Your business requires a steady stream of new leads to keep the sales engine running.

But not all leads are created equal.

Some of your leads might be newly problem-aware, beginning to research potential solutions; others are carefully weighing your solution against a competitor’s before pulling the trigger.

And chances are at least half of your leads are not a good fit for your product or service at all.

Is that frightening? A little. But is it helpful? Yes!

Knowing there are so many poor-fit leads in the mix, it’s easy to see the value of lead qualification. More importantly, it highlights the need to identify qualified prospects as early as possible in the sales process—which leads to better use of your sales team’s time, less wasted resources, and a higher win rate.

What is Lead Qualification?

If you know exactly which leads were most likely to convert, you can spend all your time and energy focused on them. Of course, the tricky part is figuring out which leads are future customers, which ones require more nurturing, and which are simply dead ends. And that’s exactly what lead qualification helps you do.

More precisely, lead qualification is the process of determining whether a lead has the potential to become a customer. The goal is to identify qualified prospects who are ready to connect with a quota-carrying sales rep.

What’s the Difference Between Lead Scoring and Lead Qualification?

Lead scoring is evaluating your leads based on specific criteria, adding and subtracting points for certain behaviors or characteristics. For example, you might add points for viewing your pricing page or downloading a relevant eBook but subtract points for lingering on your careers page or not having the right job title.

Lead qualification has some similarities to lead scoring, but they’re fundamentally different practices. Where lead scoring results in a numerical score used to prioritize leads, lead qualification sorts your leads into one of three buckets: marketing-qualified, sales-qualified, or unqualified.

lead qualification process

Where Does Qualification Fit into the Sales Process?

There are different methods and techniques you can use for qualifying leads, but the basic process looks something like this.

Step 1: Lead Generation

Sales professionals generate a list of potential customers through various prospecting activities. This can include a mix of inbound marketing, outreach via cold calling or cold email, referrals, and lead gen tools.

Step 2: Lead Qualification

Leads are evaluated based on qualifying questions. These are typically asked during a discovery call, where the sales rep’s objective is to decide whether a lead is worth pursuing. Different sales organizations have their own lead qualification criteria and qualifying questions.

Step 3: Lead Segmentation

Based on a lead’s responses to qualifying questions (and their alignment with your ideal customer profile), sales reps can categorize them as either sales-qualified, marketing-qualified, or disqualified.

  • A sales-qualified lead (SQL) is ready for next steps. They may be open to scheduling a demo, receiving a personalized quote, or discussing next steps with a quota-carrying sales rep.
  • Marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) are curious about the solution and on track to potentially become SQLs with the right nurturing and education.
  • Disqualified leads are also called unqualified leads—and they’re either not ready to move forward at this time or are not a good fit for your solution at all.

Step 4: Sell, Nurture, or Pause

Next, sales-qualified leads are passed on to a quota-carrying sales rep whose job is to learn more about the prospect’s needs and guide them towards making a purchase. Ideally, your SQLs will continue through the sales pipeline and come out the other side as paying customers.

Marketing-qualified leads are not ready to buy, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be in the future. Once identified, MQLs are added to the appropriate nurture track based on their level of interest and awareness. If they continue to engage with your content or show signs they’ve converted to sales-ready, they can be re-evaluated and potentially added to your sales pipeline.

Disqualified leads are simply not a good fit for the product (perhaps due to lack of budget or need for the solution), so they are either paused or removed from the list altogether.

Lead Qualification Factors: How Should You Evaluate Leads?

Qualifying factors are characteristics that make it possible to spot the difference between leads and prospects. Depending on your product, audience, and sales process, these might include:

  • B2B demographics. Does this lead align with your ideal customer profile? Does their job title, industry, business size, and other defining characteristics reflect those of your ideal customers?
  • Behavior and signals. Do the lead’s interactions with your website or team suggest interest in or need for your product?
  • Lead source. Where was this lead generated from? Does the source historically produce high-quality leads?
  • Deciding factors and stakeholders. Who is involved in the final decision? How many stakeholders need to sign off on the deal?
  • Responses to qualifying questions, such as:
    • “Does this align with your current priorities?”
    • “Are you considering any other solutions at this point?”
    • “What’s your ideal timeline for implementation?”
    • “What’s your biggest concern about moving forward?”
    • “Are you the right person to speak to about this decision?”
    • “Can we set up a demo for [specific time on specific day]?”

