How to Qualify Sales Leads

By Max Altschuler

At the end of the day, all selling starts with leads, which is why outbound selling – along with a good lead generation and prospecting process – is so important. Keep in mind the following:

  • More leads at the top of the pipeline will result in better numbers at the bottom.
  • Targeted leads at the top of the pipeline will provide better, faster results. These targeted leads are also known as your “low-hanging fruit.”

Aaron Ross, who created the outbound sales model at Salesforce, talks about the various targeted lead types in the highly recommended and best-selling book, Predictable Revenue, which he coauthored with Mary Lou Tyler. In this book, he breaks down these leads into three categories: “Seeds,” “Nets,” and “Spears.”

To quote Aaron:

  • “Seeds are word-of-mouth leads, usually from prior relationships or happy customers. These are how companies get started and where most of your first customers come from.
    • “Pros: Highly profitable, word-of-mouth leads are the fastest to close and have the highest win rates. There’s nothing better!
    • “Cons: It’s almost impossible to proactively grow them. You just have to do your best and be patient.
  • “Nets are your marketing leads, such as Internet marketing, events, Webinars, white papers, advertising, and the like. You’re casting a wide net, so this is about quantity over quality.
    • “Pros: Easy to generate. Some kinds of marketing programs are scalable, you can generate leads from everlasting content, and they are highly measurable. There are ways to generate leads at almost no cost.
    • “Cons: Not sure what will work, most leads aren’t a fit, low conversion rates, mostly individuals/small businesses, small order sizes, a lot of cost and effort to build, optimize, and maintain.
  • “Spears are when you have salespeople or business development people reaching out to specific targets, lists, or kinds of companies. It’s a specific, targeted approach, driven by a human, with a goal of quality over quantity (the reverse of marketing Nets)…To be effective and scalable, you need a team of dedicated reps who only prospect – they don’t close, manage accounts, or respond to inbound leads.
    • “Pros: Very predictable results, enables a very targeted approach to ideal prospects at executive levels, fast is-it-working-or-not feedback cycle, creates a pool of sales talent.
    • “Cons: Not profitable for small deals or customers, hard for old-school companies to get the culture right (must avoid boiler room mentality), may be hard to get executive commitment to specialize and hire dedicated prospectors.”

Good targeted leads provide you with a good start, but achieving success is all about how you guide those targeted leads through your pipeline. Look to design a streamlined process, which will act as lubrication for your pipeline. This lubrication consists of automation and acceleration tools, outsourced help, and all sorts of tactical and strategic sales hacks to speed things up.

A good sales process is a science, and science is the new art.

Excerpted with permission of the publisher Wiley from Hacking Sales: The Ultimate Playbook for Building a High Velocity Sales Machine by Max Altschuler. Copyright (c) 2016 by Sales Hacker Inc. All rights reserved. This book is available at all booksellers.