Lead Qualification and Management

Lead Scoring and Lead Grading

Scoring: How much interest the lead has shown in your offering. Score increases the more activities, for example by consuming content that signal buying intent.

Grading: How interesting the lead is for you based on their attributes. Often discrete criteria such as job role, industry, seniority and whether the company they belong to is already a customer or not.

Based on this, you get four quadrants described here:

  • A: Not interested, not interesting: Ignore

  • B: Interested, not interesting: Nurture (they are valuable for marketing, branding and PR purposes but not for sales purposes)

  • C: Not interested, interesting: Nurture (they are potential sales opportunities but not yet ready to buy)

  • D: Interested, interesting: Contact

Marketing can do some grading (for example automating away "Gmail" and setting as "High quality" when they have "CEO" or similar in their title). But grading should typically be done by a person after the lead has a high score (i.e. become an MQL).

When they are interested (for example high lead score), they become a MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead). This is when Sales get them, and should grade them. Sales then put them in Open (back to nurturing, they will get newsletters, be invited to webinars, etc.), Unqualified (i.e. leads are spam, competitor or something else and should not even be nurtured), or create an Opportunity.

In addition, sales can set a follow up action (typical: add to a nurturing sequence, send a smart email, or create a follow up task to check or do something later).

Which leads should be qualified?

In general, we recommend the following approach:

  • If you have many leads or no interested power users from sales: Set high threshold for qualifying leads. In general, salespeople who get too many "not good" leads tend to quickly start ignoring all leads, even the good ones. One of the criteria here (for B2B companies) is to exclude any leads from free ESPs (such as Gmail, Hotmail, etc.)

  • If you have few leads and a power user from sales: Put through all leads (have very relaxed criteria). For example any lead who submits any form, clicks any email (unless you have too many contacts in your DB), etc. This way, you maximize your opportunity to learn what works, and can set more and more strict criteria over time until you get it perfect.

When is lead qualification important?

In the beginning, you might not have many leads. Then, all leads should be marked as qualified. Also consider marking all lead actions (for old leads) to mark them as qualified (i.e. clicking an email or visiting some pages).

But if you have a large database, lead qualification becomes important even if you don't get many new leads. Because then, your nurturing becomes more and more important, and nurtured leads who show interest should be marked as qualified.

Standard process for managing new leads

Image source

  1. New lead comes in.

  2. Lead is nurtured and becomes qualified (unless disqualified due to Grading criteria).

  3. MQLs show up in the left side of the FunnelBud pipeline, where sales grades them and decides on an action:

    • Set their lead status: Check if it is a good lead and set it as Open (for continued nurturing), Unqualified (spam or not interesting to nurture), or create an Opportunity.

    • Do a follow up: Add to nurturing, send an email, or create a follow up task. Or just ignore.

  4. Sales manager uses various reports to follow up on the lead-to-sales process:

    • Pipeline Value: Monthly, in sales meetings, to go through the overall sales forecast for the period and what stages various deals are in.

    • Sales Performance: Monthly, in sales meetings, to see what's been closed per month by which rep/team and what's forecasted by month.

    • Opportunity Health: Monthly, in sales meetings, to check if there are problems with opportunities that need to be addressed (no follow up, stalled, etc.)

    • Conversion Analysis: Quarterly, to check how well new leads are converting and if the process can be improved, and also to compare different reps and teams to see if then can learn from each other and if the pipeline % can be adjusted to give more accurate forecasts.

Two methods of following up on new mql

Method A: Have a dedicated role responsible for following up on all new leads (recommended approach!)

Recommended if you have a lot of leads, which warrants a dedicated Inbound Sales role. This role is responsible for quickly and efficiently checking new leads, populating them with information so that they can be graded accurately, following up on all MQLs on the left side of FunnelBud (keep that left side empty at all times!), creating opportunities from MQLs that have been sales qualified, and finally assigning opportunities to sales people and helping them drive these opportunities.

Measurement metric: How many opportunities have been created from new leads that convert to sales?

The person dedicated to taking care of new leads becomes the "lead management expert", and the link between sales and marketing. This person should become a power user who understands the system's capabilities, and works closely with both marketing and sales to continuously improve how both marketing and sales work together. (For example, improving how new leads are handed over, how they are segmented, and which system automations can improve the management of new qualified leads so that sales get the best possible service.)

Method B: Sales people pick interesting new leads from the MQL list

Someone in marketing is responsible for populating all new leads with info so that they can be graded accurately. Sales, in turn, are responsible for ensuring that all new MQLs are followed up on if they are potential opportunities.

The system is set up so that MQLs stay on the left side for a week. If nobody picked a new MQL up within that timeframe, the MQL is assumed to be not interesting for sales, and is sent back for further nurturing.

The sales manager measures the sales people on whether they have picked up new leads and converted them to opportunities and business.

Marketing gets "unpicked" MQLs into a special list so that they can evaluate and improve their grading and scoring criteria.