How to qualify leads?

*”How to qualify leads” is part of the “How to set up your Startup B2B Sales Process in 3 weeks” series.

 

When an account executive (AE) receives a meeting from an SDR that is usually considered a pre-qualified lead. This person fits a specific buyer persona and has some interest to meet with us. It is the job of the AE to perform the meeting and fully qualify or disqualify the pre-qualified lead.

 

In order to achieve that the AE usually needs to have three main skills and knowledge at this stage:

  • Product or service knowledge in order to adequately represent the company 
  • Ability to ask relevant questions and build up value
  • Listen to understand and present the information as per the unique situation of the potential buyer

 

BANT framework for qualifying leads

Here’s a framework that is often used for lead qualification and needs assessment:

It’s called BANT and stands for Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeline. There are many other frameworks but they usually are derived from this one as it seems to be one of the oldest in sales history.

 

Budget

These are a set of questions you can ask to qualify leads and find out if they have budgeted for your solution. Here are some examples:

  • What do you currently spend on this problem or need?
  • Whose budget is this coming out of?
  • How much would it cost to build the system by yourself?
  • How much would it cost if you haven’t fixed this issue in five years?
  • Have you identified a budget range for this purchase?
  • How heavily will price factor into the decision?
  • What’s the ROI you’re hoping to see?

 

Tip: try not to start with the budget questions. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes… How likely are you to talk about money before you trust the person on the other side of the phone is a knowledgeable expert who could potentially help you.

 

Authority

Here you find out if the person you are speaking with has the decision-making power and/or if there is someone else who should be included in the conversations to come. That is an important factor when you qualify leads. 

  • Who will be using the product?
  • What does the decision-making look like at {Company}?
  • Is there someone else who will need to sign off to reach an agreement between our companies?

 

Tip: try to identify if the person you are speaking with is the buyer or the user, or both.

 

Need

This stage is where you find out what their problem is. How they’ve tried solving it before (if at all) and identify to what extent it is an acute issue which they have a necessity to solve because nobody will ever give you money for something which they don’t see the value in and doesn’t solve an actual pain they have.

  • What are you looking to achieve using {Product XYZ}?
  • How is the {department} process structured now?
  • Why is this important to you?
  • How much time do you spend on this?
  • What happens if you don’t address this issue?

 

Tip: Sales is a game of relevance. You want to let your potential customer share his pains and find out if you can help them to start the qualification with this.

 

Timeline 

Here is where you find out what their timeline is and qualify leads based on their time constraints. Imagine you know you can help someone, they are interested in your solution but the earliest date they can start with you is in 12 months. Is this a lead worth pursuing now or should you circle back 2-3 months before that and continue the conversation?

  • Are there any upcoming events/deadlines that you’d like to have a solution in place?
  • Are you planning any {keywords here} in the next 1-2 months?
  • What’s your [keywords] goal for [next quarter, half of the year]? Will you be able to meet that goal without some sort of change?
  • Working backward from the date you gave me, we’d need to finalize our agreement by [earlier date]. Does that sound doable?

 

Tip: Probably it is a good idea to continue with this one after you qualify the need.

 

I know it’s a no-brainer but I gotta say that just in case. You don’t have to ask all the questions in order to qualify leads. Essentially you need to ask enough to have an answer for yourself if you should continue spending your time on a particular lead. A study shows that successful sales calls have between 9 and 14 questions.

 

Sell a brighter future

And last but not least when you’ve gathered the needed information and have successfully qualified that there’s an opportunity to work with your lead before you move to the next steps you need to sell the idea of a brighter future. The goal here is to show your buyer how exactly you could add value and help him believe that. Later you’ll need his/her help to work as an ambassador of your product or service and sell internally to other decision-makers involved in the idea of contacting you.

 

A few good case practices you can use when selling a brighter future are: 

  • Make sure you use the same language your potential buyer used during the call
  • Try to give them examples in the form of questions like “What would your day look like if you were able to solve {problem} by doing XYZ?”(XYZ being your main value proposition)
  • Share a success story from an existing customer on what their achievements were from working with you. It would be great if you could share specific numbers of percentages and back them up.

 

Tip: Remember people love buying and they hate being sold stuff!

 

Check out the job description of an Account Executive if you are attracted to the world of sales. Spotting window shoppers and what to do with them is the next topic that Boris Georgiev covers.

Account executive job descriptionHeader - Spotting window shoppers