What is Inbound Lead Qualification?
For 91% of marketers, the crucial business goal is lead generation, while 60% of them assume inbound marketing is the best strategy to generate high-potential leads. So, what is a better term than Inbound Lead Qualification for generating high leads with reliable results?
Many marketers have been using this effective strategy for years and have yet to learn the term inbound lead qualification.
Inbound lead qualification is the process of evaluating inbound leads with lead qualification to determine which ones are most likely to become potential customers.
These two are the most potent digital marketing methods; when aligned, you can think of the significance of their combination.
Today, we will discuss “What is Inbound Lead Qualification,” their popular framework, and lastly, how the process works.
So, get ready to see the most growth out of your business.
What Exactly Do We Mean By Inbound Lead Qualification?
Inbound Lead Qualification is a data-driven, prospect-oriented methodology where inbound leads genuinely fill the sales pipeline with prospects. Lead qualification filters the prospects by predicting their likelihood of becoming leads, ultimately generating the most revenue.
Inbound lead qualification is essential in the sales funnel because it ensures that the sales team focuses their time and effort on the most promising leads.
Sales reps can increase their conversion rates and close more deals by qualifying leads.
For qualifying inbound leads, it can rely on four techniques.
- Ideal customer profile (ICP)
- Ask qualifying questions
- Lead scoring
- Marketing automation
But let’s see inbound leads and lead qualification precisely to understand the method better.
What is an Inbound Lead Precisely?
An inbound lead is a person or organization that has expressed interest in a company’s product or service through marketing channels and initiates contact with the company.
Here, the main goal is increasing the volume of prospects in the sales funnel by providing evergreen content. Evergreen content refers to valuable and attractive content that inbound marketing strategy relies on.
88% of marketers claim that interactive content helps differentiate the brand from others. So, every consumer gets value and informative content by moving through the sales funnel.
This facilitates two-way communication between the sales team and prospects. Those who are already interested in the product or service actively reach out to inbounders first.
Inbound leads are generally more valuable than outbound because they have already shown some level of interest in the company’s offering.
There are three types of inbound leads:
- Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)
- Product Qualified Lead (PQL)
- Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)
What is Lead Qualification Precisely?
Lead generation is the top goal for 79% of marketers; hence, lead qualification becomes the most crucial aspect.
Lead qualification makes it easier to reach out to potential customers only, which ensures a seamless sales journey, both profitable for the marketers and consumers.
This is closely related to inbound marketing, as leads must go through the inbound content first and then enter the filtering process.
While lead qualification begins at the first of the sales funnel, it doesn’t stop there. It gradually continues up until your prospect becomes a paying customer.
Why Is Inbound Lead Qualification Important?
Inbound lead qualification significantly improves efficiency, increases conversion rates, provides a better customer experience, and ultimately drives business growth.
It helps businesses to focus directly on the decision-makers and tailor their approach to meet their specific needs.
The motive is to qualify customers by knowing their needs and pain points rather than selling products that genuinely increase revenue.
For example, assume you are a family lawyer and there are tons of people who need lawyers. But you actually need to qualify those looking for family lawyers only. Hence the lead qualification approach can help you in family law lead generation.
Inbound lead qualification is beneficial for several reasons; here are 7 main ones.
1. Alignment of Sales and Marketing
Inbound lead qualification helps align the efforts of the sales and telemarketing solution teams. When both teams work together, it fosters better communication and collaboration. Ultimately, it drives to better results.
2. Better Customer Experience
Qualified leads have pre-interest in the product or service. This results in a more positive customer experience. Sales teams work simultaneously to satisfy the consumers. This reduces the chances of churn or customer attrition.
3. Efficient Resource Allocation
Businesses can focus their time on leads that are more likely to convert into solid customers. This prevents wasting resources on leads that are not a good fit for the company.
4. Improved Conversion Rates
There are more chances to make a purchase. People may even repurchase or recommend others if they find the service satisfying. This leads to a higher conversion rate.
5. Higher ROI
It typically flows to a higher return on investment (ROI). Companies can spend their resources adequately, resulting in a better ROI on their marketing campaigns.
6. Shorter Sales Cycles
It helps to identify the key decision-makers that shorten the sales cycle. These leads require less nurturing and persuasion to convert.
7. Data-Driven Decision-Making
Inbound lead qualification involves collecting data and insights about leads. This data-driven approach allows for the adoption of new strategies and continuous improvement.
