Lead Qualification Checklist for Small B2B Businesses
When I opened my email this morning I found 3 new appointments added to my calendar.
I quickly reviewed them and confirmed two of the meetings.
The third I cancelled.
I know that sounds a bit harsh. The first time I cancelled a meeting I really felt guilty. If someone wants to work together, I feel really ungrateful for cancelling.
But here’s the problem. As I get more meetings added to my calendar they begin to compete with other priorities.
There are only so many working hours in a day. So my meetings need to generate enough results to displace other important tasks.
In this article we’ll look at questions and criteria you can use to build a lead qualification checklist. So you can ultimately decide whether a lead is worth pursuing.
Let’s get started!
What’s Lead Qualification?
Lead qualification is the process of identifying leads that are a good fit for your business and have a high probability of converting into paying customers. It involves evaluating leads based on certain criteria and questions to determine if they meet your company’s needs and goals.
Lead qualification is a crucial step in the sales process, as it helps sales teams focus their efforts on leads that are most likely to convert.
You Can’t Skip Lead Qualification
Lead qualification is important for several reasons.
Saves Time and Effort: Qualifying leads helps you focus on those that are most likely to convert, saving you time and effort.
Improves Sales Productivity: With a lead qualification checklist, your sales team can prioritize leads based on their potential value to the business; making them more productive.
Reduces Sales Cycle: Qualifying leads can help shorten the sales cycle, as you are only pursuing leads that are a good fit for your business.
Better Customer Experience: By focusing on leads that are a good fit for your business, you are more likely to provide a better customer experience and build long-term relationships.
Multi-Stage Lead Qualification
It’s tempting to think we can qualify leads once, and then we’re done.
But in reality, it’s worth doing at least two separate checks. Once before you even meet your prospect. And again after you’ve met for the first time.
If you have an extended sales cycle, you may want to create a third (or even fourth) qualifying checklist for later stages in your sales process.
Pre-Meeting Lead Qualification Checklist
When you’re contacted by a prospective client do a few basic checks before you confirm a time to meet. Your questions will be a bit different. But here are the questions I ask myself. These questions become my lead qualifying checklist.
Can I help them? Every month I get a few leads from people who want my help. But I’m not the right person to help them. Maybe their service is B2C? Or maybe it’s better suited to other forms of marketing. Regardless, not everyone is a perfect match for our solutions. So I should weed them out from the onset.
And you do the same. Prospects will appreciate your candour – especially if you can point them in a better direction.
Are they ready? I once had 6 meetings in 2 weeks with prospects that didn’t have their website finished yet. They were ‘looking ahead’ and wanted to discuss their anticipated needs. Not surprisingly, none of them became clients. And as near as I can tell, none of them have even built their website many, many months later.
With this in mind I don’t meet people who don’t have a website already up and running. I also look to see what collateral they have available to support their lead generation efforts.
Check whether your prospects have progressed to a point in their business that really requires your assistance. Otherwise you’re better off helping them by email.
Are They Decision Makers? Sometimes senior decision makers will ask intern-level staff to gather terms and pricing from a wide range of providers. They can use their findings to create a ‘short-list’ of people they want to speak with.
From the point of view of a ‘time poor’ decision maker this process makes complete sense. They get the information they need to narrow down their vendors as efficiently as possible (note the similarity to requesting RFQ’s).
It’s also a bit pointless. The intern can’t answer important questions. All they can do is ask pre-formulated questions that probably don’t reflect the company’s actual needs.
I try to avoid these meetings whenever possible. If the decision maker can’t attend, it’s better to postpone until they are available to participate.
Who Else Needs To Attend? Decisions seldom happen in a vacuum. Even small companies have multiple stakeholders. And it’s good to connect with everyone who may be involved as early as possible.
When the owner of a small business books a meeting, I take a moment to see if they have a Co-Founder, Head of Sales, or Head of Marketing that should also participate. If they do, ask whether other potential stakeholders will be joining.
Prospects will be glad to see your familiarity with their team. And you’ll get some advance information about the project just by asking about the team.
Re-Qualify During The Meeting
A lot of the time you only get ONE chance to speak with your prospects.
Just one. So you’ve got to make it count.
You need to confirm that your prospect is actually qualified. And they’re interested in your solutions.
The way to do both of these things is to adopt a simple habit. Towards the end of every meeting ask your prospect a simple question.
“Is there anything that you foresee happening that would stop you from moving forward?”
Sometimes there are no obstacles. In which case you can discuss the next steps.
But that seldom happens.
This one question will uncover all sorts of potential issues.
You’ll learn that they are speaking with other vendors. Or they don’t find your pricing competitive. Or the ‘decision maker’ you thought you were dealing with isn’t actually the decision maker.
You may also uncover unspoken objections. Which if left unaddressed will kill the deal.
So be sure to ask this powerful question. Not only will you uncover qualifying issues, but you’ll also learn why your prospects may not want to work with you.
Adopt Prospect-Driven Qualifying
Before the meeting we ran the prospect through a quick pre-qualifying checklist.
And in the meeting we asked them, “Is there anything that you foresee happening that would stop you from moving forward?“
It’s a very powerful question that will answer everything you need to know about the prospect’s qualification, level of interest, and timing.
But what about after the meeting? Should we continue to qualify our prospects?
I’d argue yes. But in a different way than before.
During the pre-meeting and meeting, you’ve been driving the process. Your prospects were just along for the ride.
But since they’ve confirmed their interest, they need to be active participants in moving the deal forward.
This means they take quantifiable actions that reflect ongoing interest.
I’ll give you an example.
When I used to work in retail I needed to send prospective clients some documents. I already had their email address. So I could easily send them a soft copy.
Instead I asked them for their postal address and sent every document via post.
It wasn’t necessary, and it added work for everyone.
So why bother?
There were a couple of reasons. The main ones were:
Asking people to do something big like sign a contract is a lot easier when they’ve taken smaller steps along the way.
It keeps the conversation alive. By giving prospects things to do I have reasons to chase them up.
Doing things like sending a postal address re-qualifies the prospects. People who don’t do simple micro-actions aren’t as interested in the deal as you are. And that’s information you need to know.
Review and Update Your Lead Qualifying Checklist
Your lead qualification checklist isn’t set in stone, and you should regularly review and update it to ensure its effectiveness. As your business evolves, so should your lead qualification checklist. Add or remove questions based on feedback from your sales team and the data you collect from your leads.
Revisit your funnel and remove points of friction. Where are leads falling off and why?
Lead qualification is a crucial step in the sales process that can help you save time and effort, improve sales productivity, and provide a better customer experience. By defining your ideal customer profile, identifying the right person to contact, and creating a list of qualifying questions, you can ensure that you are pursuing leads that are most likely to convert into paying customers.