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Quick Tips for Developing Effective Lead Qualification Criteria

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A guest post by Ruth P. Stevens.

The best way to develop qualification questions is to set the criteria in concert with your sales team. Sit down with a couple of sales managers or a few top sales reps. Don’t take everything they say as gospel—or they’ll insist that you deliver only leads that are going to close tomorrow.

Spend some time with a sales manager or a few senior experienced sales reps, and ask them to describe their ideal prospect. You might ask them for five critically important, must-have characteristics to qualify and pursue a prospect. From the picture they paint, select the categories that will be the most productive—and those where you can realistically gather the information—and then determine the range of answers that fit their needs.

Here’s how such a conversation might go with a salesforce charged with selling enterprisewide licensing deals for a file-sharing software-as-a-service. You say, “Describe your ideal prospect.” They say, “We want to find a strategic, visionary person who wants to have an impact on the business and who understands that enterprise software is moving to the cloud.”

How can you convert this description to a reasonable set of qualifying questions? Based on what you have so far, you can't do that easily. You need to back up and probe further. So, you might ask these questions...



  • How big an enterprise are you looking for? How many employees? What kind of revenue levels?


  • What industries are you targeting? Have you gotten traction in particular industries?


  • What titles are those visionary people likely to have?


You know it’s difficult to assess the prospect’s vision or aptitude for innovation by asking standard questions. So, in this case, ask more productive questions about the current environment. For example, a yes or no question about whether the target company is using cloud-based software in the corporation might be a reasonable proxy for the degree of new-technology adoption and, in fact, a strong indicator that another cloud-based application might find a home there. The final list of qualification questions might be around company size, industry, and current cloud computing usage.

Here are some tips for success with qualification questions.


  • Ask your qualification questions on your response forms, whether they are paper-based, electronic, or by voice. Asking questions at the point of inquiry collection will most likely reduce campaign response rates, but you can make it up in increased qualification rates, which saves money in the long run by reducing outbound qualification effort.


  • Ask prospects all the questions the sales team needs to do its job. If you don’t ask the right questions and get needed information, your sales conversion rates will fall dramatically.


  • Include a hard option, such as “have a sales specialist contact me,” as a check-off box on every form. You might even go further by asking what the best time would be for the rep to make contact.


  • Set criteria consistently across campaigns. Instead of developing original criteria for every campaign, try to gain agreement on three or four basic questions that apply across your product lines. If you can pull this off, you can analyze results over time and across campaign variables, such as list, offer, and creative. This strategy also reduces confusion and extra work during campaign planning.


To learn more about lead generation, catch Ruth Steven's MarketingProfs University class "Quality, Not Quantity: Lead Qualification Across the Buying Cycle" on July 16, 2012. Her course is part of MPU's B2B Lead Roundup.

Ruth P. Stevens helps companies improve their lead generation programs, and teaches marketing at firms and business schools in the U.S. and abroad. She is the author of Maximizing Lead Generation: The Complete Guide for B2B Marketers. Download a free copy of Chapter 1.

(Photo courtesy of Bigstock: Brainstorming)


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