Lead qualification is a critical part of the sales funnel. Especially if your marketing team have managed to create a consistent flow of Leads and MQLs.
The point of Lead Qualification as part of the SaaS sales process is to ensure that the leads that reach your Sales Reps match the correct Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and have the potential to become a paying customer in a reasonable period of time.
Let’s be clear, leads that don’t match the ICP or are poorly qualified, are going to slow down sales cycles, reduce bookings, frustrate reps, lead to sales talent retention issues, and a downward sales spiral. Reps want to kill their quota and one of the best ways of doing this is to give them the right number of high quality SQLs. So just incase you didn’t get that, poorly qualified leads will:
- Clog your funnel and slow down sales cycles
- Reduce bookings and you’re more likely to miss your goals
- Morale will suffer and reps will leave
- You’ll invest valuable sales time training, ramping and losing reps
And the kind of OKRs you will struggle to hit are these Sales OKRs.
Using Sales Development Reps (SDRs)
The necessity and value associated with Sales Reps assigned a Bookings Quota actually having the quality and quantity of leads in their pipeline they require to meet that Quota means that having a person, or team member tasked with turning the MQLs into an SQLs makes total sense.
Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) is a potential customer that has already met the criteria for MQL and has shown a higher likelihood of making a purchase. SQLs are flagged by sales development representatives and forwarded to quota-driven Sales or Account Execs for closing-level engagements.
You’ve guessed it, this person in lots of SaaS companies is the Sales Development Representative (SDR). And is the person using processes like Lead Scoring to optimize the sales process.
Sales Development Representative (SDR) or Business Development Representative (BDR) is a sales specialist focusing on finding new prospects, establishing relationships, qualifying and refreshing the sales pipeline with new leads for Sales or Account Execs with a Bookings Quota.
OKRs for SDRs
A long time ago I heard this phrase: people do what you inspect, not expect. I’m not sure I agree but what I do know is that good goals do drive good behaviours.
This Goal or OKR gives specific SQL targets, and includes Key Results that drive good behaviours like Discovery Calls, and quality checks like the SQLs end up having a Demo, and they turn into MRR.
Objective: SQL fuelled growth
- Key Result: Increase SQL to 320
- Key Result: Increase MQL Discovery Calls % to 60%
- Key Result: Increase SQL : Demo Complete % to 80%
- Key Result: Generate New MRR of $100K
You can find more Sales OKRs here.
Lead Qualification Frameworks
HubSpot developed a Lead Qualification framework they call GPCTBA/C&I . Not an easy one to remember I know. It stands for: Goals, Plans, Challenges, Timeline, Budget, Authority, Negative Consequences and Positive Implications).
I’ve taken the liberty of adding an ‘I’ after Authority, the ‘I’ standing for Influence, thus making it the even easier to remember GPCTBAI/C&I framework – LOL.
I chose this one as it has more dimensions than simpler lead qualification frameworks like the more frequently used BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline) framework.
Let’s Explore GPCTBA/C&I in detail as I think that once you’ve got this one covered you can cherry-pick the bits that work best for your product and market, simplifying it to something closer resembling BAMP if required.
You’ll notice I’ve gone a little deeper than even Hubspot do, offering some additional questions I think are revealing and useful.
All companies have Goals, so do teams, and usually people as well. Knowing what their goals are for the year and quarter helps to set the scene for the next stage.
But getting them to open up and share them can be challenging as you have no relationship yet. So don’t be surprised if these are brushed off or replied to with generic or vague answers.
However, don’t be put off asking them as at the very least you’ve shown that you’re trying to align your solution with their needs.
A less threatening question that what are your goals, priorities etc. and potentially more revealing is:
- Which metrics are being prioritized by you and the company this year / quarter?
Having goals and metrics to influence is one thing. Having a plan to influence and meet them is another. Again, getting a prospect to open-up is hard and needs to be done with care, especially if it means they are revealing that they are not doing very well or even failing.
