Sales qualification is important because it gives you a perfect opportunity to gauge progress made with a lead.

Taking stock while on the lookout for leads can help inform your decision making. If you happen to come across the proverbial forked road in the sales qualification process, taking the road less traveled by doesn’t always cut it. On occasion, driving straight ahead is the way to go.

From that analogy, it’s evident to see that sales qualification requires some sense of finesse.

If you’re lacking in this department, our review today should provide you with plenty of intel on how to qualify sales leads.

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Feel free to use the table of contents below to navigate through the guide:

What is sales lead qualification?

Sales lead qualification is what allows you to discover whether a lead is actually a prospect.

For clarity purposes, it’s essential to know the distinction between leads and prospects. A prospect refers to someone who has the potential to become a customer. On the other hand, leads are simply potential prospects.

The sales qualification process is quite important because it ensures that there are minimal resources and time wastage.

The sales qualification process

1. Questions to qualify sales leads

The qualification process typically starts out with a couple of basic questions.

Before drafting your list of questions, you need to first be conversant with what you’re selling. With a proper understanding of the material, then, you can proceed to make a pitch.

If you’re looking to sell education savings plans, it would make little sense to sell to people who are not willing to have kids in the first place. As such, it’s important that you first design a system that shields you from such loopholes.

Once you’re able to structure your questions to spot the right qualities in prospects, then, you can go for the jugular.

2. Identify who calls the shots

Before you start the qualification process, you need to first learn whether you’re dealing with a decision-maker.

At times, you may realize that you’ve invested so much energy dealing with someone who cannot influence the buying decision. This is particularly true if you’re selling B2B.

Before you bring out the big guns of the pitch, it’s prudent to first learn whether you’re speaking with the decision-maker.

Once you’re able to track down who the top honcho is, proceed to make contact with that person promptly.

3. Gauge interest in sales leads

Finding out whether a lead is capable of buying should be done during the preliminary stages.

To ensure that you’re dealing with a sure thing, it’s wise to implore further. With a deeper comprehension of their wants, you can gauge their level of interest and what amounts they’re willing to spend.

This kind of imploration can also let you know if there are hurdles which can prohibit them from going the distance.

At the end of the day, the choice is yours on just how deeply you’re willing to go in the qualification process.

4. When qualifying happens

Qualifying can occur during the very first cold call, during the sales presentation, or a little bit of both.

You may find yourself comfortable doing the bare minimums during the cold call and then proceeding to qualify further during the sales meet-up right before you kick start the presentation.

Alternatively, you may opt to put in more work during the cold call if you want to avoid wasting time during the appointment.

The onus is on you to gauge what you would rather do.

5. During the initial cold call

It’s advisable to at least perform some qualifying during the very first cold call. By doing so, you will be able to avoid booking too many appointments that will not amount to much.

You may find out that a couple of prospects will object to answering a couple of questions during the initial cold call.

In case you run into prospects who are unwilling to respond to a single question during the cold call, then, you should probably avoid selling to them.

On occasion, you may meet prospects who voice out their concerns about the nature of your questions. In such situations, the best approach is to simply elaborate that you’re looking to ensure your product suits them to avoid time-wasting. This approach usually works like a charm.

Then again, you can choose to qualify a prospect under the guise of an account review. To really pull this off, you need to lend your advice as an expert in a subject matter and then proceed to advise them to review their current setup with another provider with the aim of optimizing operations.

6. Stock questions

When you’re just starting out the lead qualification process, you may find yourself relying on a handful of stock questions.

However, if you decide to proceed more deeply, you need to tailor bespoke questions for your audience. This approach works best if you’re selling multiple products and want to ascertain which product perfectly suits a particular prospect.

If you’re unsure on how to come up with the qualifying questions, you can make good use of your current customer base to guide you. All you need to do is review the best performing accounts and then spot the admirable traits in each. Should you discover common features, then make sure you note them down and then proceed to tailor questions that will help you in the qualification process.

How to qualify sales leads

Qualifying is a heavy word.

When you hear the term, the first thing that jumps out is not the quantitative aspect, but the qualitative nature of things.

As such, you need to align your strategy to truly fit the bill.

Having a large number of leads who don’t have an inkling about your nature is not something to be proud of. On the flip side, if you have few highly qualified leads who know the rhythm to the tune you’re about to play, then, you’re in business.

The thing that eludes most business people is the process of lead qualification.

Importantly, even the little things count. If you have an active social media presence, then, you should strive to ensure that your followers on such platforms are conversant with the nature of your business.

To get really good at the lead qualification process, you should take a piecemeal line of attack.

Here’s a great way to kick things off.

