Lead Qualification

How to Evolve Lead Qualification as Your B2B Company Grows

If you’re a small business owner, you might remember the day you implemented Google Analytics on your website and saw traffic come in for the first time. You recall how excited you were and rewarded yourself with a nice glass of wine.

Gradually, you received your first, hundredth, and thousandth free trial signup (and probably consumed just as much wine!). And while you continued to smash all those milestones, your business continued to grow. Over time, you came across what your competitors considered a luxurious problem: you have way too many leads for your small sales team to handle.

“But wait, isn’t this a good thing?” you ask. The answer is: not always. These multiple leads can quickly dissipate if there’s no one to follow up them very quickly and effectively. The problem usually stems from spending too much on acquiring these leads but not enough time on following up or nurturing them. This is especially true in cases where an unexpectedly huge volume of leads come flooding in at once.

The solution? Find a way to identify the qualified leads from the bunch right from the start, then determine which leads are worthy of a sales follow-up. You must also work out when these steps should occur in the life cycle.

BANT, a timeless lead qualification framework

Before we discuss how lead qualification evolves as your company grows, let’s cover BANT. It’s a classic framework to qualify leads. Some think it’s outdated, but we believe it’s still relevant when it comes to qualifying leads today.

• B = Budget: Can the lead afford to buy?

• A = Authority: Does the lead have decision-making power?

• N = Need: Is the lead’s pain big enough for our product to solve?

• T = Timing: Is the lead ready to buy?

As BANT illustrates, you must distinguish between who, what, and when. As marketers, you do not want to send leads to sales if they don’t check the BANT boxes. With this lead qualification framework in mind, let’s see how it can be applied to early, growth, and mature stage businesses.

Early stage lead qualification

You’re a small business with a small pool of customers. The number of leads coming in the door is moderate, and you have an okay understanding of who likes your product — and who doesn’t. This stage represents the perfect time to establish what characteristics define a qualified lead (remember BANT!). Marketers call these target personas, sales call them “hot leads.” Creating personas helps marketers focus on building the right message and creating lead nurturing campaigns to cultivate customer desire for your product. Good questions to ask include:

  • Is your ideal lead a CEO in a large corporation or a Head of Sales in a tiny startup?
  • Where are they based?
  • What are their pains?

For small businesses, qualifying a new lead may involve a mix of manual work, common sense, and perhaps some support from sales tools. As far as you’re aware, marketing automation is a tool that’s complicated, expensive, and better for enterprise-level businesses. This is not true.

Because your lead flow is moderate, this stage actually presents an excellent opportunity to familiarize yourself with marketing automation as a tool to qualify leads. A small business that’s new to the market has no need to sign up for an all-in-one marketing automation product and pay for features they don’t need. Instead, try a best-of-breed solution such as Autopilot so you can choose (and pay for) only the solutions you require.

At this stage, you can use Autopilot to identify and track your lead’s website visits as a quick and easy lead qualification tool. Why? Because the more your visitors interact with your website and emails, the more engaged they are — and the more likely they are to be interested in buying.

Once you feel comfortable tracking your leads, you can then use Autopilot’s customer journey mapping capabilities to send automated communications in response to those visits. Combined with additional tools to gauge interest level and help flesh out the customer profile, your lead qualification will soon run like a well-oiled machine.

Growth stage lead qualification

At this stage, you’re likely to find that many new leads are referrals from happy customers. Your growth marketing efforts are in high gear. You’ve set up a lead nurturing journey to ensure no one falls through the cracks, and your lead flow is on the rise. How do you handle the growing number of people knocking on your company’s door? Efficiency is the key.

Since you’re generating more leads than your sales team can contact, consider adding qualifying fields to your signup and landing page forms to get the BANT answers you need. You can use a landing page builder like Instapage, which can be easily integrated with your marketing automation solution.

Here are some examples of form fields you can mix and match to see what attracts the most qualified leads:

Budget-related form fields

  • What’s your budget for a solution?
  • What other solutions are you looking at?

Authority related form fields

  • What department do you work in?
  • What’s your job title?

Need related form fields

  • What problem are you aiming to solve?
  • What’s your biggest challenge today?

While increasing the number of form fields will increase friction for new lead signups, it means more motivated (and qualified!) leads will come in the door. Furthermore, capturing this BANT data will help you segment your leads for future personalized marketing.

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Mature stage lead qualification

By now, most businesses have a massive flow of leads. Their contact database is ever-growing, and identifying sales-ready leads requires more than smart form fields. There are several ways to approach qualifying leads, including hiring an army of in-house sales reps to hop on the phone and qualify leads. Unfortunately, this is not the most cost-effective solution. With marketing automation, however, you can:

  • Help leads self-serve their way to a purchase while only sending higher revenue value leads to sales via a CRM such as Pipedrive
  • Implement a predictive lead scoring process, which takes several identification signals into account to grade leads based on their likelihood to convert. Autopilot allows you to qualify leads in real-time based on their website engagement, as Autopilot customer Chargify has successfully done
  • Create a personalized lifecycle nurturing machine to filter for leads who engage the most with your content. Then, only send meeting invitations to those leads. You can also add a multi-channel touch to your email marketing with SMS or an on-website message

Get quality leads as your small business grows

The lead qualification process starts with doing the homework to understand your clients. Define personas early on to target the right leads and to create targeted lead nurturing campaigns. As your business grows, tune up your qualification game with smart forms to filter leads. At scale, predictive lead scoring and personalized lifecycle nurturing journeys will be your best qualification friend.

Note: this article first appeared at www.autopilothq.com, April 30, 2019.

Peter Sharkey

Co-Founder at AutoPilot
Peter Shakey is co-founder of Autopilot, a simple and visual marketing automation software solution to help marketers collaboratively design customer journeys that capture and convert new leads, connect with customers and create loyal, repeat buyers.
Peter Sharkey

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