If you are the founder of a B2B SaaS Startup you will be your first and only sales rep. As your business grows you need to hire a sales team. You also need a marketing team to feed your sales team with leads. And that´s where the trouble starts.

Your sales reps will complain about not getting enough leads from marketing. Or they will complain about the poor quality of leads. Your marketers will complain about the sales reps not being able to turn leads into customers. Or they will not care about what happens to the leads.

The first part of the solution is that marketing and sales will agree on what a qualified lead means. The second part is setting up a lead qualification process.

Part 1 – What is a qualified lead?

A common model to qualify prospects is BANT:

B = Budget. Has the prospect allocated sufficient budget for the purchase?

A = Authority. Has the contact person the authority to make a purchase decision?

N = Need. Has the prospect the business need for your product?

T = Time. Has the prospect defined a time line for the purchase?

The BANT-model has been bashed during the last years, since the buyer´s journey has changed. But I think it just needs a little renovation:

Pain is the new Need – The most important criteria when qualifying a prospect. If you want to sell you must identify the prospects business pain points. In a direct conversation with a prospect you can talk about his challenges and pain points. In marketing you have to find a work around. Identify a characteristic sign that all your customers have in common and that can be retrieved easily. E.g. if your product helps customers to optimize the HR recruitment process, the number of recruitments per year is a good indicator. If your product reduces costs in logistics, the number of parcels per year might be suitable.

Stakeholder is the new Authority – B2B purchase decision are not made by a single person. It´s always a group of persons. To turn a prospect into a valuable lead you have to identify a stakeholder that plays a vital role in that group. Is the person a driver, influencer or blocker? Marketing must build profiles of buyer personas and classify leads to this personas.

Value is the new Budget – Often a budget has not been allocated when the buyer’s journey starts. Asking a prospect directly whether budget is available is a dead end. Instead, make sure that the prospect will be able to quantify the value of your product. You must get to the point where the prospect can estimate his potential cost savings or revenue gain. If that makes a great ROI for the customer a budget will be allocated.

Compelling Event is the new Time – It´s like the budget issue. The timeframe for the purchase decision won´t be set when you start the conversation with the prospect. Identify a compelling event that might be the right starting point for the prospect to implement and use your product. E.g. if your product helps customers in accounting the compelling event would be the start of a new fiscal year.

Part 2 – Lead qualification process

In an ideal world your marketing team is capable to run the whole qualification process and to deliver sales ready prospects on a silver plate. Marketing automation tools promise to do that job for you. Algorithms for lead scoring and automated lead nurturing increase precision and results from your marketing programs. They can support the marketing team to identify  leads that are more likely to become a qualified prospect. But the majority of the qualification process in B2B requires human interaction. I advise the following process:

  1. Marketing generates leads containing information on demographics, firmographics and the digital interaction with your company. This information will give you a hint on Budget and Authority and separates valuable leads from the rest.
  2. Hire a Sales Development Rep (SDR). This role is half telemarketing and half inside sales. The SDR calls up all valuable leads to verify that information and to add basic information on Budget and Time.
  3. When a lead meets the agreed BANT-criteria the SDR hands over the prospect to the sales team.

Don´t forget target setting

Don´t be surprised getting bad results if you reward the wrong behavior. To improve the alignment between marketing and sales and the outcome of the lead qualification process you need to adjust the targets for marketing. Stop incentivizing marketing (only) by the number of leads generated or other vanity metrics. Instead measure marketing performance based on the number of sales accepted leads. Set targets for the sales team on how fast they have to act on qualified leads.

After following these steps to improve the lead qualification process you will still have to work hard on getting valuable leads into the funnel and on winning customers. But marketing will reduce waste (generating crappy leads) and sales will work more efficient (stop following up on crappy leads).

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