1. Engage prospects before selling

Crucially, you need to realize that the sale usually happens long before you call clients up on the phone.

The very first step involves adding plenty of value to the right client. Once you’re able to add value, you can complement your efforts by engaging, liking, commenting and sharing more of your ideal customers’ posts.

Doing so usually builds a rapport and is a great stepping stone to a long-lasting relationship capable of overcoming all hurdles.

2. Get them in the mood to buy

Frame of mind is everything. To achieve success with your sales efforts, you need to have your ideal client mentally prepared to buy. 

A good way to do this is by preparing a questionnaire that gets their minds jogging about your offer. A well-structured questionnaire should be one that allows your prospects to:

  • Think about their challenges and specific pain points
  • Start thinking about all the things they’ve tried to achieve all on their own that have ended in failure
  • Visualize what will happen should they decide to ignore the challenges they are facing

3. Get them on the phone

Having a gift of the gab can help you register impressive numbers. The art of conversation happens to be one of the longstanding traits that have been known to bring people closer together.

With a good conversation, you can strike the right notes with clients and bring them closer to the final sale. It’s also worth noting that the word “conversion” actually stems from the word “convert”.

By the time you decide to make the pitch, you’ll have engaged, built a rapport and established a solid relationship with them. The goal here is to focus your attention on their issues and then create a sense of urgency with regards to their resolution.

Importantly, you need to take things a notch higher. When you access them through the phone, don’t shy away from asking them to disclose their problems, even after they already shared.

This step is important since it serves as an indicator that you really care about their plight and may help create an emotional connection. Leading prospects towards a sale at this stage is usually easy to accomplish.

4. Ask for permission to sell

Courteous people are not found in plenty these days. If you want to stand out, its good practice to ask for permission before you present your pitch.

There’s a fairly good chance your prospect will note that you’ve inquired on such a minor issue and that alone will stick at the back of their minds.

 Many psychologists have opined that getting the yesses early in a relationship is the best way to start positively. This is because affirmation messages are not usually given easily. On most occasions, they involve a degree of mental and spiritual input.

Getting a yes serves as an indicator to proceed with the pitch since you’re been given the green light. Remarkably, you’re bound to discover that it’s nigh impossible for someone to renege after they’ve given you the all-clear to sell.

5. Referrals

Referrals can prove to be quite important in your business. Since referrals are typically issued by happy customers, it’s relatively easy to join the dots and deliver the same experience to a referred client.

It’s also simpler to sell them your ideas since they already know a thing or two about the services you offer. This is quite in contrast to normal leads who usually know scant details about your company.

If you can successfully transform your client base into a referral generator, you’ll be winning at life.

That said, it’s worth noting that obtaining a referral is the tricky part. To begin, avoid being too direct. Asking, “Do you know of anyone who can make use of my product and/or service?” is not a great way to ask for a referral.

This is because you’re pressuring a client to use their energies and make a judgment call on whether they’re aware of someone ready to buy your product/service. In most instances, they may not be able to think of someone on the spot.

If you want to successfully land referrals, a better way would be to ask them if they belong to a particular club, organization, or charity. The revelations they offer may prove insightful in informing you who they socialize within their circle.

Since most people like associating with like-minded people, there’s a fairly good chance that your customers’ friends and acquaintances are sources of new business.

This kind of approach is better since all clients have to do is think about people they know without making any judgments.

What’s the best time to ask for a referral? Immediately after the sale is made.

This is because a customer’s enthusiasm and satisfaction are usually at fever pitch at this point.

Once the sale is made, it’s essential that you keep tabs on them every once in a while. It wouldn’t hurt to send them birthday or holiday cards every once in a while. You can elect to call them on occasion and check out how they’re faring. Doing this lets them know that you haven’t forgotten about them and are always ready to get a referral from them.

Ready. Set. Close.

Our detailed brief is packed with lots of information on how you can go about with the sales qualification process.

This knowledge is sure to prove insightful to you as you think about how to take your business to that next level.

Importantly, the best ways to go about lead qualification is by making continuous enhancements. As your business steadily grows, the market conditions change and your tactics evolve, you need to also make tweaks to your lead scoring model.

That just about does it. To wrap things up, we’d love to hear your take on how you approach lead qualification. Do you agree with the points shared in our review? When are you ready to implement the highlighted strategies?

Let us know in the comments section below!


Kevin Thomas Tully is a globally-recognized Social Selling and Big Data strategist who employed the principles of Social Selling long before the term entered the popular business vernacular. A Johns Hopkins-trained data scientist, Kevin has applied true buyer intent data, predictive analytics, and data mining to the sales and marketing process for more than a decade to gain a strategic marketplace advantage for leading brands worldwide.

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