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Channel Lead Qualification for 2021: Methods, Frameworks & Tools

Channel Lead Qualification for 2021: Methods, Frameworks & Tools

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Qualifying complex lead workflows saves time, ensures lead acceptance, and increases close rates. Without visibility to your channel management workflows, you're flying blind.
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Asking the right questions can help organizations sift through endless opportunities to find the right candidates for their products and services. This is where lead qualification comes into play. 

Companies lacking in well-thought-out lead qualification frameworks will waste plenty of valuable resources chasing shadows and ultimately impacting their bottom line. 

This article shares the fundamentals of lead qualification, the different frameworks, and how to leverage the lead management tools for increased conversation rates.

What is Lead Qualification?

Lead qualification refers to the process of bucketing prospects into the appropriate level in your funnel to ultimately best ensure that will likely become customers. It is the sales process of filtering many opportunities to find those that best fit your company’s ideal customer profile (ICP) and buying cycle. 

In a nutshell, lead qualification is gathering relevant data that gives clear insights into whether to focus on building a relationship with a prospect around your products and services or discard the lead. 

Done correctly, lead qualification can help marketing teams prioritize their activities regarding customers who show higher signs of becoming long-term clients.

Why is Qualifying a Lead Important to Your Channel?

Lead qualification is indispensable if you want to save time, effort, and of course, a good relationship with your sales partners. This is why it is important to initiate the lead qualification process early during your marketing.

For best results, lead qualification (and scoring) should occur before providing the lead to your partner and having them make contact with prospects. Ideally using an automated software solution.

Specifically, lead qualification is important because:

  • It helps you to focus your partner’s energy on activities that have a direct positive impact on your and their bottom line.
  • It gives you more insights into your ideal customer’s needs and challenges so that you can create better products and services.
  • Lead qualification helps you streamline and concentrate on a smaller and more specific market segments, to drive the most qualified lead to your channel enabling you to deliver a more personalized solution instead of wasting valuable resources on a large non-specific segment of prospects who may not convert.
  • Most importantly, it also helps you quickly bucket the prospect into the appropriate level of your funnel and determine when it should ideally go to your partner to perform their sales pursuit activities.

Qualifying a lead that should be nurtured doesn’t meet your ICP might seem like a harsh decision, but it is one of the best things you can do for your marketing and your channel team. It saves you a lot of energy that would have been wasted on trying to convert prospects that may not be ready to buy, who require nurturing rather than a sales pursuit. 

How Do You Qualify an Incoming Lead?

Qualifying a lead starts with asking the right questions to help you figure out if a prospect is a good fit for your product or service. The questions should identify if the prospect possesses the qualities that your company wants. 

To qualify a lead, you need to use a combination of enriching the prospect information with publicly available data and ask open-ended qualifying questions, such as:

  • What additional information is available on the prospect’s company?
  • Can we determine their solution predisposition?
  • What specific business problems keep you up at night?
  • What solutions do you currently use for this problem, and why are you considering an alternative?
  • What type of budget do you have for this project?
  • What functionality is most important to you for solving this specific business problem?
  • Who is the primary decision-maker for buying this product?

Keep in mind that open-ended questions elicit more revealing and honest responses while publicly available data is important to help categorize the opportunity. Close-ended questions tend to put prospects in a tight corner, and their answers won’t be a true reflection of the reality on the ground.

What are the Requirements for a Lead to be Considered a Qualified Prospect?

A prospect needs to fulfill the following requirements to be considered a qualified lead:

1.     A need for your product or service: A prospect is potentially highly qualified if they need what you have to offer. Your marketing team will be barking up the wrong tree if they spend time focusing on leads with little to no interest in your products and services.

2.     A sense of urgency: A prospect that needs your product or service now or shortly is a more qualified lead than one who has no immediate need for what you have to offer, even if they trust your brand or company. For example, if you sell products with a five-year lifespan, someone who bought the product four years ago is a more qualified lead than a prospect that only purchased the product a year ago. 

3.     Sufficient budget: Someone or a company with enough money to buy your product or services is a qualified prospect. You will be wasting valuable time chasing after a prospect that cannot afford what you sell or a company that has maxed out its yearly budget. 

4.     Authority to buy: Qualified leads have the authority to make a commitment or take action. Regardless of a prospect’s needs, sense of urgency, and funds, they might not qualify if they do not have the authority to make buying decisions. Also, prospects with a simpler buying decision-making process have a higher chance to convert. 

Lead Qualification Frameworks

A lead qualification framework is a type of rule that sales reps use to determine if a prospect has a higher chance of becoming a successful customer. These frameworks include the following:

BANT

BANT is an acronym for Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeline. It is a lead qualification framework developed by IBM in the 60s and is still relevant today. BANT qualification is a series of questions designed to gather information on the four key aspects that the framework covers. These include:

  1. Budget: Find out if the prospect can afford your product or service. Here are some likely questions to uncover information regarding budget: 
  • What does your budget look like for this project?
  • Do you have enough funding for this project?

2.    Authority: Determine who has the final say on buying decisions. Salespersons can ask:

  • Is there someone else involved in making the purchase decisions besides you?
  • Do you expect someone else to object to this purchase? If yes, what’s the best way around it?

3.     Need: Find out if your solution meets the prospect’s needs using questions such as:

  • What specific business challenges do you have, and how long have you been seeing them?
  • Have you addressed this problem before? Do you think this “X” solution is right for your business?

