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Lead qualification:  Critical step in the Lead Management Process

Susan Allen

In our last two blog posts, we started the journey through the 9 Stages of the Lead Management Process. Once again, they are:

  1. Initial inquiry
  2. Initial qualification
  3. Lead nurturing
  4. Marketing qualified lead (MQL)
  5. MQL distribution to sales
  6. Sales-accepted lead (SAL)
  7. Sales-qualified lead (SQL)
  8. Opportunity/Bid
  9. Win/loss

Lead qualification

In looking at the first station – Initial Inquiry, or Lead Gen – we discussed the sad fact that this is where Manufacturing marketers often stop the train.  Here’s the scenario that I most often encounter:  When the team returns from a trade show, the booth swipe data is all downloaded from the badge readers.  The data is then sent in an Excel spreadsheet to one of the marketing associates.  And they are tasked with dividing up the “leads” by geographic territory and sending them out to the sales team.

The sales rep.’s make a few calls to the lists in their territories, but give up after several calls in a row to people who are clearly not interested in hearing from a sales person. Now Marketing has lost all credibility with Sales.  And Sales is forced to continue with their own individual programs of prospecting and cold-calling. 

This story could have had a much happier ending if only there were a lead qualification process in place.  The initial qualification should happen right on the show floor.  This can be done simply by adding a few basic qualifying questions to the lead form.  Everyone in the booth who is going to be interacting with visitors must be required to ask the qualifying questions and mark the responses on the lead tracking device so that it’s captured in the system.  If all of the booth staff are trained properly, visitors will not feel like they’re being interrogated.  Rather, the qualifiers should all be uncovered as part of a natural flow of conversation in the booth. 

With this qualification information in hand, Marketing can make a determination about whether or not the prospect meets any of the criteria that would warrant engaging him/her any further in the lead nurturing process.

As an alternative, lead qualification might be accomplished via an outbound calling program.  Again, the trick is asking the right questions in a manner that engages the prospect rather than irritates them.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of how to qualify your prospects.  The point is, there are some basic pieces of information that need to be gathered about your prospects before they can be judged ready to pass on to Sales.  How you get that information is up to you!

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