Prospect Qualification: Data is more than just the numbers

Posted by LinkedSelling in B2B Lead Generation & Sales Development

Continuing our deep dive exploration into prospect qualification, we know that qualifying prospects affects companies at every stage of the client relationship, from the first “opt-in” to booking an appointment with the sales team, to client fulfillment and retention. The important thing to remember is that when a prospect is well qualified, it optimizes the work flow of every department and streamlines company resources, encouraging better results for the client, longer retention and a higher overall Lifetime Client Value. 

Sounds like a magic pill, right? 

You might be asking, “What kind of qualification can do all that?”

That’s what we’ll get into today…

Keep reading to learn:

  • The importance of the data on paper (what we call the “tangible” qualification metrics)
  • Exactly what qualification metrics we look for at every stage of the client relationship
  • How looks can be deceiving, 
  • And where we find inaccuracies in qualification and the kinds of mishaps they cause.

Tangible Data at the MQL Level: Prospect Profile Hybrid

The MQL level of qualification is the first step. 

The first “qualification guardian” so to speak. This is where the leads from marketing come in, and if they fit certain criteria, they are labelled as “MQL” or “Marketing Qualified Leads.”

The reason this is necessary is because marketing can easily bring in a lot of leads but as we’ve been talking about in our qualification series, qualification affects the company at every level. So let’s take a look…

Once leads who opt-in to request content, click on an ad, or even who’ve been getting emails for some time, have booked a call with our sales team, they need to be vetted.

We don’t have too much information about them at this time, so we have some very basic criteria they need to pass. This criteria is based on the prospect profile/BANT hybrid.

This is different for every company and will be outlined by your organization. The fulfillment team will communicate who you work best with and who you can get the best results for, the executive leaders will have an idea, as will any marketing research. 

For example, ours is pretty simple. We look for certain markers that reflect a baseline for REVENUE, TITLE & INDUSTRY.

Revenue can allow you to assume they have the budget

Title can allow you to assume they have the authority to make the decision

Industry can all you to assume that the future client relationship/campaign will be a success

If they match each of these for us, then the prospect is “MQL” qualified.

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To give you an idea of what this looks like for us, on a weekly basis, our marketing team goes in to look at the quality of opt-ins… the people who’ve requested some content and who have filled out a form, detailing some identifying demographics about them and their company. The opt-in form includes simple things like annual company revenue, number of employees, industry, company email, and title. 

Sometimes, depending on how the ad is set up, or even time of year, we look at the quality of the opt-ins and if the ratio of the prospects who fit to those who doesn’t seem to be off, we start asking questions like…

“How can we improve where our optins miss our qualification criteria every week…”

“How can we improve our process for getting more MQL’s?”

These questions enable us to know how to tweak our ads, our marketing, our targeting. That’s just the first level of qualification. This baseline data allows you to see where you can improve and make better decisions.

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Tangible Data at the SQL Level: “BANT” as the Next Level Qualifier

Once a lead is MQL qualified, it’s up to the sales development - and the sales team - to determine whether or not a lead is a “Sales Qualified Lead.” For this, we follow the BANT guidelines and discussed how we used BANT in depth here.

As stated in a that blog post,

Simply put, BANT is a framework to qualify your prospects and to identify which prospects represent viable sales opportunities in the short term. It makes sense to spend your resources pursuing qualified prospects as it decreases the sales cycle, keeps your messaging on point, helps you connect with and close clients faster - and it increases your Lifetime Client Value over the long term.

The acronym is an easy way to remember the four criteria your sales development team needs in order to evaluate new opportunities:

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We look for very specific parameters on those four items. So for example, it might look something like this...

  • BUDGET - Is this prospect a company netting over $3M in revenue?
  • AUTHORITY - Are we speaking to the decision makers?
  • NEED - Do they actually need what we can offer? Are they working within the industries where we get the best results?
  • And TIME FRAME - Are they looking to make a decision within 90 days?

