How To Qualify Your Leads In 3 Easy Steps
Lead generation has always been a key step in the sales process. But what does it mean to qualify your leads?
Seasoned marketers know gathering leads to having once been an arduous process. Less so in today’s hyper-connected world: with communication just a mouse click away, gathering information on your leads is no longer the headache it once was.
Instead, entrepreneurs today can be faced with the opposite problem: an abundance of data. As such, knowing what to do with all of that information is vital if you are to remain head and shoulders above your competition.
Of course, B2B List Building remains an important part of the marketing process that you must execute with intelligence. However, when resources to pursue clients are limited, entrepreneurs need to focus an equal amount of attention on the post-lead stage.
The answer? You should learn how to qualify your leads.
Put simply, if your B2B lead database is brimming with potential clients, a B2B marketer must find a method of sorting the best, most promising leads from those that are not.
Like a prospector, you are eager to dig – but you want to know where the gold is buried before you start.
Here, then, are three easy steps to help you along in this vital part of your marketing strategy.
1. Understand the Client’s Needs – but Also Your Own
Every business – B2B and consumer – strives to sell its products to as many customers as it can. The arithmetic is simple: more sales equals higher revenue.
In this regard, “understanding the client’s needs” is a cardinal, but almost clichéd utensil in the marketer’s toolbox. Far less attention is given to another element – one that is crucial for you to grasp if you are to qualify your leads with success:
You must understand your own needs as well.
While you should strive to make yourself suitable for a client, it can often be the case that a client will not be suitable for you.
Now, you may be thinking that this sounds ludicrous – surely the purpose of any business is to adapt itself to its clients?
So let us explain:
Every product or service bought and sold in the marketplace is designed to resolve a specific need, usually for a particular target audience. While flexibility is likely to be a plus, you must have a clear picture of what your product is about, and what you can reasonably offer your clients.
The simple truth is that you may be unable to add value to as many as half of the leads you have captured in your B2B lead database.
Think of your business as a key, and each of your leads as a locked door. If your key doesn’t fit into one of those locks, it is time for you to try another door.
By proceeding with this mindset, you may eliminate a good portion of leads from your B2B lead database who – quite simply – will never result in a sale.
Remember: this is not a loss, it is progress. You are preserving your precious time and capital for those leads that show the greatest potential to add to your bottom-line.
Of course, if you find yourself discarding too many leads, then you may need to assess the viability of your product. That, however, is part of your long term strategy as a business.
When aiming to qualify your leads, the objective is not to change your business. Rather, you are matching your business as it is right now with the most suitable clients. Understanding the difference is crucial.
2. The Earlier the Better
All of your efforts to qualify your leads should be geared towards this one, simple notion:
You want to sift the good leads from the bad leads at the earliest possible opportunity.
Beware: this is not a license for impatience – and certainly not for sloppiness in the qualification process! It simply means that the sooner you can concentrate your time and resources on the most promising of clients the better.
For one thing, the added focus you can now lend to your best leads raises your chances of achieving that all important conversion. But also, making the earliest possible, informed decision on whether to pursue or discard a lead results in lower, overall marketing costs.
To qualify your leads with accuracy, there are a number of tools and methods at your disposal: market research, data enrichment, and, at some point, direct negotiations with the client.
But at every step of the way, you should aim to understand as much about your client as you can to make informed decisions sooner – even up to the point of knowing them better than they know themselves.
Remember: many clients don’t even know what their problem is, let alone how to solve it.
So learning how to anticipate and express a client’s needs can foster valuable empathy. Not only will this build rapport with the leads you pursue, but you can part with a less suitable client on positive terms – a big plus for spreading brand awareness.
3. Adopt a Structured Process
Making sales is not a robotic procedure – especially in the B2B world where decisions tend to be more deliberative. Every talented marketer or salesperson knows you must treat each client as unique.
Nevertheless, you cannot afford to qualify your leads by “winging it”, especially in the early stages. Instead, you must take a structured approach if you are to be able to focus your resources on the most attractive leads.
Precisely how you structure your lead qualification process needn’t be set in stone. However, a good rule thumb is to move from the general to the particular. In other words, you want to start by filtering clients according to the most basic criteria before moving onto the more detailed.
To take an obvious example, say that your business ships it products only within North America. That means that if a lead was to be based in, say, Europe or Asia, there would be little value in leaping ahead to examining the intricacies of budgets and timescales.
Thus, location is one, very simple criterion you could use to filter potential leads in your B2B lead database early on.
Bonus Tip: Look Beyond the Sale
B2B is a relationship, and it should be treated as such. As we said earlier, supplier and client should fit like lock and key if they are to have a successful partnership.
But a marriage doesn’t stop after the honeymoon. Making that sale is great, but so too is achieving post-sales satisfaction.
The effort to qualify your leads will lend you the confidence that the service you are offering is truly to your client’s benefit. Satisfied clients can lead to a long lasting, business relationship, together with a definitive boost to your brand reputation.
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