Sales Enablement

From Leads to Appointments: Qualification Guide

Did you know that 68% of B2B organizations struggle with lead generation and conversion? In today’s fast-paced business landscape, making the most of our sales team’s efforts is crucial. Having navigated the intricacies of the sales world for years, I understand the significance of maximizing every interaction. That’s where effective appointment qualification takes center stage. In this article, I’m excited to delve into the process, untangle the distinction between qualifying leads and appointments, and provide actionable insights from my experience.

What Does It Mean For A Sales Appointment To Be “Qualified”?

Think of it like this: a qualified appointment is like finding a perfect match on a dating app – someone who’s not just swiping right on anything but genuinely interested in getting to know you better. In the sales world, that means a potential customer who ticks all the right boxes and is more likely to turn into a successful deal.

Now, let’s break down those boxes:

  1. Relevance: This is where the magic starts. The prospect should need what you’re offering. There’s no point chatting about the latest tech gadget with someone who’s only into vintage vinyl records, right?
  2. Decision-Making Power: Imagine talking to someone who not only wants to go on a date but can also decide where you both go. That’s the person you want in your sales appointment – someone who can make or influence buying decisions.
  3. Ideal Customer: Just like you have your own type, your business has its ideal customer type. It’s like finding someone who loves your favorite band, too. They should fit your target market, industry, and other important traits.
  4. Budget Match: Ever been on a date where one person orders a salad and the other orders a steak? That could be a better match. Similarly, your prospect should have the budget to invest in your offering.
  5. Need for Solution: No point discussing a beach vacation with someone who hates the sun, right? Your prospect needs to have a problem that your product or service can solve.

Let’s dive into some real examples.

Example of a Great Prospect:

  • Fills out our contact form or drops us a message on LinkedIn (showing interest).
  • Matches our target customer description – they’re in the right industry, company size, etc.
  • Has some serious power – like a VP of sales.
  • Has the funds to back up their interest.
  • Clearly needs our help with a specific issue.

Example of a Not-So-Great Prospect:

  • Is already in a long-term contract with another company (no room for new relationships).
  • Doesn’t seem too excited to chat (not swiping right).
  • Only partly fits our ideal customer profile (it’s like they like the same music, but not the same food).
  • Doesn’t have the authority to make decisions.
  • Doesn’t really need what we’re offering.

The Distinction Between Qualifying Leads and Qualifying Sales Appointments

Lead qualification is often performed through automated methods, sifting through form data to identify individuals with an initial interest in your product or service. These potential customers might have requested more details through a contact form or joined your email list. At this stage, they’re in the research phase and not yet ready for purchase.

Picture this: Let’s say Jane visits your website and fills out a contact form to inquire about your software solution. She provides her business information and seeks pricing and deliverables details. In this scenario, Jane is a qualified lead due to her proactive interaction and engagement with your website and various blog posts. Your CRM settings and automation can capture these qualified leads.

Moving on, appointment qualification comes into play. This step involves gathering additional business insights from Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) like Jane through discovery calls with a Sales Development Representative (SDR) or questionnaires. Therefore, a qualified appointment refers to a scheduled meeting or discussion. This moment offers you the chance to have a focused conversation with the lead, comprehending their needs to determine whether to progress them through the sales pipeline or not.

Sales Appointments Qualification Process

Navigating the process of qualifying sales appointments is a craft we’ve honed with my team at Belkins. We’ve fine-tuned an approach that integrates seamlessly with our array of B2B appointment-setting techniques and engineered a system of deal-scoring parameters that pinpoint high-potential prospects. 

Step 1: Validating Fit with the ICP 

The initial step involves a comprehensive assessment to ensure alignment between the prospect, their company, and our ideal customer profile (ICP). When readily available information is lacking (such as on websites or LinkedIn profiles), we proactively pose targeted questions about company size, sales and marketing teams, and target audiences. This ensures that we concentrate our efforts on prospects that closely mirror our desired market.

Step 2: Scrutinizing Digital Footprint 

We place great emphasis on a prospect’s digital presence. We prefer scheduling sales appointments with companies that boast informative websites and active LinkedIn pages. We examine indicators such as recent posts, complete company and product descriptions, a listed location, and a functioning website link.

An extensive online presence indicates a genuine investment in their brand, making them more likely to resonate with our services.

Step Confirming Interest and Alignment 

Prior to proceeding with a sales appointment, we embark on a crucial step: confirming the potential client’s interest and understanding of our services and approach. This validation takes place through email exchanges or discovery calls facilitated by Business Development Representatives (BDRs) and Sales Development Representatives (SDRs).

Here are some sample questions posed by our sales team:

“Are you familiar with our unique approach?”
“What are your impressions of our company?”
“Have you explored our success stories and client testimonials?”

Utilizing the answers to these questions ensures our discussions during the appointment are productive and focused.

Qualification Criteria

The qualification process extends beyond conventional criteria, encompassing additional factors tailored to the B2B appointment-setting services and SaaS products. 

  • Location: Consider both headquarters and lead locations, focusing primarily on markets where our expertise is strongest.
  • Industry: Gaining insight into a potential client’s industry is pivotal. Diverse industries necessitate distinct email campaign strategies, volumes, and technological prerequisites. 
  • Lead Department: Analysis of departments such as sales, marketing, and operations, including the size of the sales department, can help you gauge the alignment between sales and marketing, which is vital for successful collaboration.
  • Email Channel Tools: Delving into prospects’ email service providers (ESPs) and platforms helps tailor the right approach, ensuring compatibility with their existing tools and systems. 
  • Buyer Persona: Understanding the role of the individual engaging in the sales call aids in anticipating the length and complexity of the sales process. 
  • Intent: Probe into the specific needs prospects are seeking to address. In my team’s case, it’s lead research, comprehensive domain infrastructure audits, or complete-cycle appointment setting. 
  • Social Proof: Be attentive to whether prospects express interest in reviewing social proof, such as testimonials or case studies. This can guide your understanding of their evaluation process and enable you to provide relevant materials during the sales appointment.

How long does it take to qualify leads?

A salesperson dedicates just 28% of their week to actual selling activities, with the remainder allocated to tasks such as management, research, planning, and other non-sales activities.

Salesforce

The time your sales team should spend on prospecting depends on the internal setup of your sales department.

My team recognizes the importance of seamless engagement with prospects and rigorous qualifications. By dedicating around 20-30% of a salesperson’s time to the qualification process, we strike a balance that enables targeted discussions while avoiding overburdening either the salesperson or the potential client.

Mike Faherty, president & CEO at ProSales Connection, recommends allocating 30% to 40% of the week to qualification. However, if your company has internal SDRs, they ought to allocate a minimum of 90% of their time to lead generation, encompassing both lead and appointment qualification. Conversely, if lead generation is fully outsourced, the sales team can center their efforts exclusively on sales, free from the burden of qualification tasks.

Remember, qualifying leads isn’t just about ticking checkboxes but crafting meaningful conversations that lay the foundation for lasting partnerships. So, whether you’re starting small or scaling up, the journey to qualified appointments is one that directly impacts your bottom line. 

Michael Maximoff

I’m the co-founder of Belkins, the #1 ranked B2B lead generation agency, and Folderly, an email solution platform supported by Google Startups Fund. With over ten years of experience in B2B Sales and Marketing, I am incredibly passionate about sales tech, providing best-class service, and building products that transform the industry.

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