Lead Qualification Frameworks

Lead Qualification Frameworks

In this lesson, you’re expected to learn: 
– key concepts about qualifying leads
– the best sales lead qualification techniques
– how to ask the most important and relevant sales questions

Big Picture

In recent years, there has been some alignment between Sales and Marketing and current best practices of lead qualification look something like this:

Marketing set ups a lead qualification strategy, then automates the process with a marketing automation system and Sales get pre-qualified leads to further qualify and engage via the Sales Cycle.

Unfortunately, most companies can’t align Sales and Marketing.Marketing is stuck producing low quality prospects and expects Sales to sift through that mess.

Only 4% of marketing-generated leads actually close, according to 47% of B2B marketers.
Building and deploying a proper sales qualification framework is an essential component for both sales and marketing alignment as well as operating an efficient customer acquisition engine.

All leads are not created equally and all sales inquiries are not worthy of sales pursuit. The activity of selling is not near as important as the accomplishment – closed deals.

If it costs too much to close a customer or they don’t stick around (due to mismatched expectations related to the product or service sold), then your sales funnel and customer acquisition efforts are performing below the minimum threshold.

Qualifying at Different Levels
According to Bob Apollo, the founder of sales consulting group Inflexion Point, there’s a hierarchy to qualification.

That is, sales reps must qualify prospects at three different levels:

1) Organization-level
2) Opportunity-level
3) Stakeholder-level

1) Organization-level Qualification

This is the most basic level of qualification, and tells you whether you should do more research. If your company has buyer personas, reference them when qualifying a prospect.

Questions you should ask at this stage include:
– Is the prospect in your territory?
– Do you sell to their industry?
– What’s the company size?
– Does the account fit your company’s buyer persona?

2) Opportunity-level Qualification

Opportunity-level sales qualification is where you determine whether your prospect has a specific need or challenge you can satisfy and whether it’s feasible for them to implement your particular product or service.

Opportunity-level characteristics give insight into whether a prospect could benefit from your offering.

3) Stakeholder-level Qualification

Let’s say you’ve determined that your prospect’s company is a good match for your solution and fits your ideal buyer persona. It’s time to find out if your point of contact has the authority to make a purchase decision.

To determine this, ask the following:
– Will this purchase come out of your budget?
– Who else is involved in the decision?
– Do you have criteria for this purchase decision? Who defined them?

Sales Qualification Frameworks
A qualification framework is essentially a guide that salespeople can use to determine whether a prospect is likely to become a successful customer.

Every customer and every sale is different, but all closed-won deals share commonalities. Sales qualification frameworks distill those shared characteristics into general traits sales reps can look for when qualifying.
1) BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline)

The most well known of sales qualification frameworks, BANT is used at a variety of companies and in a variety of markets.

Originally developed by IBM, BANT covers all the broad strokes of opportunity and stakeholder-level qualification. BANT seeks to uncover the following four pieces of information:

1) Budget: Is the prospect capable of buying?
2) Authority: Does the prospect have the authority to make purchases on behalf of the company?
3) Need: Does the prospect have a business pain you can solve?
4) Timeline: When is the prospect planning to buy?

BANT might be the most popular, but it’s not the only sales qualification framework. Read on to find out about other alternative frameworks that can be used.
2) ANUM (Authority, Need, Urgency, Money)

ANUM is an alternative spin on BANT. When qualifying using ANUM, a sales rep’s first priority should be to determine whether they’re speaking with a decision maker.

Need functions the same way as it does in BANT, but has been moved up in priority. Urgency correlates with Timing, while Money replaces Budget, but with subtle distinctions. David Garcia explains:

“With Urgency, we want to know how high up [the prospect’s] priority list this particular business pain is. Budget has been updated to Money to reflect the fact that we have to only find out if they potentially have the money to purchase our solution. Then it is our job to prove our value and why [the prospect] should apply to get the fixed budget for this purchase.”

From BANT to CHAMP

Currently, the thinking in business circles is that the mantra that worked so successfully in the pre-internet age is now somewhat obsolete. That mantra being BANT.

BANT was designed for early adopters, not typical users.

Enlarged version: http://bit.ly/2jFnmNW
[Optional] Lead Qualification: Don’t BANT. Just CHAMP!
3) CHAMP (CHallenges, Authority, Money, and Prioritization)

CHAMP is similar to ANUM but places Challenges ahead of Authority. This framework also defines authority as a “call-to-action,” not a roadblock.

If your initial contact is a low-level employee, you can safely assume they won’t be the decision maker. That doesn’t mean you should hang up the phone. Instead, ask your prospect questions that help you map out their company’s organizational structure to determine who to reach out to next.