This takes the information we got at the MQL level and adds to it. If they fit this criteria, we mark them as SQL’s and pass them on to the sales team who will follow-up with emails and phone calls and begin the full sales process.

This data is extremely important because it sets the benchmark and highlights what we can improve upon in our targeting, our messaging, and where we put our efforts so that we minimize people who are not a fit, either on paper or not, and increases the number of prospects who are a fit.

With this data we start to refine our prospect pool and utilizing a multichannel system, we start to see the machine in action. 

What’s the baseline? It’s this:

We know that if we get XX number of MQL’s, and XX will book a call, XX will show up, and XX will close and become new clients.

Those XX numbers are always in “optimization” mode. And we use the hard data to identify and move the right prospects down the buyer journey, through the sales process.

However, looks can be deceiving. The data in qualifying our leads is more than just the numbers. In fact, from this point on, we’re looking for the “intangible” data.

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“Intangible” Qualification Data - What to Look For

The intangible data we refer to is often stuff that comes up in the first conversation with the sales team, stuff that reflects the prospect’s mindset and what’s going on in their life at that time. 

It could be something like a prospect having a bad day - they’re in the middle of a divorce, someone is sick, they lost their dog, broke their arm. Whatever it is, maybe they aren’t in the mindset to buy. Or maybe they’ve been burned by other companies in your industry before and now really have a psychological barrier to working with you.

It doesn’t mean they aren’t qualified. 

Another example, could be that you're a marketing agency and you have one hundred percent confidence that you can get results for certain industries. Let’s say that the client is a good fit in every area except that they’re targeting an industry you know is difficult to see results in. Maybe at that point you determine they’re not a fit to be an SQL (Sales Qualified Lead) and decide not to pursue them.

From an MQL perspective however, this prospect could have been perfectly qualified, that’s why they were passed on to the salesperson and set an appointment. It wasn’t until the first sales call that we understood more of the “intangible data.” In our experience, that’s where the second level of qualification typically starts.

For prospects like this, when “intangible data” comes up, it’s really just circumstance. It cannot be fixed. Sometimes you’ll talk with somebody who had a bad day. At that point, it’s on the sales person to consultatively get them realigned or get them back on a call later on. 

It doesn’t mean that they weren’t or aren’t MQL qualified. Just a difficult circumstance.

In other cases, the intangible data may affect the sale more seriously. Like maybe they say they just aren’t looking to buy until Q1 next year. At the MQL level, you wouldn’t know that, but during the sales call, you can find out and adjust accordingly. 

That means that your sales person will send out “top of mind” emails. These can be articles, or something you’ll find interesting. Then, in Q1, you pick up the business conversation. Just because the prospect doesn’t want to buy just then doesn’t mean that they’re not a fit and they should be tossed.  

Remember, the goal for any sales call is to get an answer, whether YES or NO. You want to help the prospect make a decision. In the case above, you didn’t get one. So instead of booting the prospect because they don’t have an urgent need, it’s worth staying top of mind and following up when they are able to make a decision.

In another case, say that the prospect was a decision maker, in the industries you know you get great results for, but as in our case, already have someone LinkedIn ads internally, then they just don’t have need.

Either way, that’s good news because it’s easy for the prospect to make a decision.

How Qualification Helps You Take the Lead

As stated in the previous article, properly qualifying prospects affects companies at every stage of the client relationship, from the first “opt-in” to booking an appointment with the sales team, to client fulfillment and retention. 

It’s important to know what to look for at each stage, which is where we make the distinction between “tangible” qualification data and the “intangible” data. The tangible data can move a prospect to the next step in the sales process, but until you really understand the “intangibles”, you won’t know how to proceed in a way that relates to the prospect in the best way.

If you’d like to learn more about our sales process, and how we market to and qualify leads on your behalf, let’s talk. We might be a good fit to work together, and or perhaps you could use some expert insight into a lead generation problem that my team would be happy to help you with.

Just click below now to schedule a call.

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