Spotted: Lead Qualification Trends, Tactics & Techniques

At the heart of your sales & marketing handoff is your lead qualification process - who does marketing determine that sales should talk to.

We've spotted a trend amongst SaaS teams in how they approach lead qualification.

Instead of marketing sending every lead and complaining sales doesn't follow up, and sales complaining at lead quality (and quantity), we see teams using data to pre-qualify leads around common criteria.

Data holds the answers to who sales should talk to and why they should talk to them right NOW. Data is at the heart of sales and marketing alignment.

In this Spotted post, we share the trends, tactics & techniques we see teams using to qualify leads with data.

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In our Spotted series, we break down and share the trends, tactics & techniques we see scaling SaaS teams do (not just what they say) on Hull and beyond. Subscribe below for the next article in the series.

Tactical Takeaway #1: Pre-qualify leads with data enrichment

Instead of sending all your leads who raise their hands to sales, we see teams use data enrichment services to identify best-fit potential customers and send *just* them through to sales.

For some teams we worked with, marketing was previously sending sales unserviceable leads. The leads that requested demos but didn't speak English or having any matching tools that could integrate with their platform.

Sales would only learn about this during discovery calls. This wastes substantial amounts of reps time and money.

Using data enrichment, they could "fill in the blanks" in their leads profiles, and filter out unqualified leads right away. Sales could then focus on qualifying and closing leads which matched their ideal customer profile. This focus led to them fixing a 50% demo request drop off (since they couldn't identify best-fit leads earlier) and doubling their qualified leads (since they could identify them upfront.

The purpose of data enrichment isn't to throw data at the problem - it is to help identify potential best-fit customers without needing to ask via long forms, chat bots, or discovery calls.

Your ideal customer profile needs to be a clear, common, objective definition of your best-fit customers. Your ICP defines the data you need to source (or shop for).

Learn how to develop your ideal customer profile with examples from HubSpot, Shopify & Hull in our guide & template.

For leads which don't pass the pre-qualification step, you might need to offer some alternative for them whether that's a no/low-touch product or suggestion an alternative.

Voila! You now have an objective, reliable way of qualifying leads for sales that your teams can trust

Tactical Takeaway #2: Ask one simple question

You can't get all the answers from data enrichment providers, but you want to avoid long forms or chat bot sequences. Here's where teams use one simple question to get.

The problem with most forms and chat bots is they ask a lot of questions which aren't significant in qualification. This doesn't enable your sales team and doesn't make for a good buying experience. Instead, ask one simple question to identify whether a company is sales ready (or not).

Of all the qualifying questions you might want to ask, your one simple question should be the most effective at unqualifying leads. What's the one question you'd want to ask to immediately to rule leads out?

Pull together your list of qualifying questions from your sales calls, templates, presentations, and so on, then pick the one simple question to ask first.

For example, here at Hull we profile a company for firmographic and technographic data using Clearbit and Datanyze data, but we can't easily infer or "guess" the need. Our one simple question is to ask for a use case. Together with a few contact details, that's the only question we ask when teams arrange a demo, but it's enough to indicate their need and start the conversation. If teams don't have a clear use case in mind, they're unlikely to be a good fit for sales at the moment.

You almost certainly have more qualifying questions to ask, but these can be asked downstream via email, on a call, in the product, and so on. But you want to keep the quality of buying experience high for those best-fit leads whilst minimizing poor quality leads reaching sales reps.

Voila! You now have the means to qualify your leads without lengthy forms or chat bots

Tactical Takeaway #3: Qualify leads with product usage data, website analytics, and other activity

The goal of sales is to enable the buyer during the buying journey. For modern SaaS companies, a lot of the buying journey is easy to track within a free trial of your product, browsing your website, reading 3rd party reviews and more.

If there are significant signals of buying intent you can track, use this to add to your lead qualification model. For example, if a user exceeds the limits of your free trial, sees a modal explaining pricing, and clicks through to view your pricing page. If that trial user also matches your ideal customer profile, you should mark them as qualified and trigger sales engagement.

To do this, you need to track the whole of the buying journey into a unified lead profile, where you can combine with your data enrichment sources and create a segment of qualified leads based on combinations of events and attributes.

Don't try to include every action. Of the dozens (or hundreds) of different events in the buying journey, focus on those key activation and convertion events which have the highest correlation with likelihood to buy.

Voila! You're now able to qualify leads based on actions they take during the buying journey

Tactical Takeaway #4: Unify your lead sources

With complex buying journeys tracked by many different tools, you might find multiple competing sources of the same type of data.

For instance, job titles could come through a form, a data enrichment source, and your sales rep's own research. Often, different data sources provide different data, with different levels of completeness.

Instead of mapping all this competing, incomplete data between all your tools, we spot teams who unify their data first to compute a "single source of truth". They order data sources by accuracy & completeness then write a "unified" version of a data type to sync to their other tools.

This means all your tools, including all your lead qualification, can run on the most reliable version of a type of data.