Inbound Lead Qualification Frameworks
An inbound lead qualification framework is a set of criteria that marketers can use to assess leads. Those factors include the needs, budget, authority, timeline, and ICP.
This is a systemic way that sophisticatedly analyzes data to know what is better.
By using the frameworks, businesses can improve their performance and support scalability in businesses that rely on inbound marketing strategies.
BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline)
BANT is a framework that helps sales teams determine whether a prospect is worth pursuing. The four main criteria are budget, authority, need, and timeline.
Prospects that fulfill all BANT factors get immediate interaction from the sales rep. Those who fit into less than three criteria fall into an email nurturing campaign. This continues until those consumers turn into buying customers.
Budget: This refers to whether the prospect has the financial resources to make a purchase. Specifically, whether or not the client is willing to spend your offered budget.
Authority: This indicates whether the prospect falls under the category of KDM or not. They need to have the authority or decision-making power within their organization to make a purchase.
Identifying and reaching out to the person who can make the final decision is essential.
Need: This is for understanding prospects’ genuine needs or pain points so you can tailor your pitch to their requirements. It should match your service; otherwise, they will be poorly fit.
Find out the challenges prospects face, how the particular service can help them, its future effect, and so on.
Timeline: This involves determining the timeframe within which the prospect plans to make a decision.
Some may plan to get the service after some years, others may want to immediately take the service. In this case, the first ones will not be fit for BANT.
Knowing their timeline can help you prioritize and plan your sales efforts accordingly.
GPCT (Goals, Plans, Challenges, Timeline)
GPCT is the modified version of BANT since BANT is more focused on selling and needs an updated structure. It tries to understand prospects better.
Organizations use the GPCT framework to ensure clarity, alignment, and effective communication regarding their projects.
It helps in setting clear goals, defining how to reach them, anticipating potential issues, and establishing a realistic timeline for sales.
Goals: Identifying the goal of the company and customers that differentiates this from BANT. What motive does drive the customer toward the service, or what is he expecting? Similarly, what desired outcomes does the company want in the future or aims to achieve.
Plans: The plan is related to the goal, as it outlines the strategies and actions to be taken. Here are details about the steps, required resources, and responsibilities needed to complete the project. The budget is also included in making plans.
Challenges: This is a critical point to consider during lead generation. Challenges refer to the obstacles, risks, or problems that may occur. This mitigates the risk of falling for any unwanted situation, as a pre-plan is already present.
Timeline: A customer’s timeline has an excellent influence on lead generation, which is why it is a must-have criterion in all inbound frameworks.
It specifies the schedule, deadline, or timeline for both the business and its customers. Timelines make sure that the project stays on track.
CHAMP (Challenges, Authority, Money, Prioritization)
CHAMP dramatically emphasizes the prospect’s priorities, which differ from BANT and GPCT.
This is a suitable structure for companies that want to work with customers’ prioritization.
However, CHAMP can be considered a hybrid of BANT and GPCT or a mixture.
Challenges: This could refer to any set of difficulties or obstacles that need to be overcome in a particular situation or project. Work same as GPCT challenges aspect.
Authority: This may imply the power or right to decide or control a situation. The target is to reach out to the KDMs only.
Money: This typically indicates BANT budget criteria. Customers’ desire to spend money should align with your offerings.
Prioritization: This is the core element of CHAMP. This shows the urgency of the customer to have the service. Some may require immediate solutions, while others may have longer-term needs.
ANUM (Authority, Need, Urgency, Money)
ANUM is another framework often used in sales and marketing to qualify leads or prospects. It helps businesses prioritize their efforts and resources by evaluating the following criteria for potential customers:
Authority: This identifies whether the person you are dealing with has the authority to make decisions. This simply indicates the Key Decision Makers (KDM).
In a B2B (business-to-business) context, this might be a senior executive or manager who can sign off on a purchase. This is important to make sure of the sale.
Need: Does the prospect have a genuine need for your product or service? Identifying their specific pain points and requirements is necessary. This determines if your offering is a good fit for them or not.
Urgency: Urgency can vary significantly between potential customers. It can directly influence your sales strategy. How quickly does the prospect need a solution to their problem or want to buy the stuff?
Money: This is one of the inseparable aspects of every framework determining the chance of getting prospects. If your customer has the financial resources to buy or the desire to spend money, thereby he will make the decision.
