THE BLOG
06/24/2011 06:41 pm ET Updated Aug 23, 2011

Qualified Lead: What's It Mean? (and Why Should Marketers Care?)

"Just give me a hot lead. Just give me two of the premium leads."

All sales leads are not created equal. Who can forget Glengarry Glen Ross and the premium Glengarry leads?

Sales reps were willing to commit practically any [illegal] act to get their hands on the premium Glengarry leads. Glengarry leads spelled success.

Do you have premium sales leads? You know, the ones that are pre-wired for upside revenue?

If you've never seen a premium lead, go to a B2B tradeshow and watch sales reps work their booths. The garden-variety leads are the ones reps put into a box that gets shipped back to corporate for processing. (Think: the final scene of Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Ark.)

The premium leads are the ones sales reps put in their pockets.

It takes sales reps just a few minutes to figure out if a contact is ready and able to become a customer. The "figuring out" part is a sales rep's qualification process. They know the questions to ask and how deeply to probe. They're masters at separating tire kickers, stealth competitors and students from those who have the potential of becoming customers.

What makes a lead "premium?"

The difference between a sales lead and a premium sales lead (in Glengarry Glen Ross terms) is: Qualification. Premium leads are qualified leads.

Once qualified, a contact will be passed along to your sales reps or nurtured by your marketing department.

But can you take what a sales rep does naturally and teach it to others? Meet John Coe -- database marketing guru.

In John's book, The Fundamentals of Business-to-Business Sales and Marketing -- Sell More, Spend Less!, he shares the four factors of a qualified lead in the acronym B.A.N.T.

BANT: Budget, Authority, Need, Timing (or Timeline).

1. Need: What are the needs or conditions that have to exist BEFORE your product or service would be valuable to a potential customer?

2. Budget: How much money must be available in the customer's budget to buy your product or service?

3. Authority: Does this person have the authority, or can they get approval to make a buying decision?

4. Timing: Does the timing of the purchase fall within the timeline of the sales rep's commission plan? If it does not, sales reps will have little incentive to pursue the lead. [Go ahead and argue with me on this point... but you'll lose.]

Definition: Qualified Lead
A qualified lead is a person:

  • With need, budget and buying authority.
  • Working for a company that meets your customer profile for being a customer.
  • With a buying timeline that falls within the time horizon of the sales rep's commission plan.

It only takes a few minutes for a true sales professional to qualify a contact. And they can do it anywhere -- at a busy tradeshow or on a golf course. The real trick is teaching the process to everyone in your company -- especially your marketing team.

© 2011 John M. Fox. All Rights Reserved. John Fox is the Founder and President of Venture Marketing, a B2B consulting firm that helps business owners get their sales and marketing un-stuck. For more, follow John on LinkedIn.