4) MEDDIC (Metrics, Economic Buyer, Decision Criteria, Decision Process, Identify Pain, Champion) 

MEDDIC, pioneered by Jack Napoli, requires sales reps to understand every aspect of a target company’s purchase process.

This framework is valuable for increasing forecasting accuracy, something that’s crucial for companies that sell to enterprise companies .

You should consider using MEDDIC as a qualification framework if your company sells a product that requires a transformation in behavior or for which average sales price is high.

Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)

A marketing qualified lead is a lead judged more likely to become a customer compared to other leads based on lead intelligence, often informed by analytics.

It’s important to determine which demographics, activities, and behaviors make for a marketing qualified lead at your company. Based on the definition you create, you can assign point values for various MQL qualifications in order to form the basis of your lead scoring system.

This will help ensure your sales team is provided high quality leads so they can improve their productivity, and Sales and Marketing remain aligned.  

Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)

So marketing generated leads and nurtured them into MQLs. Now it’s time for those MQLs to be picked up by the Sales team.

A sales qualified lead represents the final approval of a lead. It is a lead that has been deemed a good fit for the company. The final qualifying metrics can be determined by using the BANT  approach.

An SQL has demonstrated a keen interest in the products/services you offer. They’re the ones who are downloading multiple pieces of content, have signed up to your newsletter and are consistently engaged with your brand.

MQL vs. SQL

Marketing qualified leads are hand raisers. After an inquiry, they’ve taken action or done something to indicate interest. An MQL is a lead who likely isn’t ready to buy — yet, but they will respond to being nurtured.

A Sales qualified lead is further along in their buyer journey. They have specific questions and are ready for some one-on-one time with your sales department. Often this is the result of being nurtured by marketing, but they may have entered your sales funnel on their own.

It’s critical to focus on how both MQLs and SQLs convert into revenue. To analyze these conversions, you need a strong partnership between sales and marketing.

Every lead is different, so you must pinpoint where they are in the sales funnel.

When you know where your prospects are in their customer journey, you can generate more revenue with fewer leads.

To improve the efficiency and performance of your sales team, give them fewer, higher quality leads. How do you know which leads are good? It all starts with marketing.

When marketing helps sift through the dirt to find gold, sales can work on what they do best: turning it into revenue.

Enlarged version: http://bit.ly/2k9alv1
[Optional] How to Tell the Difference Between a Marketing Qualified Lead and a Sales Qualified Lead
Asking Important Sales Questions

Whether it’s BANT or CHAMP, you need to ask some blunt questions. Let’s explore the right way to do this.

1) Authority

Sales reps need to make influencers and others feel just as valued as the person you ultimately need to speak to. With this in mind, here’s the right way to ask about authority:
“Who, outside of yourself, will be involved in the decision making process related to your solution?”

You need to understand who the final decision maker is and the relevant parties involved in the buying process. This specific question works well, because it acknowledges that even if the prospect is not the decision maker, they are still important.

2) Time / Prioritization 

“What happens if nothing changes with your current process?”

The information you’re looking for is the cost or implication of the status quo. In too many sales processes, this is the biggest opportunity killer. This question works because it makes the prospect consider life without your solution.

In addition, you want to gauge when the prospect will come to a decision. To get at that, it’s wise to ask:

“When would you like to launch a solution for the audience that is most impacted?”

3) Money

“Typically our solution ranges from $X-$Y depending on A, B, C. Does that seem in line with the budget you’ve allocated for solution?”

Knowing the budget for a project is critical however asking a prospect in the early stages of the process can be off-putting.

This question works because it gives an honest range to consider, and allows the prospect to answer without giving a specific number.

How NOT to qualify

So you got a great lead from Marketing and you’re on the call to qualify. But remember this: you’re here to also engage.

While the most common problem is without a doubt that sales reps don’t qualify their prospects well enough, there are also some people who take qualifying too far, and simply do it badly.

You can’t just rapidly fire questions at your prospects. Qualifying is not interrogating. Be smooth about it. Weave the qualifying into the natural fabric of an engaging conversation, and approach them with an open sense of curiosity.

Forrester Research reports that companies that have mature lead generation and management programs outperform their peers. Specifically:

– 46% of marketers with a mature lead-management process have sales teams that follow up on more than 75% of marketing-generated leads.

– 35% of marketers with a mature lead-management process report that they close 10% or more leads generated by marketing versus 4% of closed leads from firms without a mature lead system.

How the game has changed

They way B2B and B2C clients buy has changed. Qualification begins with a prospect engaging with a company online.

Which is why it’s so important to understand the role Marketing plays in the Sales process and why lead qualification first begins with the first visit of your website.

[Optional] How to ask powerful sales questions
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