Many companies don’t do enough upfront work to qualify their new sales leads. They simply pass every single sales lead through to the sales team, even if the prospect is nowhere near ready to buy or is even a good fit for what the company sells.
According to statistics cited by HubSpot, 61 percent of B2B companies send all of their business leads directly to sales, even though only 27 percent of those leads will be qualified to count as “serious buyers.” Having too many unqualified sales leads wastes the time of the sales team and causes the company to miss out on legitimate sales opportunities. When your salespeople are bombarded with low-quality leads that aren’t a good fit for your product or service, they’re going to miss the chance to talk with prospects who are legitimately good sales opportunities.
If your company is chasing bad sales leads, the following strategies will help you better qualify your inbound sales inquiries upfront:
Ask Lead-Qualifying Questions
Not all sales leads are the same, so why would your company want to treat them all the same? After all, every single prospect is unique; they all have different problems and pain points and budgetary concerns, and they all have unique business needs that your solution has to address. But if your company is simply passing every sales lead along to the sales team without even asking any questions, you’re missing a big chance to learn more about the prospect.
Asking questions to qualify the sales leads is a simple step that you can take to start prioritizing and ranking your sales leads. By asking sales-related exploratory questions, you are starting to build trust and build a relationship, and you’re learning more about the larger picture of the customer’s business challenges. Asking questions also helps you do “lead scoring” to rank your sales leads based on how likely they are to buy. This is somewhat of an inexact process, but with time, you’ll get better at deciphering the subtle clues and behaviors of prospects to see which ones are genuinely interested and which ones are just calling around to do research or get price quotes.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
Asking lead-qualifying questions is a subtle process that requires some skill and savvy. For example, you don’t want to be too direct or aggressive by asking questions such as, “Do you have a budget for this purchase?” or “Are you definitely in the market for a new solution?” or “Are you looking to buy sometime soon?” These questions tend to create sales pressure and make the prospect feel defensive.
Instead of putting the customer under pressure, start by asking open-ended questions that get them to talk about their overall business situation. For example, you could ask, “What challenges are you experiencing with your current solution?” This helps get the customer to open up a bit and share their frustrations that are causing them to seek a new vendor. Or you could ask, “How is your current solution impacting your overall business processes?” This is a great question, because it helps you analyze the overall picture at the prospect’s business and evaluate how urgently they might be looking to make a purchase decision.
Every lead-qualifying question is your chance to hear more from the customer. Get them to open up about their business challenges, and then really listen to what they say.
Follow Up By Phone
Other companies make the mistake of relying too much on automated systems. For example, when you get new inbound sales inquiries via your website or online advertising, you might have an automated email reply or online intake form that asks the prospect some questions about what they’re looking to buy. These automated tools can be helpful, but you can’t rely on a fully automated lead qualification process.
Instead, call people back. Get on the phone and have a detailed conversation that allows for the “human element” of relationship building and establishing trust. Even with the great technology we have today, you still need to get on the phone and talk with your customers.
Why? For one thing, the buyers who are most urgently looking to make a decision want to hear back from your company immediately, and from a real person. Motivated buyers are probably contacting several of your competitors, and according to HubSpot’s cited statistics, 35-50 percent of sales go to the vendor who responds first.
Some prospects are never going to be the right fit for what you sell, and not everyone is a “good” customer. But with better inbound lead qualification processes – one that includes asking good questions, sorting and ranking the sales leads and following up quickly – your company can turn more of your sales leads into big sales.