Why Asking the Right Questions Is the Secret Sauce of Effective Lead Qualification

August 1, 2019 | Kirsten Lyons


As a demand gen marketer, you’re responsible for building a pipeline your sales team can turn into revenue. You send over MQLs based on forms completed, events attended, white papers downloaded, or some combination of activities that yielded the right lead score. But sales keeps striking out when they follow up, and they blame marketing.

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When 80% of MQLs never convert to sales, it’s not shocking that only 11% of sales teams have a positive view of the quantity and quality of the leads marketing sends over.

Marketers have been grappling with this reality for several years now, which is why 68% have already refocused their goals on metrics directly tied to sales and revenue, rather than arbitrary MQL delivery targets.

By reimagining the criteria and tools we use to make judgements about what a “quality” lead really means for your business, demand gen marketers can effectively prioritize the right leads and drive dramatic results. But understanding which leads are your highest quality prospects that should be sent to sales requires a new approach today: real prospect interaction.

That’s why results-focused marketers today rely on a very simple secret weapon for lead qualification: asking their prospects questions.

Understand the limitations of activity-based lead scoring

Even the most complex and detailed lead scoring and attribution models are fundamentally based on assumptions. Modern marketers need to be able to distinguish between buying intent, and interest in your company and your content.

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We can’t distinguish between interest and intent without actually talking to our prospects. In the example above, we can’t know if Hugo unsubscribed from emails because his company has already found another solution, or is he still very interested, but the frequency is overwhelming. Is Lizzie interested in your gated ebook because she’s trying to learn to do her job better, or is she in a buying process?

Create real opportunities for meaningful qualitative interaction with your prospects instead of inferring based on behavior can be a powerful way to identify the right leads for your business.

Ask the right questions

But in order for this question and answer dialogue to work for marketers, you have to be able to ask the right questions. As a demand gen marketer there’s no value in entertaining prospects with a personality quiz when you could ask questions that identify key preferences, buying triggers, and pain points. Meaningfully connecting with your sales team will take your questions and prospect interactions from simple engagement, to a powerful lead qualification machine.

Imagine arming your sales team with qualitative answers to the questions above, instead of assigning value to prospects based on the kind of information in the left column. When marketing and sales are able to leverage this deep information about prospects through MarTech solutions, like marketing automation and their CRM, the result is a transformed marketing and sales process with big impact for your business.

How to get started

Step 1: Get on the same page as your sales team

Your sales team likely already has an ideal lead profile and maybe even some key questions they work to get answered within the discovery process. The power of bringing your prospect into the conversation before passing them off to sales as an MQL means sales can start with a leg up, already having key questions answered to drive better future conversations.

Work with your sales team to turn what they know about your ideal customers into questions you can ask across campaigns and programs.

Not sure where to start? Float some of our favorites by your sales team and see what resonates:

  • What is your biggest challenge right now?
  • How do you want to impact your company this quarter?
  • What is most important to you in a new product?
  • What is pushing you to search for a solution?

If you need more help brainstorming, see a full list of sales-approved qualifying questions here.

Step 2: Put the questions to work in your content and programs

After identifying the right qualifying questions to uncover fit and buying intent, marketers can deploy questions across all of their marketing, from embedding questions directly into content, like blog posts and PDFs, to placing them alongside webinar registration and contact forms.

Don’t forget to bring sales into your question placement conversation. Find out where your highest value questions should be placed, and what content is most valuable to them. This can also be critical to making sure the stories marketing and sales are telling are aligned.

Final Thoughts

Lead scoring models based on prospect activities paint an incomplete and sometimes misleading picture of a lead’s potential. Why stop at inferring your prospect’s intent when you could just ask? Results-focused marketers realize that leveraging qualifying questions that uncover prospect pains is the key to identifying their intent, generating more opportunities, and disqualifying dead ends.

Ready to take the next step to driving higher quality leads with qualifying questions? Learn more in our guide.


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