How to Qualify a Lead in 2021: The Top Sales Qualification Frameworks
Why Is Qualifying Important?
Lead qualification is a conversation that determines if a prospect’s needs and circumstances align with the solutions provided by a product or service. Determining that alignment through discovery questions early in the process reveals whether a lead is worth pursuing further.
Sales qualification allows salespeople to select and prioritize leads that are likely to make a purchase. By not taking time to qualify a lead, you may end up spending even more time, effort and potential money pursuing someone that won’t buy, no matter how good you make the offer.
What Does Lead Qualification Look Like?
Lead qualification is more than just determining whether your product solves your prospect’s needs. Measuring their willingness and ability to do business is essential and qualifying can answer key questions to that end:
- Do they have the resources to comfortably make the purchase?
- What is the status of their current solution?
- Is your contact able to make the purchase decision?
Many salespeople understand sales qualification is tied to the initial discovery call. But the process to properly qualify a lead is ongoing, with qualifying efforts continuing into follow-ups and presentations. Bob Apollo’s qualification hierarchy is an excellent example of this perspective:
- Organization-level: The initial research phase identifies the broad selection of potential buyers, often matching an established-buyer persona. Are they the type of customers who can and would normally use your product?
- Opportunity-level: Once a basic fit has been identified, this stage reveals if there is an existing need that can be satisfied with your help. Qualifying questions assess the prospect’s fit to the buyer persona and how they would benefit from your solution.
- Stakeholder-level: This stage directs the remainder of the sales process. It is where you determine if your contact is the one who can make the purchase decision or if there are other people or factors involved.
Disqualifying a Lead
A bad lead can reveal itself within any of these discovery stages. The person may not fit the right customer model for your product, have the money to spend or have an immediate need. Identifying the issue quickly allows you to pursue more quality leads with greater attention and avoid wasting time.
Disqualifying does not necessarily mean letting go of a prospect. Even if someone is not a good fit now, he or she may be worthwhile in the future. If the prospect’s needs change or if you have a new product that fits, he or she may eventually become a qualified lead that you can engage in the normal sales process.
What it means to “qualify a lead” is unique to each business, adapting to fit the company’s sales cycle, products and customer profile, among other factors. While there is no universal template specifying the right questions, sales qualification frameworks have been developed over the years to guide sales in a variety of contexts.
BANT: The Fundamental Sales Qualification Outline
Created in the 1960s, BANT has become the generic lead qualification framework for numerous companies. It is effective in simplifying the overarching concerns when it comes time to qualify a lead:
- Budget: Can the prospect afford to purchase?
- Authority: Is the person you are speaking to authorized to make the buying decision?
- Need: Is there a challenge that the prospect needs to be remedied?
- Timeline: When will the lead make a decision and buy?
According to the construct, if you qualify a lead who meets three of the four criteria, you can consider that person a worthwhile prospect.
Limitations of a Basic Perspective
Despite its enduring application, companies have recently gotten wise to BANT’s dated structure and inconsistency with modern business. While it does cover the most crucial components of a decision, using BANT as a rigid formula limits its effectiveness. For instance, rather than starting with a budget conversation, identifying a need first is a more efficient way to disqualify a prospect.
“Authority” is more nuanced today and the BANT model oversimplifies how leadership makes decisions. With inter-departmental collaboration, several decision-makers need attention and these stakeholders can change according to the need in question. Discovering how decisions are made rather than who makes them is a more relevant approach.
Customers today, especially in B2B contexts, are armed with more informational resources and buying options. With a better knowledge base, the general approach of BANT lacks impact. A customized approach that enhances the customer experience during qualification adds more implicit value, increasing the likelihood of a sale.
BANT is a valid guide if it is kept flexible, but companies are moving to more updated lead qualification frameworks. These approaches to qualifying a lead provide a detailed strategy that more aptly fits common corporate decision-making processes.
For high-risk enterprise sales that entail longer sales cycles and larger budgets, MEDDIC supports accurate forecasting and a stronger pipeline.
The first step determines the client’s specific needs-related goals in a quantifiable fashion. These goals can be centered on cost savings, efficiency or business gains, such as higher revenue or increased customer ratings.
When you know the desired measurable result, you can better communicate the ROI your solution offers. Using past customer data showing gains in the metrics prioritized by the prospect makes for a more resonating discovery call.
Getting to the people who have the ultimate discretion to make a purchase decision saves significant time and repeated conversations. Talking with the true Economic Buyer is the goal, to learn exactly what they expect and how they form their decisions. Going through lower-level intermediaries can disrupt communication and diminish your solution’s merit, making it more difficult to get a go-ahead from the Economic Buyer.
The meeting with the buyer requires immense research and preparation. It is essential to effectively communicate your solution’s value toward achieving their particular business goals within acceptable parameters.
B2B buyers consider multiple courses of action and different solutions to address their needs, weighing each according to specific criteria, such as:
- Technical considerations: Does it integrate with existing systems? Is it user-friendly?
- Business goals: Is this within budget?
Determining the factors that are affecting a prospect’s decisions helps you customize your messaging and even tailor your solutions to retain their qualified lead status.
