April 22, 2021

What Is a Qualified Lead and How Do You Determine One?

qualified lead

When marketers segment their email list, their emails receive a 39% higher open rate. This is just one example of the positive impact of targeting your audience based on data. Focusing your marketing and sales efforts on those most likely to respond can save your business time, money, and energy.

But how do you do this? That’s where qualified leads come into play. Read on to learn all about what a qualified lead is, why it’s important to qualify your leads, and how you can do it. 

What Is a Qualified Lead?

First things first: what even is a qualified lead? Essentially, a qualified lead is an individual that fits your target customer profile and has the potential to become a customer.

Qualified leads allow you to focus marketing and sales efforts on potential customers rather than those who will likely never buy. This saves your business resources like time, money, and energy. With a targeted strategy, you can hone in on your best prospects to lead them through your digital marketing funnel toward a sale.

To consider a customer as a qualified lead, they must meet minimum criteria. The criteria are not standardized; you create them based on your business and sales funnel.

It’s important to remember that people must opt-in to be considered a qualified lead. Cold prospects and purchased email lists don’t count. A potential customer must “raise their hand,” so to speak, to become a qualified lead. 

In most businesses, there are two types of qualified leads: marketing qualified leads (MQL) and sales qualified leads (SQL). These distinctions help you determine where a potential customer is in your sales funnel.

MQLs meet the minimum criteria to be considered worth marketing to. Your marketing efforts can then lead them toward becoming a sales qualified lead, who is then passed off to the sales department. SQLs have indicated an interest or need for your product or service.

Why Qualified Leads Are Important

The reality is that not everyone will be interested in your product or service. Qualified leads help you avoid wasting resources on those who cannot or will not turn into customers.

Essentially, a qualified lead allows you to skip wasted efforts and hone in on those that will be most impactful. It is easier to convert warm prospects than cold prospects. Focusing efforts on qualified leads will make your business more effective and efficient. 

Distinguishing marketing qualified leads from sales qualified leads is also helpful. It allows the marketing department to pass the lead off to the sales department at the exact right moment.

How to Create Qualified Lead Criteria

Clearly having criteria that qualify leads is important. But how do you create it?

It’s important to remember that the criteria used to qualify leads differ between businesses. The following is an overview of the process you can use to create and use qualified lead criteria for your business.

Lead Generation Strategy

There are two main ways to generate leads which you can later qualify to determine how warm of a prospect they are. You’ll want to start by determining your lead generation strategy.

The first method is sales prospecting. This is where you find individuals who match your target customer persona and gather their information.

You’ll start by making a list of things like their name, job, email address, company, phone number, and any other helpful information. These are cold prospects who have not opted in for communications. Once you reach out, you can determine if they are qualified leads or not.

The other method of lead generation focuses on finding warm prospects. With SEO content marketing or social media, you can get individuals to opt-in to your marketing funnel. The goal is to attract customers get them to share their information voluntarily, thus becoming a qualified lead. 

Gather Info

Once you know how you will generate leads, you need to figure out how you will qualify them. When you contact your prospects or get individuals to opt-in, you’ll want to gather some information that will help with this. 

The information you collect will differ between businesses. Therefore, you’ll want to make a list of questions based on your own sales funnel. Make a list of questions that will determine:

  • Are they the right fit for your product/service?
  • Are they the key decision-maker?
  • Are they willing/able to make this purchase?
  • Do they need this product/service? Do they know they need it?
  • Are they currently looking to change/add this product/service?
  • Do they have a budget for this? What is it?

You can ask these questions while cold calling or with forms you use for customer communications. You may also want to uncover specifics of their company with survey questions.

Lead Scoring

Once you have the information you need, you can score your leads to determine if they are worth focusing your marketing efforts on. The way you score leads will depend on your company. 

Generally speaking, marketing qualified leads are more deeply engaged. You can identify them with the information they provide during your lead generation phase. You can also use other data, including:

  • web pages they’ve visited
  • their downloads (case studies, ebooks, etc.)
  • other engagement with your business’ content

Sales qualified leads are individuals you deem worthy of a direct follow-up. These are individuals who indicate that they are close to a sale by doing things like requesting a quote or consultation or signing up for a free trial. Essentially, if leads do anything else that indicates they are close to a sale or ready to make a purchasing decision you should qualify them as SQL.

Use Qualified Leads in Your Marketing Strategy

Focusing your efforts on a qualified lead will make your marketing and sales communications much more effective. You can qualify leads by gathering information on those who opt-in and using it to score individuals based on the minimum criteria that you set. 

Finding qualified leads can be a time-consuming process. Here at HyperTarget Marketing, we simplify the process by doing the work for you. Learn more today about how our pay-per-call service can help qualified leads start calling you.