FAINT (Funds, Authority, Interest, Need, Timing)
FAINT is a criterion for assessing various aspects of a situation, particularly in a business context. This is needed to determine whether a particular business or initiative should move forward in the sale process.
To evaluate the feasibility and potential success, It provides a structured approach by considering these five key factors.
Funds: Though it should be the most important aspect, it is absent in most of the framework. FAINT is allowed to measure the funds, which means the financial resources available for the project. There should be enough funding.
Authority: Same as other foundations, which relates to reaching out only to the decision-makers. Only they can give the approval to drive the project moving forward. If the necessary authority isn’t present, it can hinder progress.
Interest: In the inbound lead generation process, the measurement of how much the consumer is interested in the particular service is the foremost. The level of interest or enthusiasm from key individuals or groups. High interest often leads to more support and a higher likelihood of success.
Need: This is relatable to the interest. If someone is interested, he then needs to have a genuine need for the service. Thereby maximizing their sales efficiency.
Timing: This involves factors such as market conditions, competition, and external events that influence the timing of a project.
NOTE (Need, Opportunity, Team, Effect)
NOTE is a new technique designed by Sean Burke, which works as a challenger of BANT, CHAMP. This is a buyer-centric and customer-friendly approach that marketers like most.
NEED: This step differs slightly from other framework’s “NEED” criteria. Here, a sales rep helps the lead to understand if they need the service. This step can not be sidelined, though directly connected to inbound lead generation. It is still an excellent tool for being customer-oriented.
Opportunity: Again, this metric is not about selling service only. It emphasizes what opportunity the customer gets from the company. You need to discuss all about the benefits the customer can experience.
Team: This again differentiates NOTE from other outlines. The service should serve a bunch of people who are a team. This is most impactful for the B2B businesses, where there are more KDMs, and everyone should understand the whole process.
Effect: This stage helps to nurture leads or build a good relationship even if they will not turn into leads.
It discusses the future effect or success after the customer takes the service. The future vision of your client. It may include timeline, scope, and volume.
How Does the Inbound Lead Qualification Process Work?
Investing in inbound lead qualification can better picture the ideal fit for the company. It is worth it to ensure all the financial resources and efforts are working effectively.
But for that, a smart strategy is supreme; before you know it, it will start giving you positive results.
Here are 7 impactful steps for the inbound lead qualification process that work systematically.
1. Starts With Capturing Lead
The meticulous inbound lead qualification starts with capturing leads. The inseparable and crucial aspect, without which it is impossible to enter into the inbound sales process.
For any inbound business, it is specifically customer-oriented. This makes the process more reliable to engage with the audience strongly.
Specify your target audience so you can start capturing them. Consider local inbound marketing, demographics, a certain community, or culture. Using local SEO can greatly benefit you here.
Use Content Magnet
Content marketing works like a magnet for grabbing people’s attention. This is the center of capturing leads. It requires in-depth knowledge of content marketing since it generates three times more leads than an outbound marketing strategy.
Social media is one of the most potent tools of content marketing. Besides, websites, blogs, videos, social media posts, e-books, and gated content are included in this section.
You may require a separate team to make attractive, educational content. Also, the content topic may vary with the audience, so keep a clear concept.
Reach Out to Prospects That Somehow Initiate Contact.
Once you are done with the previous two steps, it is time to figure out all the users that somehow contact your organization.
This does not mean they need to directly inbound call or text you directly inbound. It can be signing a form, emailing, participating in webinars, etc.
2. Segmentation of Captured Leads
Audience segmentation is for reaching out with the right approach to the right people. This may seem a bit tough, but once you categorize the common characteristics and segment users according to that. The process becomes much more manageable.
Make a sheet that categorizes them with the following aspects. This will help to keep a good track and update, deleting frequently.
For B2C business
- Personality traits
- Buying habits/ Online behavior
- Pain Points and challenges
For B2B business
- Job title
- Number of employees
3. Initiating Contact Based on Lead Behavior
Once you’ve segmented your pre-interested leads, it’s time to initiate contact. This differentiates inbound lead qualification from outbound. Also, the place where your skills in digital marketing come into play.
You’ll want to tailor your communication to each segment’s specific needs and behaviors.
For instance, leads who have engaged extensively with your content might be ready for a personalized email or a direct message. On the other hand, those who have only recently shown interest may benefit from a nurturing email series to guide them through the decision-making process.
Start with these couple of questions.
- What characteristics did most customers have in common?
