What Does a Qualified Lead Look Like?


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I’m not sure if this is one of those topics that make people’s blood boil, or not. However, I’ve noticed a huge disparity between what extremely pragmatic marketing & sales consultants will tell you and what otherwise intelligent practitioners actually do (yes, pragmatism wins every time). There are reasons for this disparity but let’s just get it out there first and see what everyone thinks before we start trying to determine root causes, and potential cures.

Selling systems in many companies are just plain broken; if they exist at all. Look at nothing other than lack of sustained growth or the high turnover rates of CMO and CSO types. The end result of what I like to call personality-based selling is that we emphasize what we can’t really manage…highly variable and unpredictable personalities. It seems that many companies try to hire a bunch of rock stars, but the simple fact is that only half of them can be above average. They never seem to do what we expect; only what we inspect. We motivate them down the wrong path most of the time. But, here I go digressing again so let’s get back to what a qualified lead looks like.

Let’s presume for a moment that in your organization, you don’t burden your account executives (the closers) with qualifying leads. This would be a good thing, because hunters are generally not good farmers; or don’t like planting seeds and cultivating them. If you make this distinction, you will likely have your marketing organization qualifying leads; but do they qualify enough? Are you measuring your marketing team on lead volume, or lead quality? Your hunters can tell the difference and high volume, with low quality will result in hunters ignoring your leads (or gaming your system of metrics). Whether you give the hunters raw leads coming from a purchased list, your website, or if you actually put them through a pseudo-qualification process, they will likely be ignored. Why?

A top marketing influencer, Dan McDade (@dandade), suggests that the following elements of a qualified lead are required before handing it off to a closer:

  • SIC or NAICS code
  • Firmographics (revenue, # of employees, # of locations, etc.)
  • The decision-makers and influences have been identified
  • The environment has been documented (I assume this is a mapping exercise)
  • The decision-maker has been engaged.
  • The business pain(s) have been uncovered and validated
  • The decision-making process and time frame have been documented
  • A budget has been allocated or the process for budgeting has been documented
  • The competitive landscape has been documented
  • A documented sense of urgency or compelling event exists

The only thing I would add to this list is that some validation that alignment to an ideal customer profile has been provided. I’m sure it’s implicit, but I don’t like to leave things to chance. This obviously takes time, and a systematic process, to get to this point. Those that don’t do this will likely point to the amount of time it takes to collect this kind of information. But at the end of the day, are we counting how many names we can collect, or how many likely buyers we can collect?

Closing a deal is a completely different set of skills than qualifying a lead. Closers like to deal with high probability opportunities that are well targeted to the services offered by their company. Should it be their job to sift through a pile of raw leads to find these nuggets? Is this what you ask your Account Executives to do? Is this what your marketing organization asks your Account Executives to do once they’ve met their volume quota? Just askin….

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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