This stage details how the decision is made and the processes involved. MEDDIC essentially refines the timeline component of BANT to make it more pragmatic.
With a clear understanding of the decision process (who makes it, their timeline and sign-off procedures), you can be more responsive and better manage a CRM. Sales cycles accelerate and qualified leads stay engaged with prompt follow-up as they progress through approval stages.
Customer pain is the most critical factor in determining qualified leads. A business or technical challenge that impacts their efficiency, costs or revenue-generation needs to be immediately present for them to entertain solutions.
Qualifying the pain point reveals the time-sensitivity in solving it, the implications of its presence and the consequences of not addressing it. The more detailed the description of the pain, the better you can formulate a pitch.
The champion is a person on the buyer side who promotes your solution for you. Find a well-respected and valued individual immediately affected by the problem.
Developing a relationship with these individuals and investing in their success through collaboration and guidance will increase their support for your product. This is a crucial concept in MEDDIC, as the insider selling your solution drastically improves your chances of closing a sale.
An update to BANT, ChAMP reprioritizes the major considerations to put needs at the forefront and optimize the timeline when you qualify a lead.
You can quickly identify a sales opportunity and develop trust through empathy with a conversation around needs. Asking questions about the pains they endure early in the process gives you the information needed to organize their place among your prospects and understand the breadth of the sales potential.
ChAMP’s authority stage relates more to the process of getting to the final decision-maker once your foot is in the door. Even low-level contacts can help you understand the organizational structure to identify and contact the discretionary buyer. Knowing the decision-makers and how the process plays out can prepare you for critical conversations with those entities.
This stage not only determines if and when prospects have the budget to allocate for your product but also how you discuss ROI. Qualifying questions can center on their expectations for their investment, allowing you to reinforce benefits.
The timeline the lead needs to solve an issue tells you how important it is. If the need is serious, it becomes urgent, which means a better sales opportunity for you.
Gaining an idea of when the lead plans to implement solutions and how important it is relative to other needs can help you plan your follow-up process. It can also enlighten you as to how your solution stacks up against the competition, giving you insight into how to effectively communicate your value.
Using the ChAMP Sales System
Unlike BANT, ChAMP is sequential with a primary focus on discovering needs and challenges. Manage qualified leads with integrity.
With a broader array of options and better marketing automation driving constant messaging, this approach allows you to elevate your value. It encourages a strong relationship as you qualify a lead, even if you are not the perfect fit.
The GPCTBA/C&I lead qualification process stresses adding value when qualifying leads. It takes qualifying a lead a step further by looking at deeper organizational goals beyond the present need.
This first step of sales qualification focuses on understanding and clarifying your prospect’s measurable business goals. Salespeople can add value in this stage of the lead qualification process by leveraging their experience and helping to define realistic goals for the company.
When you know your leads’ goals, you can discuss how they plan to accomplish them. The conversation should include their reasoning for the plan, how the plan has evolved and what contingencies are in place should the plan fail. Looking for good, detailed plans or incomplete concepts and bad excuses allows you to contribute ideas and indicate how your solution fits in.
The critical challenges portion of GPCTBA/C&I determines that a qualified prospect has an immediate or anticipated need that requires outside help to rectify. You need to reinforce the ineffectiveness of the lead’s current solutions and make the lead uncomfortable with the status quo.
If you qualify a lead who ends up not intending to implement a plan for some time, you can adjust your level of focus, saving wasted effort. Finding out if the lead has the necessary resources, alternative solutions or more important priorities can help you schedule a practical follow-up process.
The preceding steps help you establish your solution’s ROI as you qualify a lead. As this leads to budgetary considerations, you can work closely to discern how much the lead can and will spend on your solution. Confirming the ineffectiveness of past solutions while promoting yours as being within the budget can also make your product that much more attractive.
The Corporate Executive Board (CEB) noted that today’s business decisions involve over five people, adding to the complexity of making impactful pitches. Although getting to the economic buyer is the goal, lower-level champions can still offer influence. Use discussions with these individuals to assess the economic buyer’s condition:
- Are the goals a major priority to the buyer?
- What concerns will they have and how do they handle them?
- Will I be able to arrange a meeting with the buyer?
With assured buy-in from your contact, you can potentially set up a meeting with the decision-makers. Sales qualification starts fresh at this point. As it should not be assumed that completely accurate information has been disseminated to that point.
Negative Consequences & Positive Implications
This planning stage for post-sale situations examines the result of the client meeting, or not meeting, the established goal. Understanding how the prospect could be positively or adversely affected is important. You can build long-term value in creating sustainable success or avoiding negative consequences.
Finding the Right Lead Qualification Framework
These are the most effective qualification frameworks for today’s high-involvement sales cycles. But methodologies are being refined every day and other influential processes like ANUM or FAINT are being utilized with great success as well.
We view business growth as being unique to each client. Challenges and opportunities are managed with customized solutions, ensuring we achieve your specific sales goals. Finding the right sales qualification framework is just the start. Making it relevant and actionable for your organization maximizes results. Start the conversation today and learn how we can help you realize your sales and marketing objectives.