Qualifying the prospect is an essential aspect of any B2B sales process and, although understanding the necessary steps may be easy, the overall process is often a challenge. Ultimately, the following two fundamental questions must be understood: can the prospect help me and can I help them? If the answer is yes to both, there is a high likelihood of winning the prospect’s business. Sales and Marketing professionals recognize that receiving a direct response to these questions is unlikely, therefore understanding the buyer’s thought process around need, budget and timing will make it easier to successfully qualify the prospect.
On average, 61% of the B2B marketers send leads directly to the sales team, of which only 27% are qualified. The accuracy of lead qualification is crucial as it not only increases conversion rates, but also sales efficiency and effectiveness. How to identify the small percentage of leads that are sales-ready is the question every marketer must solve. Below we address the appropriate strategy to ensure optimal lead qualification.
The process of lead qualification may be broken down into two parts. First, conduct thorough research using historical data including current customers and recent wins to understand your Ideal Customer Profile and target segments. Use firmographic data such as title, role, industry, size, and growth to assess whether they fit the definition of a qualified lead and categorize as such.
Next, uncover how the prospects have engaged in activities which validate they are sales-ready. For example, have they consumed website and sales content, viewed videos, downloaded literature or eBooks, or requested a product demonstration? It is imperative to identify how far the prospect is into their buying journey by understanding engagement in current programs, offers, and content before making the transfer from Marketing to Sales.
Using content for targeting sales readiness
A prospect’s buying journey is made in three stages. The first and second phases are acknowledging a business issue followed by seeking a solution. The final stage is the point at which the prospect assesses whether available solutions adequately resolve the issue. At each decision-making stage, the prospect is looking for different content, information, and discussions.
In the earliest stage, they are seeking thought leadership and education. It is important to deliver statistics and benchmarks, latest trends and why they matter, case studies, need assessments, and potentially one on one education. The second stage finds the prospect assessing whether a product or service fulfills their needs and requirements. At this point, they are looking to consume product manuals and comparisons as well as company information to evaluate a potential vendor. In the final stage, they are seeking access to company representatives, demos, trial information, vendor comparisons, pricing, and purchase agreements.
Out of the three stages of the decision-making process, the final stage is the most crucial from a qualification perspective. When prospects reach the point where they are evaluating offers, it is the right time to shift from Marketing to Sales communication. In simpler words, the third stage of the decision-making process is an indicator of sales readiness and, upon handoff, Sales must be armed with prospect scoring data and previous actions taken to ensure they are equipped to win the business.