firm. If they are, that’s a good sign. Also ask why they are looking to replace that firm. If they say it’s because they want a cheaper solution, they may disqualify themselves. If it’s due to poor service, they’re still in the game. The fact that they were outsourcing demonstrates they are willing to spend money on outsourced IT, making them MORE qualified.

Need: Do they have a genuine need for your services right NOW or are they just mildly curious?

Or are they price shopping or getting RFPs because it’s required of them? This will be a qualification you make early on in the sales process. If someone says they’re just gathering information right now and don’t want an appointment, send them the information and then stay in touch with drip campaigns. Further, can you ACTUALLY help them? A prospect that needs something you don’t sell or deliver, or that is out of your scope of expertise, is not a qualified lead.

Depending on the services you sell, there may be other qualifications that have to do with environment, the technology they use, etc. My suggestion is to make a list, and then reverse-engineer your sales AND marketing (including your website, Shock-And-Awe, etc.) to communicate exactly WHO your “sweet-spot” prospect is. Doing so will cut down on the number of unqualified leads you get and INCREASE the ones you want.

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