Qualifying Leads in B2B Marketing & Sales: The Ultimate 2023 Guide

It goes without saying that attracting leads is one of the most important things any business should do. 

However, there is a very common mistake that businesses make all the time: they forget that eliminating bad leads from their sales funnel is almost as important as adding good leads to it.

Good leads translate to revenue, bad leads translate to unnecessary expenses. So if you want to increase the profitability of your business, you should pay attention to both.

The best part: there’s a simple method which you can start implementing today to make your sales funnel more efficient and to save up on costs: qualifying leads. 

In this article, we explore the topic of qualifying leads in depth, and we cover everything you need to know about it. We’ll also top it off by mentioning some of the most important tools and resources you can use to qualify leads faster and with more accuracy.

You’ll want to take a couple of minutes to read this the whole way through – your profit margins will thank you for it.

In this post, we'll discuss:

  • What is Qualifying Leads, And Why Should You Do It?
  • Three Levels of Lead Qualification
  • When To Qualify Leads: Marketing and Sales Phase
  • How To Qualify Leads: Questions to Ask
  • Popular Lead Qualification Frameworks to Use
  • When Should I Disqualify a Lead, and Is That a Problem?
  • Tools To Use for Qualifying Leads

What is Qualifying Leads, And Why Should You Do It?

Let’s start with the basics. Leads are potential customers, and qualifying leads is the process of vetting leads to determine whether your products or services are a good fit for them.

Most people don’t give enough importance to lead qualification because they’re too used to looking at things the other way around: tailoring your products and services to match your customers.

So why should you qualify your leads? Simply because resources are scarce. Since every business operates with a limited amount of time, energy, and capital, you should allocate these resources wisely. 

Qualifying leads is less about what you should do and much more about what you should not do: spend resources on prospects that will never become customers. 

The solution? Disqualify a lead.

Lead disqualification means one of two things: either stop contacting the lead entirely and move on to other leads, or send them offers and communications about different products or services you offer which may be a better fit for them.

Three Levels of Lead Qualification

Now that we’ve covered the basics, we can dive into more detail by explaining three different levels of lead qualification:

  1. Organization-Level Lead Qualification
  2. Opportunity-Level Lead Qualification
  3. Stakeholder-Level Lead Qualification

1. Organization-Level Lead Qualification: 

This is the first level of lead qualification, and this is where the largest amount of disqualification happens.

At this level, you know very little about a given prospect, so you need to check your own company’s customer profiles and buyer personas and see whether the prospect aligns with them.

Think about questions like whether you sell to companies in their industry, if it’s geographically possible to help this prospect, or if the company is the right size.

Hint: if you do not have buyer personas, your first step should be to create some, because otherwise you’d be committing one of the 7 most common mistakes in outbound lead generation.

2. Opportunity-Level Lead Qualification:

At the opportunity-level, you’ve already established that a prospect has potential for becoming a customer because they fit your buyer persona. This is where you determine whether now is the right time to do business with them.

At this level, you ask about their needs, wants, and pain points. Could you help them, right now?

3. Stakeholder-Level Lead Qualification:

This is the deepest level of lead qualification, and this is where you try to figure out whether the person that you are dealing with has the final say in decision-making. A lot of marketers who forget about this level end up misallocating resources. Are you talking to the right person?

Here’s a simple example to keep in mind: milk commercials are often filled with scientific facts about the nutritious value of the advertised product. Although the end consumers are babies who can’t yet read, they are not the advertisements’ target. Mothers who care about this information are the target, because they have the final say in which milk to buy.

Keeping these different lead qualification levels in mind will be very useful because, as we will discuss below, the strategies you use and the questions you ask vary depending on the level you are at with a specific lead.

When To Qualify Leads: Marketing and Sales Phase

When to do sales qualification? The simplest way to go about qualifying leads has to do with the familiar “marketing vs sales” distinction.

Marketing phase:

During this phase, your interaction with the leads at this level is not personalized, so it is marginally inexpensive to learn more about your prospects. Here’s how you can use that to your advantage (hint: automation will be your best friend):

  • Begin by determining your ICP (Ideal Client Profile), before gathering large amounts of leads.
  • Use automated tools to gather as many leads as possible, such that the leads fit your ICP.
  • For your inbound marketing: build and A/B test different landing pages which have widgets that gather information about prospective leads. This alone can double or triple the efficiency of your inbound marketing.
  • For your outbound marketing: we have a whole guide on outbound lead generation, so be sure to check it out if you want to level up your outbound game!

