What is Lead Qualification?

What is lead qualification

Lead qualification is the process that marketing and sales teams use to screen prospects before sending them to sales reps for further action. In theory, qualified leads are the prospects who are most likely to become customers and who best fit the company’s ideal buyer profile. The goal is to maximize sales efficiency by ensuring that salespeople only devote time to leads they can win. 

The reality? Lead qualification as it’s traditionally done is error-prone and haphazard. It’s based mostly on gut instincts, simple formulas and limited prospect data. It’s better than nothing, but far from the pinpoint guidance sales needs to cut through the uncertainty and focus on the best opportunities.

The problem isn’t a lack of information to go on. In today’s digital world, there’s a mountain of data on potential buyers, their interests and purchasing behavior – data that can reveal exactly what sales teams most want to know. The trouble is that no human brain (or brains) could process it all to extract actionable insights. 

Fortunately, machine learning and AI have advanced to the point where there’s no longer any need to qualify leads using old-fashioned manual sorting and guesswork. A new generation of intelligent software, led by Infer, can analyze all of the data to evaluate prospects, gauge their sales potential and calculate precise lead scores. The process is fast, automated (no manual labor involved) and most of all, highly accurate. In fact, it can reliably predict the likelihood that any given prospect will make a purchase, and when. Hence the name predictive lead scoring.

Lead Qualification And Lead Scoring

Lead qualification has several key steps. First, marketing organizations sort through leads produced by demand gen programs, B2B data and other sources, looking for prospects who’ve shown interest in the company’s offerings – for instance, by responding to an email drip campaign, or downloading some content from the company website. These prospects are deemed Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) and are passed on to the sales team for further research and vetting.

Sales teams take the MQLs and dig deeper into the particulars. Is the prospect a good match for the company’s products? Do they have the requirements, size and budget needed to drive a sale? Are they really ready to pull the trigger? MQLs that meet all the sales teams’ criteria are deemed Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs). 

In addition to qualifying the leads, many organizations calculate scores to indicate just how good (or bad) a lead is. Behavioral scores assess the propensity to buy (“How likely is this prospect to make a purchase?”). Fit scores measure how well the prospect matches your ideal target buyer (“Is the prospect a good fit for our product and sales priorities?”). The scores help organizations prioritize their sales efforts: They know which leads to reach out to immediately, which to nurture more and which to drop. 

Lead scoring typically works by assigning numerical values to various behavioral signals (in the case of behavioral scoring) and buyer attributes (in the case of fit scoring), then summing the numbers to compute the final scores. The conventional, manual approach to this process isn’t very rigorous. Not a lot of data is taken into account, and the weight assigned to various signals (e.g., whether a prospect downloaded an ebook or clicked an email) and attributes (such as company size or buyer’s job title) is based on little more than hunches and assumptions. Not surprisingly, the results aren’t reliable, as any salesperson who’s wasted hours and days on high-scoring-but-unproductive leads can tell you.

Lead Qualification Process With Infer

If traditional lead qualification is a crapshoot, predictive lead scoring is an exacting science, enabling companies to qualify and rank leads with an accuracy that feels almost uncanny. You can separate the likely winners from the probable losers quickly and dependably. And you can do it as leads come in, without having to wait months – and squander untold hours – as the full marketing and sales cycle plays out.

How Infer Transforms Your Lead Qualification Process In 5 Steps

1: Connect Your Systems

Start by plugging Infer into your CRM and your marketing automation platform (MAP). Infer makes MAP and CRM integration fast and easy, with pre-built connectors to systems like Salesforce, Marketo, Pardot and Eloqua. Infer’s flexible API library allows you to connect to any other CRM or MAP as well. When connected to your systems, Infer can mine the data stored in them to build its buyer profiles and behavioral and fit models.

2: Enrich Your Data

Infer doesn’t just tap your own data – it enriches it with myriad data points from our proprietary database of firmographic, demographic and technographic intelligence on more than 19 million companies and 42 million prospects. It can also add any other third-party data you may have, such as prospect information you’ve purchased from B2B data suppliers. 

3: Build Models

All this of this data – internal and external – provides raw fuel for Infer’s AI-driven modelling. Infer examines activity data from your MAP (and third-party sources) and compares this to purchase histories from your CRM to see how prospect actions correlate with the actual buying behavior of your customers. It discovers signals that accurately reveal the intent to buy, and incorporates these into a detailed behavioral model. It combs through company data – pooled from your systems and Infer’s massive database – to develop a fit model that describes your ideal buyer. Using the same rich company data, it builds detailed profiles of your prospects that go far beyond the usual bare-bones company description and include things like relevant job postings, employee count, patent filings, social presence, website traffic and even the technology vendors they use.

4: Generate Lead Scores

Next, Infer uses the models to evaluate your leads. It computes exact scores that indicate each lead’s sales readiness and fitness. These behavioral scores and fit scores are combined in a matrix that provides a clear roadmap for your sellers, telling them who to call and when. 

5: Deploy Across Your Stack

The lead scores are automatically uploaded into your CRM and/or MAP so your sales and marketing teams can start acting on the intelligence immediately. Users can view the scores, as well as key signals that contributed to the scores, right alongside other prospect data.

The Future of Lead Qualification is Now

Infer’s AI-powered predictive software has taken “lead qualification as usual” and completely transformed it. Instead of a time-consuming manual effort, Infer makes it fast and automatic. Instead of a guessing game, Infer ensures that qualified leads are really qualified, and that scores accurately measure the likelihood of conversion and the degree of fit. In short: Infer can tell you who to call, when to call them and what to sell them. Just as important, it can save you from wasting time on bad leads. It also reduces friction between sales and marketing by settling age-old battles around dud leads and flawed sales processes.  

Add Infer to your sales technology stack, and start improving your close rates – in days.

Transform Your Pipeline Today

See Firsthand How Infer Uses Your Own Data To Create Custom Scoring Models