4.     Timeline: Figure out the prospect’s timeline for possible purchase. You can ask:

  • Is this a priority purchase right now?
  • How soon do you need to tackle this problem?

GPCTBA/C&I

Goals, Plans, Challenges, Timeline, Budget, Authority/Negative Consequences, and Positive Implications (also known as GPCTBA/C&I for short) is a lead qualification framework developed by HubSpot to help sales reps provide useful guidance and value to informed buyers.

Here is what this framework means and the possible questions to use in qualifying leads:

1.     Goals: Determine your prospects goals using questions such as:

  • What are your specific company goals? 
  • What’s your company’s top priority for this year?

2.     Plans: Determine the steps they are taking to achieve their goals by asking:

  • What specific plans do you have in place to achieve the goals? 
  • What do you think will make implementation difficult?

3.     Challenges: Help the prospect to get clear on their challenges so they can understand that they need your solution. You can ask:

  • Do you think you can solve this problem by relying only on internal expertise?
  • Will you be willing to seek external help if your plans are not working?

4.     Timeline: Find out if the prospect is willing to commit now or in the future by asking:

  • When do you think you can start implementing this plan?
  • Do you have the right resources to put this plan to work immediately or any time soon?

5.     Budget: Dig deeper to get an insight into your prospect’s budget by asking:

  • Our solution has the potential to bring you “X” dollars annually, but do you have enough funds allocated for it?

6.     Authority: Being the decision-maker is not the goal of determining the authority of your prospect in the framework. Instead, the goal is to figure out what goes into the decision-making process. You can ask:

  • Is this project important to the company’s authoritative decision-makers?
  • What objections do you anticipate?

7.     Negative Consequences and Positive Implications: Find out how achieving the goal or not will affect the prospect using questions such as:

  • What will be your next move when you solve this problem?
  • How does hitting this goal or not affect you personally?

CHAMP

Challenge, Authority, Money, Prioritization or CHAMP is a qualification framework designed by InsightSquared. It puts Challenge first, allowing sales reps to focus on the needs and problems of the prospect. 

The framework enables salespersons to use Authority as a way to go up the ladder until they reach the decision-maker instead of disqualifying the prospect because they don’t make the final decision.

MEDDIC

MEDDIC stands for Metrics, Economic Buyer, Decision Criteria, Decision Process, Identify Pain, Champion. The framework increases the ability of salespersons to forecast with greater accuracy by understanding all the aspects of a company’s buying process. 

This qualification framework is best for selling products with a considerably higher average sales price. 

ANUM

ANUM stands for Authority, Need, Urgency, and Money. The qualification process is similar to BRANT, except that it prioritizes authority. That means the salesperson must first determine if the prospect can take action or is the decision-maker. 

Need is also giving higher priority while Urgency in ANUM functions in the same way as Timing in BRANT. Lastly, Money takes the place of Budget. 

Picking the Right Lead Qualification Framework for Your Business

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to choosing a qualification framework. BANT is a simple, time-tested method that works. However, a major drawback of the framework is the failure to include more stakeholders in the decision-making process. This is also a disadvantage of the ANUM framework.

Also, the Timeline in BANT might cause sales reps to act prematurely and disqualify prospects who aren’t ready to commit immediately or shortly.

GPCTBA/C&I is an excellent framework but might not be suitable for every team, especially smaller teams, because of the complex qualification process involved. 

MEDDIC is best for when you want to bring about a behavioral transformation. Getting prospects to buy products with a significantly higher price tag requires this type of qualification tool. 

CHAMP is great if you are trying to focus more on the prospect’s pains and challenges. However, it can potentially cause a lag in your sales cycle

Determining Lead Qualification Criteria

The lead scoring system will help you properly determine lead qualification. Here are the three major criteria for determining lead qualification:

Behavioral

Behavior refers to actions that clearly show interest or disinterest in your product or service. For example, the actions of your site visitors can tell your marketing team a lot about their level of interest and whether to reach out to them immediately or not.

Demographic

This has to do with your ICP criteria. Prospects who meet these criteria have a higher lead score, even if they exhibit the same behavior as others who don’t meet your ICP criteria.

Sales Engagement

From the behavior and demographics, marketing teams will ultimately reach out to qualified prospects through meetings, conversations, emails, etc. With each successful contact, the lead score should increase to reflect the interest of the prospect.

Lead Assign Can Help You 

You are wasting your and your partner’s valuable resources if you’re not enriching the lead with qualifying data and scoring the leads for qualification.  For even better results, an automated system, such as the AI and competitive routing offered by Lead Assign, can significantly increase your company’s sales velocity and ensure your partners are receiving prospects ready for pursuit. 

Lead Assign’s AI lead management platform comes complete with a built-in dashboard that gives you an overview of your partners and their sales reps’ activities. The tool enables you to easily determine which partners and sales reps are making progress and whose performance is dwindling. You can see missed leads, declined and accepted leads, as well as the conversion tracking feedback status all at a glance. 

With no app download or login required, the tool is easy to use. Your partners do not need to go through a steep learning curve to use Lead Assign’s lead management tool. The platform is designed using common digital features that nearly everyone already uses. These include SMS, email, and a browser.

Request a demo of Lead Assign today to optimize your lead-to-close conversion. With over 300 Fortune 500 companies choosing Lead Assign as their go-to partner lead management tool, you know your business is definitely in safe hands.

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