While its great to see so many marketers enthusiastic about their inbound lead generation programs and discuss metrics and success stories on how many leads came through which can be added to the funnel, the process of inbound lead qualification still remains the ignored step-child of marketing and sales. While some companies are not in agreement whose responsibility it is, others don’t have a formal process in place simply because it’s assumed that when sales calls into these leads, they are going to qualify them while they are trying to sell to them anyway right? Wrong! In order to have an effective lead generation machine going, a very clearly defined lead qualification process has to be developed and dedicatedly focussed on only qualifying leads before they are passed on to sales, the lead nurturing cycle or the completely “not qualified” pile. Whoevers responsibility it is, unless inbound leads are qualified as soon as they generated, there will be a lead in the process which can result in missed opportunities or simply result in sales wasting their time going after leads which are not likely to go anywhere.

Here are some simple points to follow to get a solid qualification system in place:

  1. Decide whose responsibility it is to qualify leads is it marketing? inside sales?
  2. Define an inbound lead qualification program as a seperate responsibility not clubbed with sales
  3. Decide what is the maximum time a lead is allowed to sit before it gets called and qualified and enforce this practice. The first few hours after it is generated is agreed on by b2b marketers as ideal and preferably not more than 24-48 hours later.
  4. Chalk out and agree on what will be considered a “qualified lead” decide what criteria will define what will be accepted by both sales and marketing as a qualified lead and be sure to address any grey areas. Agree on a scoring system where leads can be qualified into seperate buckets where A can be highly qualified leads which need to be engaged immediately, B can be qualified but needs to be nurtured not engaged right away and C can be unqualified or dismissed leads which have no potential.
  5. Work out action items for each type of qualified lead for example type A must be passed on to sales with an alert immediately, type B can be sent back to marketing or added to the lead database to nurture and type C should never make it into the database or CRM.
  6. Narrow down on a small set of questions which can be used to qualify leads. The questions should be simple and aim towards determining the criteria we talked about in point 4 above.
  7. Measure & share results. Track few but importnat metrics such as the percentage of leads that get qualified, conversion rate and share this information with the inbound marketing team and sales team to help guage what is working and what is not.

If you can get this process in place and keep it consistant regardless of what is happening with those responsible for lead generation and those responsible for prospecting, you’ll have:

  • A happier and more efficient sales team
  • A more efficient lead generation system
  • Less wastage
  • Higher conversion rates
  • A database free from junk leads which have no potential

It’s that simple.

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