Here are some questions to try out:
- Which key initiatives are you planning that you think our solution could help with?
- Which areas of opportunity are challenging / frustrating you? You know, the ones you’re sure could be executed more effectively
- Are you open to hearing about new ideas and initiatives that may help you improve those metrics you’re targeting?
If your planning questions are designed to define the areas of focus based on understanding the challenges being faced, these questions are designed to gauge the confidence level of addressing these challenges, and urgency, whilst hinting at you being the solution to reducing the risk and increasing the confidence level.
- Do you have the people, time and budget available to implement your plans?
- Are you going to need to recruit new people to help with this initiative?
- If you had to put a % on it, how confident are you that you can achieve this quarters / years goals?
- Do you think you have the internal expertise and systems to address your challenges and execute your plans?
- Do you have the support of the other users of the software to make an investment like this?
- How urgent is it that you find extra gears?
Time is never your friend in sales. Quarters are never long-enough, and you need to be ruthless with your time, focusing on the deals that are most likely to close the soonest, whilst nurturing the ones on a longer-burn.
These questions are good ways to explore timelines with a prospect:
- When do you need to have a solution like our in place and delivering the results you need by?
- When do you need to choose a partner by in order to be on plan?
- Are other stakeholders on-board and invested in this timeline?
OK, this is big question and one that also gets avoided by prospects a lot. But thinking about it, do you want to know what their budget is or whether they can afford your solution and whether the value and ROI is recognised?
- How confident are you that we are able to offer a high ROI solution to your challenge?
- Is there currently ring-fenced budget to invest in a solution like ours?
- Are you proposing to switch spend from another product to invest in ours?
Authority & Influence
Buying SaaS solutions is often a multi-stakeholder, and can often mean mapping the buying process and highlighting where authority and influence lie.
Did you know that in 2015 research by Brent Adamson learnt that the number of customer stakeholders involved in a B2B purchasing decision was 6.8. This was up from 5.4 in 2014. Customer stakeholders I’ve seen a lot include the:
- Budget owner – often a VP or C-Level Exec
- Executive that may also be required for final sign-off e.g. CFO
- Partner stakeholders that might be requires to invest time e.g. IT
- Users – these will be asked to evaluate a solution and report back
- Trusted experts e.g. consultants.
Here are questions that start to build the picture you’ll need:
- Is the budget you’re investing your own?
- Will this require any further executive sign-off?
- Which internal team members are key to helping make the decision?
- Are any external advisors involved in the decision making process?
If they are not the budget holder
- Who’s budget would this investment be coming from?
- Are the goals and challenges we’ve discussed important to [name]?
- Is making a decision on this a priority for [name]?
- What’s the best way of involving them as early as possible in the process?
On a related and separate note, finding your Sales Champion is essential. A Sales Champion is a prospect with influence and authority who also deeply understands and likes your product and will advocate for its adoption and success.
In my experience these people may not exist initially but can be developed if you’re able to invest in what it takes to make them you Sales Champion. If the deals are significant enough, there’s nothing better than nice lunches and dinners as a starting point. Tactics that are all too often missing from Inside Sales.
Negative Consequences and Positive Implications
Your software is being bought to do a job. This job has a value which we’ve been working hard to establish. Establishing what the consequences of job not being done, and therefore the goals of the buyer not being met are, helps to create focus and dare I say it, fear – a great motivator.
Here are some potential questions to ask:
- How serious is not delivering on the potential of this solution?
- Is delivering on this a key part of your own career development?
- How can we best ensure you exceed everyones expectations with this?
It’s an important area and there are lots of useful and interesting posts out there to explore. Further reading and useful resources on Lead Qualification that offer some additional perspectives are:
- How to Qualify a Lead: The Battle-Tested B2B Framework
- The Modern Guide to Lead Qualification
- Lead qualification – an essential part of B2B lead generation
- Manage Your Inbound Marketing Leads For Sales Success