Lead Qualification Process – Best Practices

If you are planning to build a Teleprospecting organization, to qualify leads, there are a few items that need to be in place, before you get started.  First, make sure that you have a flexible and easy to customize CRM that will support the daily activities of your Telemarketing team.  The CRM should allow the easy build of management reports and dashboards, so that you can manage your team by the key metrics that ensure success.

Next, work with Marketing and Sales to design an effective lead qualification process.  At a minimum, an effective Lead Qualification Process should include the following:

  • Qualification questions or the key questions that are used to qualify prospects
  • The disposition of each lead, as the qualification process progresses
  • Lead touch rules that monitor the number of times a lead is touched before it
    is abandoned or sent back to a “nurture” program
  • Next step details that outline what needs to happen to fully qualify the lead
    to make it “sales” ready
  • A quality control process that enables sales management to review the
    quality of each lead to ensure that they are quality leads

Qualification Questions

The lead qualification process starts with the questions that the Teleprospectors will need to ask to uncover need and interest in your solution.  The right questions will uncover:

  • Need: Does the prospect have a need for your
    product or solution?
  • Authority: Is this particular prospect the person
    who can make a purchase decision?
  • Decision Maker: What is the name and title of the person
    who can make the purchase decision?
  • Budget: Does this prospect have money to make a
    purchase or CAN they secure the funds to make a purchase?
  • Timeframe: When is the prospect planning to solve
    their problem and purchase a solution or product like yours?
  • Decision Process: How will the decision be made?  Will there be an evaluation committee or
    will some other process be used to make a decision?
  • Understanding of Solution: Does the prospect understand the problem/issue your solution or product
  • Next Step: If the prospect is interested in your solution, what is the next step to move the lead from an MQL to an SQL?

Determine the minimum number of completed questions you require to meet the expectations of your Sales team.  It is highly unlikely that your team will get all of the key qualification questions answered every time.  Decide on the minimum amount of information you
need to give a lead a “B” rating.  If a lead has fewer than the minimum, the lead is still a work in progress and should stay in the Teleprospectors pipeline until the minimum standards have been met.

Lead Disposition

The Lead Disposition is the label you assign to leads as they go through the qualification process. The dispositions help Sales
Management to quickly identify the progress of each lead, if a Teleprospector is having trouble qualifying leads and to zero in on leads that are ready to go to Sales.  Here are a few of our favorite Lead Dispositions:

  • Untouched:  This disposition tells the Teleprospector that this is an MQL that has never been contacted.  This disposition helps Managers to see if the team has enough new MQL’s to contact.  It can also help a Manager determine if MQL’s
    are being called in a timely manner.
  • Pursuing:  When an MQL is in the pursuing disposition, it means that the MQL has been called, however, no contact
    has been made with this prospect.
  • Contacted: Once a call has occurred and contact has
    been made with the prospect, MQL’s can be moved to the disposition “contacted”.
  • Key Conversation: Not all connects are created equal.  If important information or Key
    information was gathered during a connected call, this should be listed in the disposition.  Managers should report on this important disposition, during their meeting with Sales.  Key conversations are the conversations that move the sales process forward.  If Teleprospectors aren’t having a number of Key conversations, each week, there may be something wrong.  This disposition enables the Manager to identify problems with the MQL’s, target list or Teleprospecting skills.
  • Potential SQL: A potential SQL is a lead that has a definite interest and need.  The Teleprospector
    may need to gather more information to turn this lead into an SQL; however, this is a hot target.  Over
    time, Potential SQL’s build, creating the Teleprospecting pipeline.  Managers keep track of these leads
    because these leads are likely to become SQL's fairly soon.
  • SQL: SQL’s are ready for the Sales organization.  They have the information required to make a highly qualified lead.
    They are the leads that will go into the Sales Funnel.
  • Bad Data: You can try your best to get leads with the most accurate information.  Sometimes, prospects leave their positions and move to another company.  Sometimes prospects give false information on registration pages.  Sometimes the data is incorrect and you may not know why.  It doesn’t matter.  If the data is bad, the Teleprospector won’t be able to reach the prospect.  Take the lead out of the leads area of the CRM and have someone work on the lead to get better data.
  • Unable to Reach: If the Teleprospector has reached the limit on the touch rules and has had no response from the prospect then
    the lead disposition becomes “unable to reach”.  Your CRM administrator should take these leads out of the leads area and put the lead into a nurture program.

These dispositions will help your Teleprospectors to effectively manage their call activity and enable the Manager to track lead
progress and identify issues quickly.  These dispositions will enable Marketing to get a pulse on the success of their campaigns and the quality of the MQL’s that they are creating for the Teleprospecting team.

Touch Rules

Part of the lead qualification process is determining the number of times a lead will be touched before it is abandoned or put into a
lead-nurture program.  You don’t want your prospects to feel as if they are being “stalked” by your Teleprospecting
team.  Keep the rules simple, which will enable compliance.  Here are my touch rules:

  • First call:  Touch #1. Leave a voicemail and send an email.  Wait 2-3 days before you make another call attempt.
  • Second Call: Touch #2.  Move on.  Wait 2-3 days before your next call.
  • Third Call:  Touch #3.  Send an email.  Wait a week before you make another call.
  • Fourth Call:  Touch #4.  Leave a voicemail. Wait a week before you make another call.
  • Fifth Call:  Touch #5.    Move on.
  • Email: Touch #6. Send an email stating that if the prospect has a need that they should call the Teleprospector
    back, at their convenience.
  • After Touch #6:  Change the disposition to “Unable to Reach” and put prospect into a nurture program.

Your business may require different touch rules.  What we have found, working with over 100 Software companies, is that if a prospect doesn’t return calls or reply by email after 6 touches, they usually aren’t interested.  They may have interest, in the future and may respond at some point in the nurture process.

Next Step Details

In our experience, a Teleprospector will touch a prospect 3 to 4 times before they get all of the information they will need to turn an MQL
into a viable SQL.  After each good connection with a prospect, information is acquired and the Next Step details should be updated.  The Next Step field details the requirements to move the sales process forward.  For example, a next step might be to provide the prospect a private web demo.  The Next Step is not just a callback.  It is an action that moves the sales process forward.


Once a lead is qualified, fully, the disposition becomes “SQL”.  Before the SQL is passed to Sales, the Manager should review and approve the SQL, to ensure that the SQL meets the minimum qualification criteria.  CRM’s, such as Salesforce.com, provide workflows that can trigger an action, such as when a Potential SQL moves to an SQL.  We have set up workflows for our clients that trigger an email to the Manager, who takes the action of reviewing the lead before it is converted to an opportunity for Sales.    Once Sales has reviewed and contacted the lead, Sales should “Approve” or “Reject” the lead, before it is converted to an opportunity.  The QA process enables the Manager to keep close tabs on quality and provides the team instant feedback, as Sales reviews and processes leads.  If more than, say 10% of the SQL’s are rejected by Sales, there may be a problem.  This process ensures quality leads and instant feedback for the Teleprospecting team.

Define the Qualification Process Before You Hire

You will save a lot of time and frustration if you develop the Teleprospecting infrastructure, before you hire your first Teleprospectors.  Make sure that you:

  • Select a CRM that effectively supports a Telemarketing
  • Design a leads process that has buy-in from both
    Sales and Marketing
  • Map your leads process into your CRM to track
    the status of each lead
  • Build a QA and Lead Hand-Off process into the
    CRM to ensure lead quality

Take the time to define the lead qualification process to ensure success from the start.  It will be well worth your time.


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