Sales phase:

At this phase, you should know quite a bit about your lead. However, it might happen that you weren’t able to disqualify a lead before the sales phase. Or, the lead is qualified for doing business with you, but you must qualify them to see which package fits their needs.

Here’s what to do in such situations:

  • With sales, personal interaction can do wonders. Assign a sales representative to the lead, so they can receive timely and customized support. This will make leads much more likely to convert if you’re treating them well early on.
  • Make sure to ask qualifying questions (we’ll give you examples below) during your first call (widely referred to as the “discovery call”) or meeting with the prospect.
  • Take the necessary steps to make sure prospects show up to your sales appointments.

Now that the “when” has been taken care of, we’ll dive into the “how” by discussing which questions you can ask to qualify a lead.

How To Qualify Leads: Questions to Ask

The questions that you should ask, depend on the lead qualification level you’re at. We discussed the levels in the first section. 

Organization-Level Lead Qualification Questions:

  • Am I accessible to this lead? If we sell physical products but do not offer international shipping, and the lead lives in another country, there is no point in spending resources on them.
  • Does this lead fit my target demographic? Even market segmentation using broad criteria like gender and age ranges can be useful.
  • Can I help this lead? If I’m a B2B marketing agency, I will not be reaching out to random individuals to solicit quotations.

Opportunity-Level Lead Qualification Questions:

  • Are they facing the problem I solve? If not, then you don’t need to forget about them completely. Add them to a list of prospects which you may target later.
  • Do they know about me or my product? If they don’t, how can you best introduce yourself?
  • Are they on a lookout for my product, or that of a competitor, or a substitute? How can you help them make the right decision and choose you?

Stakeholder-Level Lead Qualification Questions (asking the prospect directly):

  • Who else is involved in this decision? (This is much better than asking something like “what’s your role in the team?” or “will you have the final decision in signing up?”)
  • Do they have the budget for your offer?
  • Are there any criteria for this purchase decision?

Popular Lead Qualification Frameworks to Use

Now that we’ve covered the basics of lead qualification, we can share some good news: there are lots of lead qualification frameworks which neatly combine everything we’ve covered so far!

Lead qualification frameworks are simply a set of questions which, when answered, should tell you just the right things you need to know about a lead before choosing whether to disqualify them or to instead allocate more resources to them. 

With the right frameworks, you can move a lot of work from sales to marketing, which can make the lead disqualification process much cheaper and faster. Following a lead qualification framework is a great way to keep your lead qualification process organized and efficient. We’ll list a few of them, along with the questions they ask, and then give our own advice on which framework to use.

1. BANT:

  1. Budget: can they afford my product?
  2. Authority: is this a decision maker?
  3. Need: does the prospect have a pain point you can solve?
  4. Time: when is the prospect planning to buy?

2. ChAMP:

  1. Challenges: which obstacles is this leader facing and you can your product or service solve them?
  2. Authority: is this a decision maker?
  3. Money: how much is the lead willing or able to pay for your product or service?
  4. Prioritization: how important is solving this problem relative to your lead’s other priorities?

3. NOTE:

  1. Need: does your prospect have a pain point that your product can solve?
  2. Opportunity: what opportunities would my product bring to them?
  3. Team: who will be affected by the implementation of my solution?
  4. Effect: what will be the result of our cooperation?

There are plenty of these frameworks which you can find online, each with its pros and cons, and you’ve probably already noticed significant overlap among them. This is because they all try to do the same thing: qualifying leads.

Of course, there’s a trade-off to make here: if you ask too little, you risk operating on not enough information, and disqualifying leads too early or too late. But if you ask too much, you might be wasting resources trying to gather information which might turn out useless. 

Our recommendation? As a first step, choose one framework which resonates with you. Then, invest in building your own lead qualification framework. Here’s how:

  1. Create buyer profiles: leads who fall outside your profiles should be disqualified, unless you are trying to penetrate a new market – then you should be more open to experimenting with new profiles.
  2. Create a lead scoring model: this is a big one, and this is why we highly recommend building your own framework.

    Create a point system which is tailored to your business and your customers, whereby you add or subtract points from a lead’s score based on what they do.

    Opening emails and registering for webinars should increase a lead’s score, whereas unsubscribing from your mailing list and falling out of your ideal customer persona should decrease their score. The question of “how much” is up to you.
  3. List questions to determine if your product or service matches their needs and goals. Get inspiration from the above frameworks.
  4. List questions to understand their decision-making process (and know who makes the final decision). This is industry-specific, and you probably know how to go about this more than we do.
  5. Capture and display information efficiently with the right tools for your business.

