So you are a SaaS marketer who published a whitepaper on your company’s website, distributed it through the weekly newsletter, promoted it on social media, and then observed as visitors downloaded the resource in return for their email address. Congratulations – you were successful in generating leads. But are they relevant to your business? Do you have a documented inbound lead qualification procedure?
You must be thinking: What an apt strategy should be for inbound lead qualification? How to qualify a sales lead?
Inbound marketing is an effective method of lead generation. When you spend time creating and promoting resources for consumers, you expect to see an increase in the number of leads. And this outcome is irrespective of size and industry.
A HubSpot study reveals that companies that publish over 16 blog posts a month receive roughly 3.5 times more traffic than companies which stop at publishing four blogs a month. Moreover, 47% of potential customers read at least three to five pieces of content published by a business before starting a conversation with their sales rep.
INBOUND LEAD QUALIFICATION FOR SAAS BUSINESSES
While consistent inbound tactics lead to increased lead generation, not all the leads generated are equal. It is important to understand how some consumers interact with your business and product. Having a lead qualification process and lead qualification criteria in place are about creating a hierarchy that helps you figure out what leads to concentrate on first.
There are 2 levels of inbound lead qualification – marketing and sales.
As defined by HubSpot, an MQL (aka Marketing Qualified Lead) sits in the crucial handoff point between marketing and sales. MQL creates a metric that helps you understand the quality of the leads you’re generating before sharing their details with the sales team.
There will always be a percentage of visitors browsing through the website without any immediate need for your product. Hence, as a marketer or a startup owner, it is imperative to facilitate a process that helps you figure out the more valuable leads; in other words, helps you qualify them and add value to the sales process.
We discovered the need to have a stringent marketing qualification process because of the nature of our business. We have a small team that caters to a broad segment of businesses. To ensure that our sales teams spend time on the leads that will give us the best returns, we needed to have some proper inbound lead qualification criteria to help our sales team prioritize.
Marketing qualified leads (MQL) are businesses whose actions on the product and website indicate a serious interest and intent to purchase.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to the inbound lead qualification that we make use of at Exotel.
STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO INBOUND LEAD QUALIFICATION
A) Study the behavior of your website visitors
How the visitors behave on your website speaks volumes about their requirements. Here are five parameters to focus on:
– How did they reach your website
Chalk out the keywords the visitors use while searching for the product or service your company offers. For example, in the case of Exotel, a prospective customer who looks for inbound call center, IVR or cloud telephony understands what they want for their business. The keywords that a customer uses to search also becomes a good conversation starter for the sales engineer.
– Engagement on the website
Once the visitor lands on your website, identify the pages they browse through. For example, let’s analyze two website visitors, A and B.
‘A’ searches on Google for “cloud telephony”, lands on the Exotel website, spend time on the careers page and then sign up for an Exotel trial account.
‘B’ searches on Google for “cloud telephony”, lands on the Exotel website, spends time on the features pages, read 2 case studies, and signs up for a trial account from the pricing page.
Both visitors A and B landed on Exotel after searching for the same keyword. But their actions on the website tell you a little more about what their potential interests could be.
Visitor ‘A’ is possibly looking for a job unlike ‘B’, who took time to study the product before signing up for a trial. In this scenario, our sales team is better off spending time with visitor B rather than visitor A.
In addition to pages they visit, another factor you need to take into consideration is the level of engagement. This includes parameters like time spent on the website, number of times they visit your website, pages that they keep returning to, etc.
If you offer downloadables or resources to on your website, it is vital to understand prospective customers’ engagement there as well.
At Exotel, we extensively use Kissmetrics and Google Analytics to ensure we can capture the nuances of customer engagement both on the website and in the product.
Usage of trial account
Only 20% of users end up using the product post signup, while 70% of users sign up but don’t do anything. Any serious consumer will make use of the free trial to understand what the product has to offer and how they can make use of it if they subscribe to a plan. When you see a prospective customer making full use of the trial period you offer, it is a big plus.
Engagement with the website, resources you have offered, will only give help you identify the which leads should rank higher on your sales team’s radar. But there are some fundamental questions like the purchasing power of a lead, the immediacy of their requirement, the decision-making capacity of the person who is exploring your product, etc. which you can only understand after speaking to a customer.
B) Speaking to a customer – Sales lead qualification
Inbound lead qualification purely based on their website behavior is practically impossible. Having a conversation with the consumer with an inbound lead qualification checklist always helps in understanding their immediate needs and also predicting their future needs, helping you qualify them better.
Here are the four questions you need to ask to convert the customer into a sales qualified lead:
Is this person the right decision-maker in the company?
If a team leader, who happens to be a junior-level employee, approaches you without any clear objective, chances are the sale will take a long time and will need to be vetted by the people who can decide in the organization.
How immediate is their requirement?
Does your product solve a problem that they are looking to address immediately? Or is it something that is just an exploration of possibilities. For example, if a customer is unable to track customer calls and is losing business because of that, the problem Exotel solves there is an immediate one with revenue implication. Chances are the customer will want to arrive at a decision and implement a solution soon.
What is their buying capability?
Pricing often is the last hurdle to cross. It, therefore, becomes essential to assess the buying capability accurately. There are a few enterprise SaaS companies that do not engage with companies who are not funded because they understand where their pricing stands and who can afford it. While it might seem like a smug move, it shows the company’s accurate understanding of their offerings and their buyer’s persona.
Why should you qualify your leads?
Sales qualification process might seem lengthy, but here’s why it is crucial for a scaling business:
1. Optimized team efforts: When you know which of your leads are more likely to convert, you invest team efforts towards them first. This way you don’t just deliver results, but also ensure excellent consumer experience.
2. Understanding customer psyche: Qualifying leads will nudge you into understanding your consumers better. Right from where they come from to what they are looking for and what their purchase behavior is, you’ll be able to understand the customer psyche better for future campaigns.
3. Cultivate buyer personas: When you understand the customer psyche, you are automatically able to create better buyer personas for your business. You are then not just backed by market data, but first-hand consumer data that tells you exactly how they will respond to a campaign.
Closing your qualified leads (within our inbound lead qualification process)
A lead that is contacted within five minutes of signing up is 100 times more likely to convert than the lead that is followed up 90 minutes later. That is why it is important to ensure that your lead qualification process is swift, effective and you are able to reach out to the viable leads on time.
Some of the best approaches to close leads in our inbound lead qualification include:
a. Following up your leads with an email that lets them know what you offer as a business and driving them towards a micro-conversion, which helps you understand their immediate needs.
b. Focus on driving them towards replying to your email, requesting a demo or contacting you on the phone. Having a two-way conversation is the best way to gauge how ready a lead is to convert.
c. Make use of cloud telephony, integrated with a CRM to focus on following up your qualified leads promptly. This will help your sales team stay on track and keep a record of all the conversations they have had with consumers, that allows them to nurture the leads into customers.
An effective inbound lead generation campaign is one that turns leads into sales, consumers into customers, without an extended sales cycle – that’s where lead qualification comes into play.
Do you think businesses should focus more on how to qualify a lead?