How to Master Qualifying Customers

by Feb 8, 2022Strategy & Planning

Customer lead qualification is the process companies follow to predict whether captured leads are interested in their services. Qualifying customers through a well-honed points system can improve lead quality, save resources, and glean better clients. 

Before You Begin 

Your lead qualification system needs to work for you. There’s no single implementation plan to follow. But there are some universal details to consider.

Know Your Agency

To identify the best potential customers, you first need to know your business. Where do you add value? What are your core competencies? Who do you want to serve? You can create a scoring system that reflects how potential clients align with your business when you know your niche. For example, if you are a regional SEO and content agency, a company outside your region searching for expert graphic designers will rate low in your qualification system. But a small company down the street looking to boost local search rankings is a better prospect for your sales team. 

Consider the Industry

Environmental scans go a long way when mapping out your qualification system. Is there new technology on the horizon that will benefit potential clients? Are there preferred services within your service area? Intentionally hit on clients’ needs and how you can creatively address them. Then craft your qualification rating system to match you with future clients who can help you get where you want to go. Mastering client qualifications can be a win-win situation.

Identify Ideal Clients

Your clients should need your services to take them to the next level. And they should align with your strategic growth plans. Develop client personas that enable you to focus on your target market. Take time to articulate a budget range, the preferred company size and location, and industry type for your ideal client. 

Understanding Your Market

Crowded or underpopulated markets present challenges to quality lead generation. The ideal market is small enough that your messaging resonates but big enough that there are enough clients to support your agency. Ideally, there should be 2,000 to 8,000 potential clients in your target market. 

Generating Qualified Customers

Targeted marketing strategies draw in potential clients from your target audience. Adaptable touchpoints that capture initial contact information before progressively asking for more information throughout the sales pipeline are essential to qualifying customers. 

Tried and true lead generating marketing strategies are:

  • Referrals. People trust people they know and respect. When one of your current or previous clients gives you a glowing recommendation, it’s golden. Referrals are often the easiest leads to convert into a client because they’ve witnessed your results. The timing can be unpredictable if you solely rely on referrals, so build in additional strategies that create a more controlled pipeline.
  • Outbound. Outbound lead gen can work very if done correctly. It typically works quickly and has an easily tracked ROI. Cold email is the preferred outbound method for digital shops, but we have seen some have success with cold calling as well.
  • Inbound. Inbound marketing strategies draw potential customers to you rather than push out branding and curated content. These work because they communicate your expertise about a certain area to your target clients. The main drawbacks here are the time it takes to work (often years), the required investment in content creation, and the limited ability to attribute sales to specific content pieces. Common inbound marketing methods include SEO, press releases, blogs, social influencer outreach, videos, e-books, opt-in emails, newsletters, infographics, podcasts, and white papers.

Best Practices for Qualifying Customers

Only 25% of raw leads captured are legitimately ready for sales. Robust lead qualification can increase conversion rates by nearly 75%. Various factors make up the lead qualification.

Determining Lead Status

Marketing Qualified Leads have indicated an interest in what you offer based on marketing efforts and seem more likely to become customers than other leads based on specific behaviors. They could have voluntarily submitted contact information, opted into a program, added items to their cart, downloaded material, or visited your website multiple times. 

Sales Qualified Leads have moved through the pipeline and have a high probability of converting to active customers

Identifying where your leads are in the pipeline gives actionable information to move them forward in the process. Do you need more information, or are they ready to close a deal? Likely different team members will interact with potential customers based on their MQL or SQL status.

Setting Questions

Common lead qualification questions generate answers to BANT – Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeframe. Does the potential client have the budget to afford your services? Does the lead’s given contact have the authority to make decisions? If not, who else do you need to include? Does the lead need services you offer? And when are your services needed? Does the timeframe align with your team’s capacity and workflow?

Using Lead Scoring

Set up a visual that assigns points based on potential clients’ past actions, demographics, and firmographics. 

Behaviors that could receive higher points are active engagement with your inbound marketing and recent activity. 

Demographics consider details such as the lead’s age, location, and education. 

Firmographics capture the company’s size, industry, and market served. 

Assigning positive or negative points based on consistent criteria turns raw data into actionable information. The lead score can be classed as “hot,” “warm,” or “cold,” based on predetermined cut scores to help marketing and sales create action plans to convert leads into clients. 

Having Conversations

Implicit data is gathered from forms embedded in your inbound marketing strategies. This initial data enables you to begin a conversation with potential clients. Progressively asking for more information throughout the sales process feels more organic and lets you get to know your customers before contracting begins. 

Red Flags to Watch For

Remember, it is okay to say “no” to less than ideal clients. The beauty of qualifying customers is it lets you laser focus your resources on clients who give you the most ROI.

Situations to watch out for are:

  • Budget Flakiness. Clear budgets are essential to resource allocation. You don’t want to get into a situation where you have invested staffing and additional resources into a project only to find out there isn’t a budget for your sunk costs.
  • No Timeframe. The hurry up and wait game causes frustrated team members and clogged workflow pipelines. Establish ballpark deliverable schedules before you accept a new client.
  • No Authority. Multiple conversations with people who don’t have the authority to commit to you waste your valuable time. Identify the people you need in the room early in the qualification process.
  • No Clear Objectives. Moving targets set you up for failure. It’s difficult, if not impossible, for your team to deliver on arbitrary goals and objectives. If a lead ranks poorly in this category, it might be best to cut them loose.   

Promethean Research Helps Digital Agencies Build Repeatable Revenue Generation Strategies

Qualifying customers can be intimidating. Often it is difficult to know where to start. Contact us to gain insight into earning better conversion rates and long-term clients. 

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