B2B Articles - March 03, 2022
By Chantel Hall, Marketing Content Specialist
Lead qualification is a critical step in the B2B sales funnel; it’s where your marketing and sales teams focus on the leads they believe will become high-value customers. And with an average of only 2-5% of leads eventually converting to customers across all industries, getting the qualification step right is crucial.1
Old school salespeople relied on gut instinct to decide how to move forward with a lead, but in today’s digital marketing landscape, gut feel isn’t a viable method of qualifying leads. And more importantly, it’s not scalable – meaning that increasing the number of leads moving through the process will likely lead to delays and, eventually, warm leads slipping through the cracks.
Here, we’ll discuss how to make your lead qualification process scalable and empower your marketing and sales teams to focus their time and resources on the most fruitful leads.
When you build your lead qualification process using data, you can scale it up to accommodate higher lead traffic and new team members. Your current customers are a rich source of two key types of information you can use to build a data-driven lead qualification process: firmographic data and information about their path to purchase. Sales and marketing both have valuable data and insight into this piece of the buyer’s journey, and they need to work together here to establish lead criteria they can agree on.
Firmographic data: Evaluating your customers’ firmographic data will help you develop a profile for qualified leads. Firmographic data includes company size, location, what industry they operate in, and their budget. However, the pain point that led them into your sales process is probably the essential piece of data in this category. Understanding what challenges or aspirations attracted your customers to your value proposition will help you evaluate future leads' likelihood of becoming customers.
Behavioral data: Your current customers’ path to purchase shows you exactly what content they engaged with, what channels they used most frequently, and what motivated them to move down the sales funnel. Analyzing your buyer’s journey can give you additional insight into what actions will likely lead to conversion.
This information will help you develop in-depth, data-driven profiles for sales-qualified leads, marketing-qualified leads, sales-ready leads, and even unqualified leads. Instead of using gut instinct or evaluating every single lead using subjective criteria, you will have a data set to compare each lead against and determine which lead nurturing path to put them on.
The ability to automate lead qualification and nurturing is a huge benefit of a data-driven process. Your customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing platforms like Hubspot and SalesForce collect a lot of data about your leads and their interactions with you website, marketing emails, and advertising. These kinds of platforms also typically include powerful automation tools that allow your sales team to nurture a higher volume of leads.
These are just a few ways that marketing automation can help with lead qualification.
Many leads have a similar path to purchase, and automated workflows can help you automate parts of the nurturing process that don’t require a human touch. Many CRMs and marketing platforms allow you to create automated workflows triggered by a chat, a content offer download, or another action taken on your website. Once a lead reaches the end of a workflow, their actions can either trigger a new one or alert a salesperson that the lead is ready for them to reach out.
Forms are a foundational lead generation tool in B2B marketing, and marketing automation can make them an even better tool for gathering information about leads. Forms are where you collect formographic information and, critically, information about your leads’ pain points. This data will inform the entire sales process, so fine-tuning your forms to collect the right information at the right place in the buyer’s journey should be a top priority.
With a thorough understanding of who your customers are and what their buyer’s journey looks like, you can automate forms to add or remove fields based on their answers to specific questions. Progressive profiling comes into play here, and you can collect more information from leads as they move through the process and further qualify them as you learn more about them.
Your website chat feature is a prime candidate for automation, and it’s a channel buyers like having available to them. In fact, it has the second highest customer satisfaction rating (85%) and is beat only by phone.2 People often use chat for common or easy to answer questions, and you can create chat flows that gather information from the lead and deposit them where they need to be, whether that’s chatting with a salesperson or reading an FAQ page.
Once you’ve put the work into optimizing – and maybe even automating – your lead handling criteria and process, make sure your teams are using it! New and current sales and marketing team members should get training on lead qualification, and accountability for qualifying leads should flow in both directions: is the marketing team properly qualifying leads before sending them on to sales? And is sales considering the qualifying criteria when they decide how to proceed with the lead?
With the right combination of data and planning, your new lead qualification process will allow your teams to handle more leads and focus their efforts on buyers that are qualified and interested.
Learn how Ironpaper can help create successful demand generation campaigns to attract qualified leads and improve conversion rates.
1Databox, What is Lead Conversion Rate and How to Optimize It?, August 9, 2021
2Zendesk, Zendesk research: customer satisfaction
The Pipeline, How To Automate Lead Qualification for Increased Response Rates
Pyxl, How to Use Automation for Lead Qualification, June 9, 2021
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