B2B sales is a highly involved and time-intensive process that can stretch out over weeks, months, and even years, depending on the industry you are in.
When your conversion funnel is long and requires a lot of personal attention, pursuing the wrong lead can cost you dearly. The earlier you can weed out leads that don’t meet your criteria and single out those who do, the more revenue your sales team is going to be able to deliver.
The process of determining whether a given lead matches the predefined criteria for buying your product or service is called lead qualification.
In practice, qualifying a lead helps you avoid spending more time with them at the very beginning, especially if they are not likely to purchase your solution. The complexity of the qualification process itself varies, but sometimes it’s nothing more than asking a series of questions to establish whether there is a good fit.
What Is a Qualified Lead?
In a B2B setting, a lead is a company or an individual within a company who might be interested in your solution. As such, not all leads are worth your time. They might be already happily working with your competitor or just not have the budget. In cases like these, it’s often better to make a note in your CRM to follow up with them in a few months and move on to other companies.
The best thing you can do to make your qualification process easier is to create your ICP (ideal customer profile) and then come up with a set of requirements and qualifications they should possess. If you don’t currently have an ICP, you can use your best customers as a starting point.
A qualified lead then is someone who meets those requirements, fits well into your demographics, and is authorized to make decisions on behalf of their company. If your lead lacks any of these aspects, pursuing them could consume more time and other resources than you might be willing to spend.
As already mentioned, the easiest way to qualify leads is to simply ask them your qualifying questions — but what is the most optimal time to do that?
When Do You Qualify Leads?
The qualification process starts with the first contact you have with your lead. It could be as simple as filling out a form on your website (and answering questions about company size, budget, etc.) or discussing their situation during your initial call.
Depending on the nature of your product, sometimes the qualification stage can be stretched into sales presentations, interviews, and more.
Ideally, you should be able to compress your most important qualification requirements into just a few simple questions you can ask anyone. If your lead complains about them, you can explain that the questions are necessary to avoid wasting time. If your lead can’t or doesn’t want to answer them, they are most likely not a good fit.
After a lead is qualified, it’s customary for BDRs to pass them on to account executives who will take them through all the other stages in the conversion funnel.
How Manual Lead Qualification Works
Once you know your qualifying questions and have an accurate ICP in place, lead qualification becomes much easier and simply takes time to do.
To qualify leads at a basic level, start by asking a few questions to identify their qualities. For example, if you’re selling project management software, you might wonder how many projects they are working on at any given time or what kind of a solution they have in place right now.
You should also be prepared to qualify certain leads more deeply if needed — perhaps by asking about team composition or the number of employees. At the end of the qualification process, you should know which variation of your product or service would fit this lead best.
The most effective way to improve your qualifying questions is to find commonalities within your current customer base. If most of them are legal firms between 10 and 20 employees, you can make your questions much more applicable and specific.
Networking could also help you qualify leads, but from a somewhat different perspective. For example, someone from your network might let you know who is the best person to contact in a given organization.
Finally, it’s crucial to make sure you have direct contact with a decision-maker. In B2B sales, the first person you talk to rarely has the authority to approve new vendors, so it’s worth including a few questions to find out who would ultimately make the decision to buy. In fact, it’s often considered to be the bare minimum for successful qualification.
Why AI-Based Lead Qualification Is Better
So far, we’ve covered the process of manual lead qualification. The problem is that even with the most engaging questions and with the most accurate ICP, manual qualification is still restricted by time and resources.
Your BDRs can only research so much and make so many calls in any given day. Anything that helps to qualify leads would then have a direct impact on your bottom line. That’s where artificial intelligence comes in.
Let’s take your website as an example. Currently, 98% of your website traffic is anonymous and can’t be manually deciphered by your BDRs. At the same time, it represents lots of potential and untapped revenue, and is really a low-hanging fruit for buyer intent AI.
Lift AI is a buyer intent solution based on a unique machine-learning model that has been trained on millions of real website interactions. It is used to identify anonymous website visitors and qualify leads, even those who have never visited your website before. Lift AI predicts the purchase intent with 85% accuracy without infringing on personal information.
Unlike other predictive analytics tools, Lift AI doesn’t focus on past data, it leverages complex statistical analysis, with zero human involvement, to compute the exact data required for a positive outcome — such as making a sale.
In practice, Lift AI integrates with your existing chat platform and assigns each visitor a buyer intent score. The highest-scoring visitors are then directly connected to your BDRs, whereas the lower-scoring ones are addressed with a nurturing bot or a self-help solution.
Lift AI is able to use its machine-learning model to find around 9% of your traffic that exhibits the highest buyer intent and connect them with your BDRs in real time.
As a result, within the first 90 days, Lift AI can help increase your chat conversion rates anywhere from two to 10 times, and will keep your salespeople busy selling only to the most qualified visitors.
You can see how improving the way you qualify leads can have a significant effect on your sales quota. Now imagine how it would feel if you get an autonomous solution like Lift AI to help you identify the buyer intent of anonymous visitors. Doubling chat conversion rates within 90 days is at the lower end of what companies who integrate Lift AI are able to achieve.