Lead Qualification Frameworks

Following an established lead qualification framework can help you qualify leads and refine your own process for evaluating prospects. Since the goal is to determine if the lead has buying intent, the best lead qualification framework for your business is one that provides the most insight into a lead’s likelihood of buying.

Here are few examples of popular lead qualification frameworks to inspire your own:

BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline)

BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline)

One of the simplest, most effective models for qualifying leads is the BANT framework. Developed by IBM and adopted by sales teams around the world, BANT evaluates leads based on four key characteristics: budget, authority, need, and timeline.

  • Budget: Can the prospect afford your solution?
  • Authority: Does your contact have final say in the purchase decision or are there other stakeholders involved?
  • Need: Do they have an actual need for your solution? Does it add value?
  • Timeline: Are they planning to buy or sign up soon? If not, it might not be worth pursuing until a later date.

The BANT framework is just one model of lead qualification. As you refine your ideal customer profile and sales process, you might want to borrow criteria and qualifying questions from a few different frameworks.

GPCTBA/C&I (Goals, Plans, Challenges, Timeline, Budget, Authority / Consequences & Implications)

Despite being one of the most complicated acronyms in sales, this qualification framework is recognized as a valuable option. Created by HubSpot, this model expands on the BANT framework to help sales reps uncover opportunities to add value and respond to buyer behavior.

It stands for:

  • Goals: If you can uncover a company’s goals, you can better determine whether your solution is a good fit and how you can provide value.
  • Plans: Understanding a company’s plans for technology implementation help you evaluate whether implementation is currently viable.
  • Challenges: What challenges is the lead facing that your product can help them solve?
  • Timeline: Does their timeline for implementation make it worth pursuing now?
  • Budget: Do they have a budget for the solution?
  • Authority: Who has the authority to sign off on the deal? What type of reassurance do they need to move forward?
  • Consequences & Implications: What would happen if the problem remained unsolved? For instance, are they losing out on business or revenue by not implementing your solution?

CHAMP (Challenges, Authority, Money, Prioritization)

The CHAMP qualification framework emphasizes the power of understanding pain points. This model is similar to BANT but with one major difference: CHAMP focuses more on lead behaviors and decisions than static factors.

For instance, rather than asking the lead about their budget, the CHAMP framework suggests understanding how the lead thinks of money as a resource. So, if your solution has a high upfront but yields impressive results over a longer time frame, you can make a compelling case for a high-cost, high-value product.

Likewise, rather than emphasizing timeline, the CHAMP model looks at prioritization. Does the lead view your solution as an urgent need, or do they need to tackle a few internal projects before they can even begin to discuss timing?  

CHAMP also emphasizes challenges instead of need. You can think of challenges as pain points to be solved by the solution. What can the lead hope to achieve or overcome by implementing your solution?

Note: If one of these systems works for you as is, perfect! But more likely, there will be some elements that resonate with you and some that don’t. We recommend customizing your qualification framework based on your own customers and sales process.

Early Lead Qualification Is the Key to Unlocking More Sales Revenue

Early Lead Qualification Is the Key to Unlocking More Sales Revenue

Between generating and qualifying leads, there’s a lot of time and energy that goes into finding a high-value lead. The more manual work involved, like researching potential leads, copying and leads from your source to your CRM, or searching for email addresses online, the longer it takes to qualify a single lead.

The risk here is that poor-fit leads might slip through the cracks and end up wasting your time. Plus, the longer an opportunity sits in your sales pipeline (even if they’re a qualified prospect), the more likely the deal is to fall through due to delays and other roadblocks.

So, the earlier in the sales process you can qualify leads, the better your results and the greater your ROI will be. Early qualification allows sales reps to focus their efforts on a few really great leads, rather than wasting time trying to connect with a bunch of mediocre leads. Even better, if you can qualify leads as you generate them—you save yourself and your team loads of time and effort.

Fortunately, with the right sales tools, you can streamline lead generation and lead qualification, increase your sales velocity, and earn more revenue in less time.

For instance, with the Datanyze Chrome Extension, you can quickly find and connect with B2B prospects. Datanyze supplies actionable contact details, including email address, direct dial phone numbers, and mobile numbers to help you quickly find viable leads and find the information you need to qualify them ASAP.

Sign up for free and see how it can help to connect with more high-quality prospects.