tl;tbtr: Too long; too busy to read:
If you’re finishing up a blog post and the baby screams in the background indicate that no, he wasn’t ready for a 2 hour nap, here are the main points:
- After your passive qualification and your qualification questionnaire, if you still need a bit of info, do a little research
- Look at: financial data, company website, competitors, social media, and what other people say.
Like I wrote about in my passive ways to qualify leads article, asking questions is probably what you think of first when you think about pre-qualifying a lead. And, then I talked a bit about how so many other factors in our business qualify leads before they even reach out to us. This article talks through a few actions we can take to actively qualify leads.
Since one of our main goals here is to avoid wasting time with prospects who don’t fit our business, we need to approach lead qualification in the same way.
First, take advantage of the passive qualification process. Do the work now to filter out leads that you don’t want and attract ones that do. Then going forward, while you may have to make some tweaks and updates, this process will continue to do the work for you.
Second, ask your prospect questions to see how well they will fit with you and your business. You could do this over the phone of course, but I prefer asking interested folks to fill out an online questionnaire. This does three helpful things:
- It saves me time. I don’t want to take an hour on the phone to find out I can’t help someone.
- I’ll find out right away if the prospect is willing to follow my process and do things my way.
- He or she can have time to think about answers and thoroughly think about the project they need done.
Finally, if your lead passes the first two levels of qualification, you can do some research. This should really be the final piece, to confirm what you’ve learned already or to help make a final call. This takes time &/or resources, so don’t waste time on these if the lead doesn’t pass the earlier qualification.
Unfortunately, I struggle with waiting and often do a bit of this first, when I first hear the name of a business or lead. Mostly because I’m curious. I’d bet that I could save a whole lot of time if I didn’t jump right into research!
Areas to Research
If the company is a publicly traded one, you can find out all sorts of financial information. This is at least a good start. If the company isn’t making enough to pay for your services, it’s not worth pursuing them. If your fee is a significant percentage of revenue, they cannot afford you.
This article has a great list of sources for financial information:
You can learn so much about a company from its website. Sometimes information is published right on the site itself, sometimes you’ll need to dig a bit.
You should be able to see company staff, or at least the decision makers on the about page. If you find out the person contacting you is the intern, it’s unlikely he can make the decisions on spending, no matter how he filled out the questionnaire.
Just by checking out the various pages, you can see a number of indicators that will qualify or disqualify a lead. You can see how frequently and regularly content is published, how professional looking the site is, whether are there mistakes that are easy to fix (on the site or with strategy). Those can be some good indicators for the company’s needs, even if their stated wants are different.
And if you dig a bit more, you can see some of the suppliers that the company uses, including hosting, platform, plugins if built with WordPress, autoresponders, other tools. While some supplies will add their name or logo (designer name in the footer, powered by statement by plugin functionality), you can use tools to find out the rest. My two favorite are BuiltWith and WPThemeDetector.
When you’re on the fence about a lead, one indicator that can be teeter you to one side or the other is – how much can you help this lead? By checking out their competitors, you can figure out their position in the industry and how competitive the industry is. You might find opportunity or you might find that you cannot help the lead at all with your services.
Social Media research can tell you about the behavior of the company and/or the person contacting you. Some things to look for here include: do they have profiles on the major social platforms? Why/why not? Are they contributing regularly? What are their main interests and focus? Do those answers align with the other answers you’ve gotten from them?
What other people say
Don’t forget word of mouth. This is a little tougher to measure, but it can be very insightful if you find the right source of information. Online, read through reviews if their are any. You can often find some great bits of information on how a client is to work with or if their clients love them. In person, ask around your network to see if anyone has information that would help you with your lead. People are more connected than you realize – I know I’m surprised all the time when I learn about who others know.
Obviously, you go much deeper into researching leads, but I hope you don’t have to. Research, like most things, can suck days of time away if you let it. With the passive qualification and questionnaire doing the heavy lifting, hopefully, you’re just confirming what you’ve learned about a lead. This active qualification can give you the extra little bit of confidence in the decision you’ve made whether this lead is qualified or not. See how much of this active qualification that you can fit into your process.