The problem with passing every lead to your sales team is that some leads will be qualified, and some will not. Without filtering through leads, it becomes very easy for sales teams to generalize and say their leads are bad -- making it difficult for them to have an open mind.

Finding ways to identify which leads are qualified versus not qualified lets you pass good ones to sales and helps your sales team do the right things with those leads.

So, what exactly does doing the right thing mean? Typically, you will establish a playbook, deal stages, and service level agreement for the right amount of activity with the right turnaround time for:

  • Connecting with that lead
  • How many times to contact that lead
  • How soon should you contact that lead

A lot of this comes down to identifying who your ideal clients are because some leads may be excellent, some leads will be mediocre, and some leads could be a bad fit.

As you develop buyer personas and define what is qualified, what is marginally qualified (kind of in the gray area), and what is not qualified, you should be able to make decisions about the kinds of questions you want to include on a lead generation form to help segment more effectively.

Segmenting Leads

Segmentation is going to make all the difference in helping your sales team work efficiently and ensure they spend time on their best leads first before digging deeper and going after mediocre leads.

There are two basic things you want to pay attention to:

  • Fit
  • Interest

Fit describes how close that particular lead is to the ideal standard and exact client you want. If they are spot on, it’s as if the lead raised their hand for immediate attention.

Interest is based on lead intelligence. Gather a stockpile of behaviorally based things they are doing on your website, like:

  • How many blogs they’ve consumed
  • How many eBooks they’ve downloaded
  • How many white papers they’ve downloaded
  • How many webinars they’ve attended
  • How many emails they’ve opened
  • How many links they’ve clicked on   

Evaluate leads based on what they explicitly told you on lead generation forms like:

  • First and last name
  • Email address
  • Number of employees in their company
  • Their role in the company
  • What best describes their industry (include a drop-down list)

Behaviorally based signals are based on how leads interact with your content. If you used behavioral-based signals and what prospects explicitly told you about themselves, your sales team would be spending all of their time exclusively working with qualified leads.

Highly Qualified Leads

Leads that are the perfect fit for ideal clients should be passed to sales very early, typically on their very first visit, even if they are not showing much interest yet. Why? The perfect fit ideal client/prospect has such high economic value to your company that it is worth investing a lot of outreach, phone calls, emails, and effort.

In a perfect world, that ideal prospect is exhibiting a lot of interest, but you can certainly afford to pass them to sales even if they are not because you can invest time cultivating them.  

Low-Fit Leads

At the other extreme, delay in passing along a prospect on the low end of the spectrum to sales. These prospects may be a low fit because

  • They are marginal
  • They are in the wrong region, state, or country
  • The company is too small
  • They are low-level influencers

In these cases, you want to say, “Well, this is a low fit. Let's wait to pass it to sales until they are showing other moderate to high levels of interest.”  

At the risk of oversimplifying, if they are marginal or a bad fit, ask yourself whether you want their business in the first place. In some cases, it is not profitable to take on ill-fitting clients. Assuming they are profitable, you want to get them to the point where they are coming to you with their credit card in hand, ready to buy.

The Bottom Line

Balancing fit and interest comes down to knowing who your ideal clients/prospects are, building buyer personas, and making sure your lead generation forms capture the right kinds of information to segment properly.

Take the explicit information you are given and match it up with interest-based information such as:

  • How they interact with your content
  • How many blog posts did they read
  • How many pages they viewed
  • How many times have they reconverted on your website
  • If they attended offline or online events

This type of information will give you a good handle on your prospect’s level of interest.

Matching fit and interest makes it easier to know when to pass certain types of leads to sales and when it pays to leave them in a lead nurturing sequence a little while longer.           


How does your company distinguish qualified leads from unqualified leads? Let us know in the Comments below.

To learn more about segmenting and scoring leads for your sales team, enroll now in our free 7-day eCourse: Go-to-Market Strategy 101 for B2B SaaS Startups and Scaleups.

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