- Which content attracts most of them?
- Which sales channels brought in the highest number of users?
- How many resources did they view or download?
- Did any particular CTAs convert a high percentage of leads?
Gather all the answers, then find a way you feel suitable for contacting the lead.
Inbound calls are very effective in the case of gaining trust and building relationships. Many marketers facilitate inbound calls, where customers initiate to know more about a product or get help.
A sales rep then showcases skill by solving the problem and selling the product it’s very effective when you are doing inbound marketing for medical practices.
The public willingly gives an email address for gated content or registration in some programs. Inbound email marketing can be a good start, like welcome mail, stock mail, or education newsletter using email management services.
In social media posts, there is an inbox option where customers proactively message and seek information. There is more two-way conversation, and a chatbot can continuously help to answer.
4. Qualifying Questions during Contact
It’s time to gather more information and assess the lead’s readiness to make a purchase. Qualifying questions are key here, while you are making contact with them.
You can determine if the lead is a suitable fit for your company or services by asking the right questions.
Start with some inquiries like lead needs, pain points, budget constraints, timeline, availability, past purchase experience, and expectations. Note down the answers so you can take appropriate action.
5. Nurturing Leads Towards Conversion
Not all leads are immediately ready to convert into customers. Many require nurturing over time.
This involves providing valuable content and personalized communication addressing their needs and concerns.
You need to guide them through the buyer’s journey and credibility along the way.
Following up with your leads in nurturing leads promptly widens the possibility of converting them into long-term customers. Follow-up can be by using email marketing, problem-solving calls, restocking notices, or many more.
The chatbots or other automation tools can contact you after a certain period, according to your scheduled time. Try to get more deep into marketing automation.
Inbound marketing ensures two-way personalized communication. People get more comfortable and assured with a customized, friendly tone. Try to communicate like a friendly advisor.
With the proper utilization, lead scoring can determine which customer needs to be focused on nurturing lead. Lead scoring means measuring some specific characteristics, metrics, or customer persona.
Sales and Marketing Alignment
The sales and marketing alignment boosts the customer conversion rate. This showcases whether the company is meeting the needs of clients. The two sides need to work effortlessly for the highest conversion rate by adapting every possible step.
6. Handover the Leads to Sales Team
Once a lead has fulfilled stringent qualifying factors and demonstrated a solid intent to purchase, it’s time to hand them over to the sales team.
This transition is crucial to ensure a smooth customer journey. Before that cross, check and verify again all the data and details. Proper communication and information transfer are essential here to avoid any misalignment between marketing and sales efforts.
After that, the handover leads to the sales team for a successful deal closure.
Again hire an appointment setter, to match the ideal time for both of your sales team and clients.
7. Ongoing Evaluation and Strategy Refinement
The world of digital marketing is dynamic, and what works today may not be as effective tomorrow. And in the lead generation process, its nature is evolving.
Continuous evaluation of your lead qualification process and strategy refinement is vital. Keep track of some key metrics.
- Analyzing data.
- Tracking key performance indicators (KPIs).
- Applying inbound social media marketing strategy.
- Staying updated with industry trends.
- Keeping the team updated and training them to blend with any situation.
- Measuring both the success and failure rate of the business.
- Determining key performance indicators that are prioritized when evaluating the success of the lead qualification process.
(Bonus) Few Inbound Lead Qualifying Questions You Can Start With?
This can be a bonus section while working with inbound lead qualification. These are some of the common questions that can help better measure the progress.
- How did customers come across the company?
- What stage are clients currently at?
- What are some innovative ways you’ve employed to capture leads effectively?
- Have you developed any unique strategies for identifying and categorizing leads effectively?
- What are some of the most effective strategies for initiating contact with leads based on their behavior?
- What are some of the most effective qualifying questions you’ve used to gauge a lead’s suitability?
- Have you seen any trends or changes in the types of questions that work best in recent times?
- Are there any innovative techniques you’ve employed to move leads closer to conversion?
- Have you encountered any challenges or best practices in this aspect of lead qualification?
For experiencing a high conversion rate and coping with modern techniques, nothing can take the place of an inbound lead qualification strategy.
This is one of the most effective ways to gather genuine customers that can live in the sales funnel for years.
To carry out the process efficiently, a couple of frameworks are available, such as BANT, GPCT, CHAMP, etc. We have also tried to cover the inbound lead qualification process with in-depth guidance.