This is a guest post by Veronika Traublinger. Veronika has several years of experience in sales and marketing at startups, at is currently responsible for building up the Marketing and Customer Success team at Ciara. Ciara is a digital assistant helping sales professionals to have better conversations and a more efficient process.

Qualifying a lead can be challenging, I know. But it’s also one of the most critical parts of the sales process. It decides whether or not a prospect is a good fit and if you should move forward with the relationship. Efficient qualification means you spend less time chasing up prospects who are never going to buy from you, and more time with promising prospects who are willing to buy. And in turn, you close more deals.

Before we dig deeper into the actual qualification process, let’s clarify the basics. 

What is a qualified lead? 

A qualified lead is a prospect that fits your company’s ideal buyer persona in terms of size, budget, need, and timing. So the first step of your sales process should be a qualification call, where your goal is to understand your prospect’s needs, and check if they meet these (or your specific) criteria.

Is a disqualified lead (a lead that doesn’t fit your ideal target group) a bad thing? No – at least you know where you stand with them. That’s much better than spending hours chasing after them and never closing a deal. Now you can use your time to talk with more promising prospects.

So, how do you efficiently analyze if a lead is qualified or not? 

Know your ideal buyer persona

You might be thinking: “Wow, this is nothing new.” Unfortunately, although this step seems obvious, a lot of people don’t know what their target persona is or looks like. Before picking up the phone and calling your prospect, ask yourself:

  • Which specific industry is your target group in?
  • What role is the perfect buyer? What role is the perfect user?
  • What is the ideal company and team size so it makes sense to use your solution? (And to ensure there is enough budget for it…)
  • Do your customers need a specific tech stack to benefit from your product?

Analyze their behavior

When should you reach out for a qualification call? It’s pretty obvious if they asked for a demo call on your website, but what about all those other inbound marketing leads? The behavior of your prospect can tell you a lot about their relevance and if you should make contact with them. Do they open your sales and marketing emails? Maybe even several times? Are they regularly checking your website, downloading lead magnets, liking your social posts? If the answer is yes – great! Then they really seem to be engaged with your product, and it’s worth reaching out. 

Ask the right questions – and listen

Ok, so you now know what your ideal target persona looks like and you identified some targets in your pipeline. It’s time for the qualification call! 

Always schedule the call in advance so you know your prospect has time to talk and knows what the call is about. Prepare the most urgent qualification questions upfront to ensure you don’t miss anything. Try to ask open-ended questions like “What are your biggest challenges?” and avoid simple yes/no questions. This way you get helpful insights and your prospect doesn’t just say what they think will help them get off the phone as quickly as possible. 

And most important: Listen! Read between the lines and always summarize what your prospect said to guarantee you got it right. Take notes and make sure to save those digitally – not just on a post-it which you’ll throw away the next time you clean your desk.

If you follow these recommendations, I’m sure qualifying will be a piece of cake and you will spend much more time qualifying relevant prospects and closing deals!