Lead Qualification: The Key to Targeted and Effective Marketing

lead qualification - lead generation and qualification - lead prospecting - lead qualification ai

Written by Novakovic Spasimir

Jul 13, 2023

Are you SURE you’re not missing out on valuable revenue opportunities because you don’t follow up with your leads the right way? 

Too many companies forget about the important first steps of prospecting and lead qualification. 

But here’s the deal: if you don’t properly organize your leads prior to funneling them, you could be losing a whopping 67% of your sales. 

We are about to cover everything in lead qualification, its importance, how to correctly increase sales and scale prospects, and the potential for automation through AI.

So, let’s get started!

Lead Qualification will save you time and money

Effective lead generation is CRUCIAL for any business, but it’s equally important to qualify those leads. This will enable you to focus your time, energy, and resources on pursuing only the most promising prospects, ultimately saving you both time and money.

It sounds quite easy, but is it? Not really…

CSO Insights found that 53.3% of sales organizations consider the inability to generate qualified leads as their number one challenge. 

In fact, “59% of marketers said generating high-quality leads is their biggest B2B lead generation challenge, matching the increased focus on lead quality.”

So, lead qualification entails assessing a prospect’s potential to become a valued customer. 

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Lead qualification process

What is lead qualification?

Lead Qualification is how sales and marketing teams identify if a lead is a good fit. It’s a process that involves evaluating the customer’s level of interest, budget, decision-making authority, needs, and alignment with the business’s offerings.

Moreover, there are two distinct definitions of lead qualification – MQL and SQL.

Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) refers to a prospect who has displayed a keen interest in a company’s offerings and meets certain standards set by the marketing team. 

Typically, MQLs are identified based on their engagement with marketing campaigns, visits to a website, content downloads, or other interactions that suggest their potential as a sales opportunity.

On the other hand, Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) is a high-potential prospect that the sales team has vetted and deemed ready to become a paying customer. 

SQLs meet specific criteria, including budget, authority, need, and timing. They represent an excellent opportunity to move forward in the sales process.

All in all, lead qualification is a crucial aspect of businesses that optimizes resources, aligns sales and marketing efforts, and boosts revenue. 

Lead qualification can improve conversion rates and reduces the length of the sales cycle. 

Lead prospecting and qualifications are hard

Finding the right customers can be a daunting task for businesses. Evaluating potential leads requires a substantial investment of time, effort, and expertise. 

The process entails a thorough market research, identification of prospects, and gathering of relevant information to assess their fit as customers. 

These efforts become even more complicated when businesses need to ensure that leads fulfill specific criteria like budget, authority, need, and timing.

By qualifying leads, your sales reps can focus their time and effort on those that have the highest potential to become prospects and eventually, customers.

Despite the challenges, businesses persevere and leverage various strategies, technologies, and tools to enhance their lead prospecting and qualification efforts, ultimately reaping the rewards of a streamlined and effective sales pipeline.

Let’s dive deep into the lead qualification process

To successfully qualify leads, it’s crucial to identify your ideal customer. 

By understanding who will benefit the most from your product or service, you can focus your efforts and provide greater value. 

Discover your ideal customers with buyer personas, the fictional representations crafted from thorough research and analysis of your target audience. 

These personas offer unparalleled insights into the motivations, needs, pain points, and preferences of your potential customers. 

By identifying different avatars, businesses can tailor their lead qualification process to align with each persona’s specific characteristics and requirements.

On the other hand, if you want to put more structure into prospecting and qualification, you should implement these five steps:

  1. Score and rank lead
  2. Design segments for unqualified leads
  3. Have a lead management game plan
  4. Align marketing and sales
  5. Implement a service-level agreement

Score and rank lead

Lead scoring is critical when it comes to prioritizing and articulating the potential value of leads in sales and marketing. 

By assigning an arbitrary number to rank leads based on their readiness, you can significantly reduce guesswork and enable your sales reps to know which leads to prioritize and with clear direction on how to fully follow up on them. 

Studies have shown that companies with effective lead scoring have a 192% higher average qualification rate than those that don’t utilize it. 

Design segments for unqualified leads

Not every lead is ready to become a prospect immediately, and they may be at various stages of the buying journey. 

Segmenting unqualified leads and developing personalized nurture paths can help these leads eventually become prospects. 

In fact, a study by Aberdeen Research showed that almost half of the companies (49%) allow sales to decline leads that require further nurturing by marketing. 

Have a lead management game plan

Did you know that 70% of leads are never acted upon due to a broken lead management system, according to Gartner Research? 

It’s not surprising, since without proper qualification and timely follow-up, leads can easily slip through the cracks. 

On the other hand, Forrester Research found that 46% of marketers with well-planned lead management strategies have sales teams following up on more than 75% of leads. 

By implementing a management system, you can standardize processes and create a structure throughout the lead life cycle, from generation and qualification to distribution and maturation.

Align marketing and sales

Effective communication and collaboration between marketing and sales teams are key to success, just as understanding your ideal customer is crucial. 

This is because both teams are responsible for prospecting and lead qualification, especially in the early stages.

Aligning marketing and sales means creating a company-wide acceptance and usage of defining an ideal customer, determining which data to collect, and scoring leads. 

Companies that have successfully aligned their sales and marketing teams experience a 38% higher sales win rate.

Implement a service-level agreement

Streamline your lead qualification process by establishing a service-level agreement

This approach not only simplifies qualification and prospecting but also promotes shared accountability and success between marketing and sales teams, breaking down silos and improving collaboration. 

Differences between lead scoring and lead qualification

Lead scoring and qualification are important processes in lead management, but they are not interchangeable. Knowing the difference can make a big impact on your bottom line. 

Here are the differences between lead scoring and lead qualification that you need to know:

Lead Scoring Lead Qualification
Purpose Focused on ranking and prioritizing leads based on their perceived level of interest or engagement with the business.  Concerned with evaluating and determining the potential fit and readiness of leads to become valuable customers.
Methodology Typically involves assigning numerical values or scores to leads based on predefined criteria and engagement behaviors. Involves a comprehensive evaluation of leads against specific qualification criteria. 
Focus Focuses primarily on the level of interest or engagement demonstrated by leads. Goes beyond engagement and focuses on evaluating the overall fit of leads with the business’s offerings. 
Timing Can be implemented throughout the lead lifecycle, starting from the initial lead generation stage.  Typically occurs after lead scoring, when leads are deemed to have met a certain threshold of engagement or interest. 


To sum up, lead scoring is a critical component of lead qualification, taking place after a prospect has been qualified. 

Unlike lead qualification which involves assessing the likelihood of a prospect turning into a customer, lead scoring involves ranking and assigning a score to each qualified lead, usually on a scale of 0 to 100. 

As a complementary aspect of a comprehensive lead management strategy, lead scoring and lead qualification work together to maximize lead efficacy.

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exceed ai for lead qualification

How AI can help you in lead qualification and prospecting?

Imagine automated lead qualification that saves you energy, time, and money (and does it all as an expert). 

It’s amazing, right?

Exceed AI is here to help your company to capture high-quality leads while your sales team can focus on converting them into opportunities. 

Through the use of AI and automation, companies can streamline their lead qualification at scale, allowing sales teams to focus on more prominent high value opportunities, and ultimately closing more deals.

So, if you want to discover the advantages of AI and automation, maximize your lead engagement strategy, or just need more information REQUEST DEMO.

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