When Should I Disqualify a Lead, and Is That a Problem?

This is a tricky one, but it’s very much manageable. We’ll talk about when you should disqualify a lead in a bit, but we’ll begin with a much simpler question: “When should I start considering disqualifying a lead?”

The answer: day one. You should be on the lookout for signs to either allocate more or less resources to a certain lead from the get-go.

Remember: disqualifying a lead does not always mean abandoning the lead. It could also mean switching them from one sales funnel to another by offering different products or services which may be a better fit for them.

However, if you do end up with a lead which your metrics and framework suggest you should abandon, you will most likely be left asking: is this a problem? The answer: maybe. If you do this for long enough, you’re bound to disqualify leads which would’ve become customers, or to double down on leads which never buy.

But keep in mind that sticking with the lead, or multiple leads for that matter, and wasting precious resources is an even bigger problem. And don’t let your previous efforts discourage you: those are sunk costs. Whatever you already spent on nurturing this lead – you can’t get back. So you might as well cut your losses and fold early instead of going all in and losing much more than you would have liked.

Tools To Use for Qualifying Leads

We always stress this point, yet we always feel like we can’t stress it enough. This is one of the 15 golden rules for cold email outreach: use the right tools. Remember that you do not need to get too fancy with the tools you choose. 

That being said, here are some great suggestions that can help with qualifying leads:

  1. Calendly:

We’ll start off with something simple and intuitive which you may already be using: Calendly. Even their free plan can be used to efficiently boost your lead qualification game.

Here’s one way to do that: add Calendly to your website, make sure to include qualifying questions for booking a call. If you’re only working with clients that have at least $20,000 in monthly revenue, you can add a multiple-choice question with different options of their monthly revenue. If they don’t qualify, you can avoid booking a meeting with them in the first place.

Screenshot of how to qualify leads in Calendly
  1. Pathmonk:

Pathmonk is a tool that you can integrate with your website. It identifies important insights about your website visitors and matches their behavior patterns with those of previous visitors to start identifying and prioritizing the most promising leads. 

Their pricing is based on what goals you want to achieve (specific results, intelligence, retargeting). For the “results” plan, they guarantee at least a 20% conversion uplift – or you’ll get your  money back. 

  1. HubSpot:

Any reputable CRM these days usually includes a built-in lead qualification system or has a plug-in which you can add on to it. HubSpot is a great CRM platform because it integrates marketing, sales, service, and content management neatly.

It includes features for marketing automation, lead generation, meeting scheduling, quote generation, customer feedback, and much more, and they’re always adding new features. They’re on the pricy end, but they can definitely be worth it.

  1. Salespanel:

Much like Pathmonk, Salespanel is a visitor intelligence and lead qualification platform. It helps you qualify your leads using the profile, firmographic, and behavioral data points.

The software captures leads from cross-channel acquisition sources and tracks them in real-time. The tracking system tells you who your leads are, where they came from, and what they did on your website. Salespanel can also track custom events like webinar views, button clicks, and other major engagements. In short, it’s like a Facebook Pixel on steroids. 

Their basic paid plan starts at $49/month, but they even offer a free plan with some worthwhile features.

  1. Madkudu:

If you’re looking for high-end, look no further than Madkudu. They’re industry experts when it comes to data science, predictive engines, and machine learning. The catch? They charge a hefty premium. Madkudu’s pricing starts at $1999/month. If you’re willing to invest in a new data partner, they’ll practically take care of your lead qualification, and then some.

  1. Acquire:

The last tool we’ll mention is a light, affordable one. Sometimes, prospects just need to have one or two questions answered before they jump into the sales pipeline. But, of course, most sales teams don’t have the time or ability to respond at a moment’s notice to every question that comes in this way, so Acquire also provides a chatbot that can handle the most common questions that prospects are likely to ask.

These chatbots can also help you gather more data on these prospects so that you can get the qualification process started. The best part is: they are highly customizable in terms of how they look and what they do.

Final Thoughts

We frequently emphasize a universal fact about business: not all leads are born equal. Some leads need to be nurtured, some leads need to be disqualified, and some leads simply need to be more thoroughly vetted. 

However, if you pick the right lead generation partner and tools, you can effectively short-circuit much of this whole operation. By outsourcing some of your outreach, you can jump on the highway towards having high-quality leads which arrive at your doorstep vetted, and ready to buy. And that’s exactly our area of expertise. We’re here to help you with your.

Simply schedule a free consultation today, and we’ll find out how we can help you.

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