The more qualified a lead is, the more likely they are to convert.

Effective lead qualification helps your company convert a greater percentage of leads to opportunities and opportunities to closed-won sales.

But almost 50 percent of the respondents to a lead generation strategy study by NWComm said that only half of their leads were good enough for sales teams to pursue. This means sales and marketing teams often waste much, or even most, of their time and effort generating and following leads that won’t ever convert to customers.

Generating qualified leads has become the top challenge for B2B marketers, according to a lead generation survey by Ascend2. Almost 80 percent of marketing influencers who participated in the survey said that improving lead quality was a top priority. Acquiring new customers ranked second, with 50 percent of respondents saying it was among their most important goals.

A well-defined lead qualification plan creates measurable improvement in converting leads to SQLs and SQLs to customers by ensuring that leads are willing, able, and ready to buy. Leads eventually become customers because sales teams have the proper information to follow -up and they do so consistently until they close the deal.

Lead qualification will save your company from wasting time, resources, and money on the leads that don’t matter. Follow these steps to form a plan for improved lead quality.

1. Ask Questions

“‘One-size-fits-all’ products and messaging” don’t work, writes marketer Ryan Levesque, developer of The Ask Method for lead qualification.

Rather, you can figure out exactly how to sell to your leads by asking your prospects what needs they want to have met. This lets you tailor your products or services to them as well as your messaging, according to an Ontraport blog post on the latest strategies in lead qualification.

Segment leads into groups defined by similar interests and demographics for more precise lead nurturing. Consider these lead qualification criteria from a Smart Insights blog post.

  • Need
  • Interest
  • Budget
  • Timing
  • Decision maker’s role

2. Follow Behavior

Knowing what your prospects do gives you insight into what they want. Tracking behavior like website visits, social media shares, and ad click-throughs helps you further segment and target them properly, Ontraport notes. You also can determine if they’re sales ready.

A website visitor who reads one of your blog posts may be interested in what you have to say. But they may not be a qualified lead because they could lack the need for your product or service, and/or the budget or authority to purchase.

However, a visitor who goes to your product information page may be willing, able, and ready to buy. Behavior tracking helps you focus your sales efforts on these opportunities.

3. Leverage Data

Statistics from platforms like Facebook Advertising show you who is interested in your products or services. For example, you can see where they come from and assess their industry, job title, or income. Distinguishing whether you’re speaking with a CEO or an intern will help determine how you’ll communicate, Ontraport notes.

You also can capture useful data through forms, surveys, and other information-gathering tools on your website. Questions about company size, purchasing budget, and a visitor’s role within his or her organization allow you to provide content and offers that are timely and relevant.

4. Qualify or Disqualify

Part of qualifying is learning when and how to disqualify, according to a blog post on strategies to qualify your sales leads by Clarke Inc.

Set the lead qualification criteria that your team will use. Specify the need they must have, the budget they need, and the purchasing authority they require.

Mandate that leads meet all of your criteria to be qualified. This will maximize your team’s chances to convert. Tell them to listen carefully to each lead’s problems to offer the best solution possible.

With 61 percent of B2B marketers immediately forwarding leads to sales, qualified leads only amount to 27 percent, according to a Marketing Insider Group blog post on must-know statistics to improve your lead generation strategy.

If only a quarter or so of your prospects are qualified, then your sales team will struggle to convert leads. Focusing on improving the quality of your leads instead of the quantity will help your team close a greater percentage of your leads.

Conversica CTA Sales Effectiveness Report 2017