How to qualify inbound leads: how do you qualify, if you should not qualify?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


Sometimes you need to sell. Sometimes the product sells itself. But always, the customer buys. Does she need persuasion or just a bit of help, or can she make the journey on her own, it depends.

Some products and services can be sold to some customers over the telephone or in an online meeting, some require face-to-face meetings, and real enterprise sales are on their own level requiring not just a salesperson, but a whole sales team and a project lasting many months or years. Thus there are so many different leads and situations.

A sales lead is the Identification data of a person or entity that has the interest, authority and budget (i.e. money) to purchase a product or service. (Wikipedia)

In an outbound strategy you define your customer typically in such a way that you can easily buy media or contact information to reach them. You are reaching for CMOs in companies with turnover over 5 million perhaps. Thus when such a person is interested, you already know she is likely to have money and authority, and is otherwise a good match to you. But you usually need to call and advertise hard to find those few interested souls. It is actually like finding the needle in the haystack while disturbing everybody while you do your search.

When you get an inbound lead, you know she is interested, but you don’t know if she is a good match, or whether she is likely to have a budget and authority. Thus you don’t know if she is worth your time.

You need to qualify first. But there is a problem. An inbound lead does not think she is a lead, not yet, that is. Calling to qualify too early might actually ruin your changes and scare her away.

Some of the leads are just taking first steps in their journey to become your customer. Some are in desperate need. But that opportunity won’t be waiting long. Should you, or should you not?

So how do you qualify, if you should not qualify?

Smartly by having content that detects. Some content is needed only after customers have made up their minds and are ready to go forward, but before they have decided a vendor. For my business, this could be a “Free Content Strategy Template”. Who would need to start worrying about writing their content strategy before they have made up their mind about content marketing first. When the lead downloads such a piece of content, she is likely to be ready-to-sell.

Gently by calling to provide value. People download your ebook because they have questions that needs answering. Your ebook is always generic. It does not answer their specific situation. That where you can provide value by calling them to help. Before you can give them the right answer, they need to brief you about their case. This is the discussion where you will learn about their need, timeline and can probably ask about budgetary limitations before you can really help them out with the best answer.

Counting to seven. Selling is all about relationships. People don't buy from a stranger. In order to build familiarity to your brand/company/you, a person must have 7 touches with your brand/company/you. And that is on different occasions. If someone downloads your free ebook on her first visit, there is no relationship yet. If you call her next day, she might not even remember downloading the ebook. But if she has been reading your blog on several occation before downloading, and you are nurturing her with emails before dialing her number, you have far better changes beginning the discussion on the right feet.


Antti Pietilä

Written by Antti Pietilä

Antti is the founder and CEO at Loyalistic (Simple Content Marketing Software for B2B Companies) who loves to help SaaS-companies to grow at Software Entrepreneurs (@ohjelmisto_ry) and cycle. Say hello to him anytime @anttipietila.

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