The Flipside of Qualified Leads: Disqualification
July 5, 2018 | Kirsten Lyons
For most marketers and sales representatives, lead disqualification is something that’s met with hesitation. Even if a lead doesn’t seem like it’s ready for a trip to sales, some teams fall into the trap of thinking it’s worth a shot. The rationale behind this makes sense, the more people you engage and pitch, the more sales you generate, right?
Well, not exactly. Chasing leads for quantity’s sake can be a costly practice for a business to get into. It wastes time, energy, and money. In order for marketing and sales to truly synergize, efforts should prioritize identifying quality leads. In order to optimize your sales funnel, there needs to be a focus on lead disqualification as lead qualification.
Today, marketers are charged with putting more quality leads in front of sales than ever before. With 57% of B2B companies regarding “converting qualified leads into paying customers” as a top priority, the pressure is on to not only generate traffic at the top of the funnel but filter the quality leads for sales, while separating the poor ones.
The differences may be subtle in nature, but properly focusing attention on the power of a disqualification process (for new or existing leads) can help unearth new approaches to demand generation and the overall lead qualification process.
In this post, we’ll explore the value of disqualification and how interactive content can be used in the process to better differentiate the good leads from the bad.
What is a Qualified Lead vs. an Unqualified Lead?
Across industries, and truthfully, within companies, the definition of a qualified lead may vary. With this in mind, we’ll focus on the high-level definitions of lead qualification, and what makes unqualified leads different from the rest:
Leads: Leads are prospects that fit into your buyer personas that have taken actions that indicate an interest in purchasing your products or services. At this stage in the sales funnel, both marketing and sales teams need to collaborate in order to define the specific behaviors that indicate a buyer’s intent to convert.
Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs): In order for a lead to become marketing qualified, the buyer needs to express direct interest in purchasing a product or service from your business. In other words, the buyer has taken some kind of direct action that has already placed him or her within your CRM. Typically, this involves a download (ebooks, whitepapers, infographics, etc.) along with a landing page form-fill.
Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs): Sales qualified leads are the potential buyers who’ve taken actions that indicate a serious interest in purchasing your products or services. In order to become an SQL, a lead will have to be properly researched and evaluated by both the marketing and sales teams and determined that the individual has serious potential to convert into a paying customer.
Unqualified Leads: Unqualified leads are contacts not ready, interested, or able to invest in your product or service due to any number of reasons. In other words, they don’t fit your ideal target buyer persona. In some cases, unqualified leads need additional nurturing and/or education, but it’s critical for sales and marketing to work together to find ways to identify this type of lead.
Every business and product is different and the behaviors that will indicate whether a lead is qualified should be developed from market research and data, as well as observations made from current interactions with leads.
Focus on the Leads that Have Potential to Drive the Business Forward
Properly vetting leads for both marketing and sales readiness has a number of benefits that should be seriously considered. Specifically, by separating the good leads from the bad, your marketing and sales teams:
Save Time: As any sales rep will tell you, “time is money.” With that said, the more time and effort that’s spent on finding qualified leads with a high likelihood of conversion, the more effective your sales team will be, and the higher your overall conversion rate will be.
Additionally, the focus on qualifying and unqualifying leads helps marketers gain insight into patterns, behaviors, and trends that help identify lead qualification faster. For example, if a number of SQLs downloaded a particular ebook prior to converting, marketers can then use that content as a key indicator for future lead scoring.
Prevent Misattributing Leads: Sometimes, a lead that looks like a real opportunity for a sale turns out to be anything but. For example, a lead interested in what your business offers who doesn’t have the purchase authority to convert, or a lead who seems to be engaging with your content but doesn’t include the correct contact information. In fact, 67% of lost sales are the result of not properly qualifying potential customers before taking them to the sales team.
Keep Accurate Metrics: Sales teams want to have a healthy amount of leads in the pipeline; however, if those leads aren’t sales quality, then marketers are essentially wasting their efforts. By properly researching and disqualifying the leads that sales can’t leverage, you’re ensuring that sales funnel metrics stay accurate, helping to make sure it’s filled with quality prospects.
Using Question-Based Interaction for Better Lead Disqualification
Now that we understand the importance behind effectively disqualifying leads, how can marketers successfully understand which leads to keep and which to disqualify? Often times, marketers accomplish this by measuring the lead engagement with product or service related content. However, this process requires marketers to make assumptions into the level of engagement or the specific insights of the potential buyer. For effective lead disqualification, marketers need better insights into the specific engagement and interests of their leads.
Enter question-based interaction. By adding qualifying questions to your content and marketing activities, marketers can gauge a lead’s level of interest in conversion, as well as the overall quality of the lead. This allows marketers to gain insights that remove the need to make assumptions about prospect interest because the questions about their intentions are laid out clearly in front of them.
When marketers introduce interactive content into their lead generation efforts, it can help:
Engage Audiences: Interactive content places a variety of potential content interactions in front of users. Each interaction is designed to engage a reader based on their specific level of interest in the products or services a business sells. Through interactive content, businesses can now connect audiences to relevant content they want to engage with, no matter where the reader is within the sales funnel.
Increase Demand Generation: While interactive content facilitates engagement, it also facilitates demand generation by pushing readers further down the sales funnel with every content interaction. A potential buyer who was originally only curious about a very high-level piece of content will be connected with content that targets awareness and demand generation.
Highlight Behavioral Insights: As potential buyers engage with interactive content, their actions provide marketers and sales representatives alike with clear insights into what products or services they’re interested in, whether or not they’re close to conversion, and whether or not it seems probable they’d respond to further lead nurturing. These kinds of insights help remove the need for assumptions in the lead qualification process, leading to more high-quality leads in the funnel.
Demand generation, marketing, and sales teams have a limited supply of three things: time, budget, and people interested in their product or service. Lead disqualification should be a part of optimizing all three of these. Spend less time on dead-end leads. Focus marketing budget on nurturing promising prospects. And, ultimately, convert more leads into customers. Using qualifying questions is a way to allow leads to self-qualify (while gaining specific insights into your good leads) throughout your existing sales funnel.
Want to learn how this strategy worked for a real business? Check out our case study describing how S&P Global Market Intelligence aligned their sales and marketing team, implemented interactive content, and improved their conversion of MQLs to SQLs by nearly 7 percentage points.