As an industrial marketer, your primary goal is to generate leads for your manufacturing business. However, not every person that fills out a form, downloads an eBook, or requests a call makes for a great prospect. In fact, many of these folks may not be a great match for your products or services.
Unfortunately, however, not every manufacturing companies has a system to separate good leads from bad ones. This results in salespeople wasting a lot of time and effort chasing down less-than-ideal prospects while ignoring more serious opportunities.
That's why you need a proven process for qualifying your leads.
What Is A Qualified Lead?
“Qualified” is sales-speak for “they can’t waste my time and I can’t waste theirs.” In other words, a qualified lead is someone who meets specific criteria that justifies speaking to a salesperson.
Sales and marketing teams need to work together to define that criteria. Here are some things to consider.
Just because someone is interested in buying your products and services doesn't mean that they actually have the power to do so. They may have to climb the corporate ladder to get approval from higher ups. You need to determine what types of titles — managers, VPs, owners, etc. — that your sales reps should be interacting with.
Think about your top customers. What do they have in common? Maybe they have a certain headcount, organizational structure, or budget? Is there an industry that they all hail from? Whatever they have in common, chances are that prospects who share those traits will also be qualified leads.
Now, think about the opposite of your ideal customer. What processes, stipulations, and terms will make you want to walk away? Eliminate leads that are more trouble than they're worth to keep your sales reps focused on better opportunities.
If it’s a solid qualified lead, you won’t have to do much guesswork as to the level of buying interest and comfort in the product once you’re done interacting with them. A good lead shows that you know they need to close within a certain timeframe, they can pay for it, and they understand how your product or service can benefit them or solve a problem. Bad leads are the exact opposite, vague and dubious information that may or may not lead to moving the sales process forward at all.
What Is The Difference Between A Marketing-Qualified Lead & A Sales Qualified Lead?
Marking the lifecycle stages of your contacts in your pipeline is vital for your sales team to know who they should be reaching out to and what their main points of conversation should be. While both Marketing-Qualified Leads and Sales-Qualified Leads both have "qualified" in their titles, there are slight differences in these two stages of the marketing process.
Marketing-Qualified Leads (MQLs)
Marketing-Qualified Leads also called, MQLs, are ideal candidates for your business offerings, but may not be ready to have a conversation yet. At this point in the customer lifecycle, a contact has engaged with your content, filled out a form on a lower-funnel offer expressing their paint-points, but this does not make the contact a guaranteed sale. While an MQL is more curious about your offerings, products, and/or services than a standard lead, an MQL isn't considering purchasing at this time.
Further Reading: Ways You Can Nurture Leads To Become Customers
Sales-Qualified Leads (SQLs)
A Sales-Qualified lead on the other hand, SQL for short, is highly interested in making a purchase. This contact has engaged with bottom of the funnel content like RFQs, RFIs, or may have added your to their shortlist on Thomasnet.com. Free tools like Thomas WebTrax can help you identify the contacts visiting your website and show you exactly who is most ready to make a purchase.
Read More: Turn Your Anonymous Traffic Into Warm Leads
Two Elements of A Qualified Lead
When it comes down to it, every qualified lead is composed of two important factors:
- How a prospect can fit into the sales process.
- How much engagement has taken place with them.
A fit prospect should resemble the ideal prospect, as determined by those conversations between your sales and marketing teams. This includes characteristics such as the candidate’s job title, industry, budget, and location. If it fits, that’s more than enough reason to pick up the phone and get things moving.
Secondly, prospecting engagement levels helps determine how motivated they are to buy. Did they enter your web contact form with “email@example.com” or did they pick up the phone and call you? Engagement is a multi-dimensional process, requiring eyes and judgment on all of your interactions with them, from Twitter replies to time read on blogs to lunch appointments.
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Lead Scoring To Keep Your Pipeline Full
If the process of distinguishing between a qualified lead and an unqualified lead sounds tiresome, that's because it really can be.
We recommend using a customer relationship management (CRM) tool for all our customers. CRMs help manage sales pipelines, keep your contacts organized, and automate many marketing and sales processes.
Through marketing automation software like Hubspot and Pardot, you can "score" your leads in real time. Lead scoring is the process of assigning a value to an action (i.e., filling out a form, visiting specific pages, requesting certain information, etc.). If the person reaches a certain threshold, then they are deemed qualified.
With enough due diligence, deals can be won with minimal effort and maximum efficiency. More importantly, by keeping your pipeline full of qualified leads, you’ll build a terrific sales run rate. If one qualified lead doesn’t end up buying from you, then there’s always another to fill its spot.
At Thomas, we specialize in helping suppliers like you generate highly qualified leads. To learn more, contact our team today.
“I don’t have a sales team on the street. I have Thomasnet.com. It’s an efficient way of getting qualified leads, and my program pays for itself every year,” said Jim Holland, President of Moore Addison.
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