In marketing, it’s common knowledge that lead quality is generally more important than lead quantity.

And yet, marketing lead qualification remains a sticking point for many organizations. In fact, 61% of B2B marketers send all leads directly to sales, but only 27% are sales qualified (source).

This statistic highlights a huge discrepancy. As a marketer, how do you know if a lead is truly ready to buy? And, how can you generate more high-quality leads for your sales team? We say the solution to your lead generation problems lies within your lead qualification process.

If you’re still a little foggy on the details of lead qualification, this is the blog post for you. Let’s get into it!

What is lead qualification marketing?

Lead qualification is exactly what it sounds like–  a system used to evaluate and quantify how likely each lead is to become a paying customer. For modern marketers, lead qualification is a necessary process if you want to increase sales and marketing efficiency, convert more leads, and close more deals.

Whether you’re looking to revamp your current lead qualification process or implement an entirely new system, these tips and best practices will help you achieve lead qualification success:

1. Understand the difference between an MQL and an SQL

To develop an effective lead qualification process you must first understand the difference between an MQL and an SQL. This step is crucial if you want to truly understand the buyer’s journey and it will ultimately impact how successful you are at nurturing leads through the sales funnel. Let’s take a look at some basic definitions:

MQL: An MQL or marketing qualified lead is basically a lead that has engaged with your company in some way. The intention of an MQL isn’t always readily apparent, but as you continue to interact with this type of lead you collect more information until they become sales ready.

SQL: SQLs or sales qualified leads are further along the sales funnel. An SQL has certain criteria or has taken certain actions that make them innately sales-ready.

Now, there is some overlap between the two. Say, someone visits your website and downloads a gated e-Book. This person has signaled they’re interested in your content but hasn’t expressed a ton of interest in actually making a purchase. You add them to your email list and nurture them with content and relevant offers. Eventually, this person enquires about a product demo—converting them to an SQL.

This distinction between the two types of leads is important. Think about it, neither type of lead is more important than the other because both can ultimately become customers. But, in order to get to that point, you must understand how to nurture each type of lead through the funnel before handing them off to your sales team.

2. Define specific lead scoring criteria.

Lead scoring is the most effective way to determine how qualified a lead is. This process uses a predetermined point system to remove the guesswork from lead qualification so you can efficiently route and manage leads.

To implement lead scoring, you must take the following steps:

Create buyer personas to determine a specific set of characteristics shared by your best buyers.

Determine which data points you will score. Consider demographic data points like location, company size and job title; and behavioral data points like content downloads, form submissions, and website engagement.

Assign point values to these criteria depending on how well they indicate sales-readiness. If leads who request free trials convert at a high rate, then trial requests should receive a higher point value than, say, someone who subscribes to your blog.

Set qualification thresholds that indicate exactly what different scores mean. Which scores represent MQLs and SQLs? Which score disqualifies a lead?  Setting thresholds will provide a structured system to govern how leads get moved through your sales funnel.

For a more detailed breakdown of how and why you should score leads, read the following post: The Beginner’s Guide to Lead Scoring.

3. Get on the same page as your sales team.

We may be discussing marketing lead qualification– but your lead generation and lead qualification efforts will fall flat if you’re not working closely with your sales counterparts. If sales and marketing aren’t operating under the same rules and definitions, lead qualification will quickly turn to chaos.

For this reason, it’s vital that you Involve your sales team when determining criteria for MQLs and SQLs and then again when developing lead scoring criteria. Sales has a different, closer perspective when it comes to lead qualification and their input can offer many insights that marketers may not be aware of. For this reason, sales and marketing alignment is a must in modern organizations.

4. Revisit and refine your lead qualification standards.

All businesses evolve and change over time, particularly as you launch new products and services. For this reason, it’s important that your lead qualification process evolves as well.

Consider this– a new product or change in the marketplace might open your company up to an entirely new demographic. But, if your lead qualification process stays the same, qualified leads might fall through the cracks.

We recommend you take the time every quarter to reassess your lead qualification standards. Determine how your customer base has evolved and make any necessary changes.

Final Thoughts About Lead Qualification

There’s no exact science to lead qualification– every company is unique and that means the characteristics they look for in a potential buyer are also unique. But the key to successful lead qualification is to establish a clearly-defined system and stick to it.

The steps listed above will help you create a structure for qualifying leads so that only the best prospects end up on the phone with your sales team.

For more information about ZoomInfo, a leading B2B data provider, contact our sales team today.

About the author

Ryan Hadfield

Ryan Hadfield is a content marketing director at ZoomInfo, the leading B2B contact data solution.

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