Startups push hard for sales and revenue growth, but this is often a messy process. Why? When you have a small and very busy team, you aren’t taking the time to build a sales pipeline with a proper lead qualification & follow-up process.
The same people that are running the business or targeting investors are left to follow up leads. When sales follow-ups are being done by the CEO, VP of Sales, VP of Marketing, or it’s done by committee, follow-ups can take days. Hot leads turn into cold ones quickly. Because everyone is moving so fast and juggling so much, feedback isn’t recorded so they can’t be optimized. Leads are dropped and not re-engaged.
There just isn’t enough time in the day to get it all done. It results in a sloppy process, little documentation of qualification criteria, and a lot of waste. The amount of money spent on tactics to generate leads goes to waste when the leads aren’t qualified or converted. Sales suffer because there are lots of unqualified leads to sort through to find the gems.
How startups can improve their lead qualification
Instead of reacting, startups need to take a breath and be proactive. Create a simplified sales funnel to procure, qualify, and track prospects. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but there does need to be a formal process in place to be efficient. Here are the four steps startups should follow to better qualify leads:
- Document your process
- Document feedback
- Make someone the owner
- Outsource anything you can
Document your process
Each business may have different criteria for qualifying leads. At its core, however, leads need to demonstrate three things to be viable:
- They must have a need for your product
- They must have the budget to buy your product
- They must have the authority to purchase
If a lead fails to meet one of these three criteria, they likely aren’t qualified prospects. It’s better to find out early in the process rather than invest the time and energy into a prospect that isn’t qualified to buy. Research shows that two-thirds of lost sales result from sales reps not properly qualifying leads.
The specific way you get the answers to these questions isn’t as important as getting them. You should have a documented process to qualify leads before turning them over to sales.
Document your feedback
Feedback is often overlooked when everybody’s trying to hustle the next sale. Yet, it’s a critical step to define what’s working and what’s not.
Think about sports teams, for example. Coaches will analyze hours of tape to find specific things that led to success. They’ll break down processes so they can train on the right techniques. They’ll stop doing things that aren’t working. They will adjust their playbook each week depending on the team they’re targeting and what works best to meet their goal. They will use the feedback they get to refine their process to meet their goal: winning the next game.
In sales and marketing, feedback is just as important. Getting feedback from your clients and your leads can help you refine your process and better qualify leads. It’s not always the best teams that win, it’s the ones that focus on the right things. Documenting your feedback can help you focus and spot trends – either good or bad.
How Exceed documents lead intent
Exceed uses artificial intelligence and natural language processing to analyze a lead’s intent based on their email conversation.
This information is then rolled-up into Exceed’s conversation analytics to provide you with valuable feedback.
Set up a structured system that measures the quality of leads the same way no matter who is doing the work. Track where leads came from, what messaging they responded to, and whether they eventually closed. Tracking customers throughout the sales funnel can yield important data to help manage pipeline flow and marketing efforts.
Make someone the owner
When things are done “when there’s time,” it’s easy for them to get pushed to the back of the queue. When they are done by committee, often nobody takes ownership. It’s crucial that one person becomes the point person for developing the sales funnel and managing the progress.
For startups, leaders can set goals, deadlines, and key milestones. However, someone has to own the process to get it accomplished.
Outsource anything you can
The best systems will create efficiencies in your process. Consider outsourcing anything you can that doesn’t take knowledge of your business. Using SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) or software that can handle tasks automatically can save you time and money.
For example, freelancers can be used for data entry, documentation, and researching prospects. AI-fueled software, such as Exceed, can be implemented to do follow-up and scheduling.
Use AI to drive conversations and qualified leads
Organizations incorporating AI into their marketing and sales process are finding a streamlined approach to grow their deal pipelines. Combining the efficiency of automation with the human-like intelligence of AI, Exceed works alongside your sales team, qualifying leads, and scheduling new opportunities for reps.
- AI-powered Email Assistants: Automate lead follow-up with 2-way SDR-like conversations
- AI-powered Chatbots: Engage and qualify website visitors, answer questions, and schedule meetings
- AI-powered Qualification: Ask qualifying questions through email and chat, then pass qualified leads on to sales reps
- Automated Meeting Scheduler: Once qualified, Exceed can automate the scheduling process by syncing with your rep’s calendar.
You can significantly improve the process of engaging and qualifying your inbound leads as you intelligently source opportunities through the sales funnel. If you are unable to schedule during AI conversations, Exceed’s automation can re-engage leads or scale outreach based on leads already in your CRM.
Acquire > Qualify > Schedule or Re-Engage
It’s a cold hard truth: 90% of startups fail. Those are tough odds. The startups that survive have more than a good idea, product, or solution; they have systems to drive the revenue process. The core of any good sales organization is good lead qualification. This makes sure good leads are not being ignored and startups won’t waste time on unqualified leads.