Do you want to spend more time booking meetings and closing deals? Of course, you do! The ability to quickly qualify sales leads enables us to do just that. To efficiently qualify a sales lead, a salesperson must conduct research, utilize sales tools, and have a checklist of targeted questions prepared for the discovery call.

It’s no secret that qualifying leads can be challenging. In fact, 22% of salespeople say it’s the most challenging part of the sales process. That’s why we’re sharing the following tips. Read on and learn to quickly recognize which leads are worth pursuing, and which will likely result in a dead end.

Why is it Important to Qualify a Lead?

Before we dive into the “how,” let’s first understand the “why.” The reason for qualifying a lead is important is simple. The qualification process maximizes your time to achieve the highest return. Time is money, and unqualified leads distract from other opportunities.

What’s a useful method for scoring a quality lead? We’re glad you asked! First developed by IBM, BANT stands for budget, authority, need, and timing. This method helps identify quality leads that meet these four key criteria. To maximize your time, you should determine whether the solution aligns with the budget, if your contact has the authority to make decisions if there’s an urgent need, and what the timeline is for implementing a solution.

Before the Call

Develop a Hypothesis of Need

We’ve covered developing a hypothesis of need. Its purpose is to create a theory about what pain points the customer is experiencing before the initial call. Understanding whether the solution brings value to the customer helps determine whether a lead is qualified. If you can’t hypothesize why your solution solves a problem, then it’s time to move on to opportunities where your offering is a better fit. It’s better to find out you have a square peg for a round hole upfront rather than waste a month failing to make it fit.

During the Call

Have a List of Targeted Questions

Targeted questions control the conversation and probe into the BANT criteria. Think of it like dating. Having a list of deal breakers helps determine if the conversation should continue. She has 10 cats? Bullet = dodged.

Don’t be shy with the number of questions you ask. There’s a strong correlation between the number of questions asked and success rate. Research shows that asking between 11-14 questions is ideal.

Examples of targeted questions include:

What’s the challenge you’d like to solve?

The number one priority is understanding the customer. You want to get an overview of what they do and the challenges they face. This helps you discover if they match the market you’re targeting. Remember to practice active listening. It allows you to ask the right questions and develops a mutual understanding.

What’s prompting you to look for a solution now?

Where is the customer now, and where would they like to be? Understanding the customer’s ultimate goal helps build a roadmap for finding a solution. It also helps develop a sense of urgency. To gauge urgency, ask the prospect to rate their level of need on a scale of 1-10. Anything above 7 indicates a high sense of urgency.

What have you previously done to fix the issue? What were the results?

Understanding the past helps to address the future. If there was an attempted solution that previously failed, find out why. This will help identify potential roadblocks and determine the best course of action. It also gives you an opportunity to point out how your solution differs.

Who will be using this solution?

Solutions are most effective when used by the audience it was designed for. A water gun wouldn’t be useful to a fireman. Similarly, if a lead doesn’t align with your target audience, then it’s time to move on.

How would the solution fit into your daily workflow?

Understanding what the customer views as an ideal end state helps you know what features to focus on during the sales pitch. Imagine you’re a car salesman. If the customer says they need four-wheel drive, then highlighting the speaker system isn’t necessary. It’s easier to earn a sale when you focus on what’s important to the customer.

What’s the budget for solving this problem?

55% of survey respondents listed budget as the most common reason for a deal to fall apart. Knowing the budget helps determine if the price of your offering is a nonstarter. If they’ve allocated $1,000 to fix a problem, but your solution costs $10,000, then the sale won’t go through.

Who signs off on a new project?

It’s better to have decision-makers included early in the process. Doing so reduces the number of conversations needed before getting to the close, and reduces the risk of miscommunication.

Based on what you’ve seen, do you think this solution could work?

Evaluating how the conversation is evolving is essential. Practicing active listening makes it easier to fully grasp a need and provide a roadmap for solving a challenge. If a prospect is qualified, communicating how your solution addresses a specific need will be straightforward. You’ll also likely benefit from a reduced time to close.

Close the Deal or Move On

The purpose of the discovery call is to learn more about a lead and determine if it is qualified. After you’ve asked targeted questions, it should be clear whether the lead is worth pursuing. If a lead is qualified, explain the next steps and restate the key takeaways at the end of the conversation. Doing so reiterates the potential impact of your solution to the buyer. Recent TOPO research supports this. Their study found that 87% of top performers utilize this practice in their sales process.

Approaching the qualification process objectively is critical. No matter how excited you might be about a prospect, if the facts don’t add up, then it’s time to move on. Barking up the wrong tree can mean missing valuable opportunities that could have resulted in a close. After all, the goal is to never waste resources chasing leads that won’t generate sales. Learning to qualify leads quickly takes practice, but mastering this part of the sales process pays off.


Want to learn the habits and behaviors that separate top sales performers from their peers? Download the latest research here!Best Practices of Top Performing Sales Reps