Designing a Lead Qualification System

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The more targeted your leads are, the less time you'll waste weeding out the losers. If you're fortunate enough to have an excellent lead source, such as a tightly qualified list from a good lead broker, congratulations – you'll have little qualification work. Most salespeople, however, have a fair number of “garbage” leads to sift through.

If you haven't already done so, you'll need to determine who your ideal prospect would be. This ultimate prospect's qualities will be your guideline for determining which of your leads are whales, which ones are worthless, and which ones fall in between these two extremes.

Once you've decided on the qualities your ideal prospect would have, you'll need to rank them in order of importance. When designing a lead qualification system, you have two main options. You can design a system of general indicators (“hot,” “warm” and “cold” are popular) and assign these tags to each lead based on how many of your desired qualities it possesses. Or you can assign numerical values to each quality and give every lead a score that's the sum of those values. The numerical system is more precise, but it also takes more time to set up and will need re-assessing sometimes as your priorities change.

If you're not sure which qualities are most valuable, a good place to start is your existing customer list. Look at your biggest clients and see what qualities they possess from your list. If there are one or two qualities that your major clients share, those qualities probably belong at the top of the list.

When you've decided on your priorities, it's time to put that list to work. Most salespeople qualify a prospect during their first contact, usually over the phone. Having a list of desired qualities allows you to work up some pointed qualification questions in advance. If you find that your lead doesn't have the desired qualities, you can stop right there instead of wasting your time and theirs with a face-to-face meeting.

Once you've asked your questions and found that the prospect is indeed a match, you can shift your focus from qualifying them as a prospect to qualifying them as a buyer. Ask questions that will help you determine their level of interest in buying your product. The wrong way to do this is to ask if the prospect wants to buy a widget and hang up if they say no because almost everyone you call will automatically turn you down regardless of their needs. A better approach is to ask questions like, “Do you already own a widget?

How long ago did you buy it? What do you like (or dislike) about it?” These questions will help you take the prospect's buying temperature without snapping their defenses into place.