How to Optimize and Manage Qualified Leads

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Managing qualified leads is a complex and expensive process. 

It’s safe to conclude that it’s one of the biggest pain points of inside sales teams, as only a few companies know how to do it successfully. 

Only 5-10% of qualified leads convert successfully and the reason why the efforts of closing leads fall by the wayside is because of inadequate lead management software, poor organizational skills, and varying levels of diligence among salespeople.

If you’re looking for a way to increase inside sales productivity and successfully manage leads, then you’ve come to the right place. 

We’ll discuss how you can ensure that they move smoothly through the pipeline at every turn, and most importantly, that no lead is left behind! 

Follow the steps below to optimize your lead management. Proper lead management is key, and a sales engagement solution designed for the unique challenges of the inside sales industry is imperative to optimize sales effectiveness.

What Is a Qualified Lead? 

Before you can properly manage a qualified lead, you have to define it. 

Many inside sales professionals still struggle to figure out what constitutes a qualified lead

Put simply, a qualified lead is defined as being worthy of a salesperson’s time and effort. It’s more than just a lead, that is, a person or organization with interest and authority to purchase. 

A lead that is qualified is one that is the right fit for your product or service.

Here are some questions that can help you distinguish between an ordinary lead and a qualified lead:

  • Need – Does the individual or company have a need for your product or service?
  • Timeline – Is the individual or company ready to buy now or later? Determine the specific timeframe.
  • Authority – Does the prospect have the authority to make a buying decision?
  • Budget – Is the company financially stable enough to afford your product or service?

The answers to these questions may be determined by having a qualifying team call first to gather information. It’s also a good idea to collect additional information by performing a search on the Internet, their website, and social media channels. 

Marketing and sales should work together to build a buyer profile to create qualified leads. 

That brings us to yet another important distinction that has to be made: marketing-qualified leads vs. sales-qualified leads. 

What Is a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)? 

lead generation

A marketing qualified lead (MQL) is a lead that is more likely to convert and become your paying customer than other leads. 

But, they’re not ready to buy yet, and it’s essential to bear this in mind.

This lead has been qualified based on the web pages on your website they visit, their willingness to receive your marketing materials and communication such as newsletters or promotional emails, and the actions they take such as downloading your e-books, white papers, or reports. 

In a nutshell, an MQL is an engaged lead that has shown interest in your company, wants to interact with your marketing team, and has the potential to be converted into a sales qualified lead (SQL) if nurtured correctly. 

What Is a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)? 

A sales qualified lead (SQL) is a potential customer that has been researched and vetted by the marketing team as ready to be handed off to a sales rep. We’re talking about a prospect that has moved past the engagement stage and is more serious about opting for your solution. 

So, an SQL is fit to begin the sales process as they have expressed intent to purchase and met your qualification criteria all of which makes them the right fit for your product or service. 

An SQL is further in the sales cycle than an MQL, as they are deemed as purchase-ready, which means that they’re closer to making a buying decision. 

Now that we’ve clarified these two different types of qualified leads, we can delve into the process of optimizing and managing them. 

How to Optimize and Manage Qualified Leads

Create a Standardized Lead Scoring System 

In order to determine whether an MQL should be promoted to SQL, you need a standardized lead scoring system. 

As we’ve already established, not all leads are created equal, and not every MQL has the potential to become a paying customer. 

lead management

In order to prevent your sales reps from wasting time and energy with leads that will prove to be unfit somewhere down the road, it’s crucial to evaluate and assess them using a well-structured lead scoring system. 

Lead scoring is the process of determining whether a lead is sales-ready with the help of a predefined and standardized methodology. 

First of all, you should determine the criteria and data points that define a qualified lead and then assign point values to these criteria so that you can numerically express the score for each lead. 

In other words, you should assign certain numerical values or points to each lead, based on the different criteria you established. 

For example, these criteria can be the frequency of visiting your website, how much personal information they were willing to share with you, or to which extent they engaged with your brand across the internet, social media platforms, and other channels of communication. 

Evaluating lead behavior is one of the most important methods of lead scoring. Downloading some of your resources, responding to your email message, scheduling a demo, or booking a meeting are actions that show your lead is interested. 

But, each of these behaviors will get different points based on the likelihood of purchasing they reflect. So, booking a meeting will get more points than responding to an email. 

Develop a Lead Management Process

Once you’ve qualified the lead, it’s important to develop and implement a sales process for your inside sales team to work your leads through the sales lifecycle

After evaluating your sales environment, see what works and what’s toast. 

Write a formal step-by-step plan for sales reps and ensure that your team follows it every step of the way. 

Tailor the plan to your value proposition and include when and how often to follow up on leads over a period from weeks to years. 

Sales reps should follow a consistent schedule of phone calls, sprinkled with value- and content-driven emails to achieve maximum sales. 

The most important function of your sales plan is to take the information from your past successes and duplicate it in a successful sales process to produce consistent, repeatable, and predictable results.

Prioritize Leads

Develop a plan to prioritize leads and distribute them to sales reps. 

Whether you send a new lead to a qualification team or to a salesperson right away or down the road, ensuring that your team receives the right lead at the right time is essential. 

What drives sales productivity is the process in which you prioritize and distribute leads. This can make leads that were once mediocre hot and profitable over time. 

For example, VanillaSoft’s Lead Routing feature will automatically serve your sales reps to the best and hottest leads to call, thus accelerating the sales cycle and reducing the distance between a lead and the sale. 

Use Queue-Based Lead Automation

Using an automated sales solution is the best way to manage leads. 

The best way to ensure that qualified leads get to sales reps is the queue-based platform

In this platform, managers take qualified sales leads and add them to an automated call queue based on lead priority. It ensures that web leads, trigger leads, or purchased leads are routed to sales reps in order of importance. 

When a sales rep finishes a call and enters the call result, the next lead is presented immediately.

Queue-based lead systems give management the power to select and prioritize leads for sales reps and can facilitate the process from initial contact to sale.

Nurture Leads

Develop a plan to nurture leads. 

Keep in mind that some leads may not be qualified right away because of your research.

For example, maybe the company is not ready to buy at the current time, but a future event will make it a timely lead three months from now. Sales reps should nurture leads over time to warm them up, so by the time the prospect, who you’ve been nurturing for a while wants to make a deal, they will most probably opt for you.

Lead nurturing is building a relationship and trust with consistent messaging gradually. It enables sales reps to send highly targeted messages based on research information about the company and every particular prospect.

Queue-based platforms enable sales reps to nurture prospects and connect on a deeper level, as previous contact information, pre-approved smart scripts, and emails can be tailored for each record based on result code triggers. 

Sales reps can communicate the perfect message for prospects at each stage of the sales cycle to increase sales. 

It is crucial that the lead is followed up on throughout the sales lifecycle, whether it lasts many months or years. “Zombie leads,” which were once thought of as dead, can come back to life, with the right email campaign.

Closing Words

So how do you optimize the lead management process for your insides sales team? 

First, define what a qualified lead is, develop a step-by-step lead management process for your sales team to follow, prioritize leads with a queue-based lead management system to make the process easy, nurture leads over time, and finally close the lead with a sale. 

A sales engagement solution to prioritize, distribute, track, nurture, and follow up on leads at every stage of the sales process takes the stress and confusion out of lead management to achieve maximum effectiveness, and lets sales reps concentrate on what they do best – selling.

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