Voila! You can now depend on reliable data for any of your data models

Get started with smarter lead qualification

Connect to all your lead sources, then enrich, score & pre-qualify leads before syncing only best-fit, sales-ready leads to your CRM.

Explore Hull's lead qualification playbook

Tactical Takeaway #5: Build a lead scoring to prioritize leads for sales

Lead qualification doesn't solve the problem alone. You need to empower sales reps to prioritize leads and reach out in context. This is where leads scores and signals are vital.

Without guidance, sales reps will make up their own rules & ideas on how to prioritize and reach out to leads - even if they're pre-qualified with data.

When you have so much data, you can end up with the same result. Reps will interpret data differently and invent their own way to choose who to reach out to. It's the paradox of choice, but with your own data - see Barry Schwartz's TED talk.

Lead scores and signals let you summarize a lot of complex, different data in a clear, consistent way to help reps. Scores can be prioritized. Signals give the reasons why. Scores & signals are simpler to use than sending all your known data through.

Scores & signals can also be adjusted "upstream" to control & test your sales outreach. For instance, you can adjust the weight of scores to incorporate new tracked behaviors or add additional signals and this will immediately be present in your reps workflow - not buried.

Voila! You can now summarize your lead data to enable your reps

Tactical Takeaway #6: Trigger notifications to reps in real-time

Lead qualification is temporal - you only have so much time to act before they go cold.

To enable your reps to reach out, you need to be able to trigger notifications in real-time. Traditionally, we've seen teams use emails via tasks in their CRM. But most sales reps don't keep their inbox open and respond right away to email.

More recently, we've seen teams leverage tools like Slack where notifications are fed to a channel with demo requests or key actions leads are taking in the buying journey.

Many tools offer a Slack integration, but since they don't build a unified view of a lead and all their actions & context, they can create a lot of noise. This doesn't enable the sales reps.

Instead of having notifications from your data enrichment providers AND your analytics tools AND your lead tracking tools AND everything else, unify all your data and then only trigger the high-value notifications your reps need.

But to make these triggers quick, you need to be able to run all your data enrichment, scoring, unification of different data sources & segmentation in as close to real-time as possible.

Real-time B2B customer data platforms like Hull make it possible to run this series of computations, sending data to multiple services, combining all the returned data into a unified profile, then mapping, filtering & syncing data to all your tools - including Slack channels.

Voila! You can now trigger high-value notifications in real-time for your reps

Tactical Takeaway #7: Use your data to enable the sales team

Lead qualification is just about defining who your sales reps could talk to. If teams already have the data to qualify leads, they can also use that data for more sales enablement.

Sales reps need three clues:

  1. WHO to talk to
  2. WHAT to say
  3. WHEN to reach out

If you're pre-qualifying leads with data, WHO to talk to is well defined already.

If your leads are being tracked, enriched, scored & qualified in real-time, WHEN to reach out is well defined too.

The last piece is to help your reps in WHAT they say. Use data from enrichment, tracking the buying journey, and other sources to populate & refine templates for emails and chat, update call scripts, and personalize presentations. Sales enablement almost always leverages the same data you've used for lead qualification.

The challenge is transforming your data, and making sure you can write it into your sales reps tools (like Outreach, Salesloft, PersistIQ, and so on) with ease. This means your sales reps don't have to dive into other tools to find parts of answers - they can stay focused and productive in their tool of choice.

Voila! Your reps are now empowered with data to talk to the right leads, say the right thing, and reach out at the right time.

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Best fit criteria for lead qualification

Almost every SaaS sales & marketing team will benefit from this playbook. However, there are a few pre-requisites we need are needed beforehand.

Post Product-market fit

Before you have product-market fit, you aren't likely to have a clear ideal customer profile, which means you're unlikely to have a clear data model so you don't know how to qualify leads.

Dedicated sales reps

If you have sales reps, it indicates your team is investing in sales growth and driving leads to sales. There is significant value from making reps more productive - the easiest thing here is making sure they talk to the right people.

Basic lead tracking and assignment in place

Your reps should already be getting notifications when a lead wants to talk to sales. Lead qualification is about improving that end-to-end data flow.

Results we've seen

We've seen a number of teams teams double qualified leads having implemented a pre-qualification step with data enrichment around a target ideal customer profile having previously sent everything through to sales.

Get started with smarter lead qualification

Connect to all your lead sources, then enrich, score & pre-qualify leads before syncing only best-fit, sales-ready leads to your CRM.

Explore Hull's lead qualification playbook

What you should do now

  1. Request a custom demo - and see how to unify & sync all your tools, teams & data (like we did for all these companies), or book a demo with a product expert.

  2. If you'd like to learn our best practice for customer data integration, read our free Guide to Getting Started with Customer Data Integration.

  3. If you enjoyed this article, perhaps your team will too? Why not share it with the links below.

Ed Fry

Prev 'Ed of Growth at Hull, working on all things content, acquisition & conversion. Conference speaker, flight hacker, prev. employee #1 at (acq. HubSpot). Now at Behind The Growth

If you've questions or ideas, I'd love to geek out together on Twitter or LinkedIn. 👇