Chapter 25: Qualifying vs. Non Qualifying Leads
“All men (and women) are created equal” — but some leads are more equal than others. Up to 75% of your incoming leads won’t be worth the time to follow up on. They’re not seriously interested in what you offer, or they’re interested but can’t afford your lowest price point, or they’re not yet ready to buy.
That doesn’t mean you should ignore those leads. More on that later, but let’s start with how to separate the qualified and serious buyers from the lookie-lous.
What is a Qualified Lead?
To be qualified, a lead must have three traits:
- The lead must be interested in your product or service
The lead must be able to afford what you offer
The lead must be ready to buy in the near(ish) future
In B2B sales, a qualified lead has a third trait: the authority to approve a sale.
Without these traits, a lead is a waste of your sales team’s time. The trick is identifying unqualified leads early and often so your people waste as little time as possible figuring out who can actually buy, and who can’t.
How to Separate the Wheat From the Chaff?
A qualified lead is worth all the sales attention your resources allow. The trick is figuring out which leads are actually qualified. Our research department has identified five key questions to ask of each incoming lead that prequalifies them early in your sales process.
- Is This Person the Decision Maker for the Company? If you’re not talking to somebody capable of giving a “yes” you’ll only ever get a “no.” Either establish contact with the decision maker or politely educate the minion so you’ll have an advocate in that camp.
- Are They Happy With Their Current Solution to the Problem They Have? If they are, your sales will take much more effort, often more than would be cost effective. Your job with these leads is to slowly but inexorably feed them information to make them progressively less happy with what they’re doing now.
- Are They Able To Switch to What You Offer? Contracts, family ties, and strategic alliances can all bind a company to a solution they’re not entirely happy with…but all of those situations can end with time. Your lead nurturing system lets them know you’re there without acting like a poacher.
- Can They Afford What You Sell? And are they willing to pay it? A “no” here makes the deal a nonstarter…for now. They might be able to later, and they probably know somebody to can.
- Is Your Solution Honestly Better That What They’re Currently Doing? Remember the part about being an honest and helpful advisor, and not a sales flack? If you can’t make the lead’s life better, never make money off making it worse. That kind of honesty means the lead will recommend you to people who you can help.
Anybody who answers “yes” to all five questions goes on your “hot list” for living, human sales representatives to touch base with regularly. All others go into your “drip system” to keep you on their minds until they can give the five yesses you need for a fully qualified buyer.
We’ll go into detail later on about the best systems for identifying qualified leads automatically and in real time (hint: it rhymes with “Nead Lurturing” and can increase your sales by over 400%). For now, just keep the difference in mind while we answer the question:
What to Do With All These Unqualified Leads?
Have you ever been to a car lot and had a salesman snub you because you weren’t interested in a high-ticket auto? Or had a waiter or bartender start giving you bad service because it was clear you weren’t there to spend a lot of money? Gotten an incredulous look at your wardrobe when walking into a store for a high-priced bit of spoiling yourself?
What did you say about that business to your friends later on?
You never want to be that car lot, boutique or server. Remaining warm and welcoming with your unqualified leads is good karma. It’s also smart business, for three reasons:
- Not Now Doesn’t Mean Not Ever. Every lead had some reason for contacting you, even if it wasn’t to make a purchase that day. If you establish yourself as a friendly, helpful expert now, you’ll be the first vendor they call when they do become qualified.
- You Never Know Who People Know. This particular lead might not be ready to buy, but might be related to or friends with somebody who is. If they feel slighted by you, they’ll mention that. If you treat them well, they’ll mention that, too.
- You Don’t Have to Be a Customer to Be an Advocate. Many unqualified leads are simply interested in the space where you do business: hobbyists or professionals without buying power. These people talk online and in real life to other enthusiasts. If they feel valued and given value by you, they will spread the word.