One of the most fundamental lessons for a sales development representative to learn is just because a potential lead reaches out to you first, it doesn’t mean they’re a qualified buyer. In fact, according to data from Gleanster, only 25% of the average company’s inbound leads are both qualified and currently ready to buy, while approximately 50% are qualified but need additional nurturing.
This puts a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of inbound sales reps, who must quickly ascertain whether a lead they have been given is part of the 75% worth pursuing, or the 25% who would be better off pursuing other options. Rather than be intimidated, inbound sales development reps should look at this responsibly as a privilege. With the right tools and strategies, they can fill the pipeline with high-quality inbound leads who transition into valuable partners for the company.
Study the buyer personas inside and out
Inbound sales reps have to constantly make split-second decisions that can have a massive impact on the company’s performance. They’re forced to make a call that could disqualify a lead who could have ended up as a long-term partner. It’s a big responsibility, because such scenarios are rare for other positions at their same level on the organizational chart.
When big decisions need to be made quickly, it’s extremely helpful to have the aid of clearly-defined buyer personas. Reps need to know these descriptions in detail, so they can quickly align their leads with a specific persona, and begin delivering tested messaging that satisfy their needs.
Create frameworks that correspond to particular buyer personas
Of course, once you know what persona your lead corresponds with, you have to have a plan that takes advantage of this knowledge. Part of your preparation needs to involve matching your buyer personas with frameworks that build on their position, needs, and capabilities.
For example, if you are dealing with a sole proprietor of a small business, you may want to employ the classic BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline) qualification framework, because this lead has complete control over budgetary considerations and decision making. You can also investigate and build other frameworks that take into account factors such as multiple decision makers, prioritization of pain points, urgency of the project, and so forth.
Keep the focus on their pain points
While there isn’t necessarily one smoking gun you can use to qualify leads in every situation, there is one thing that can tip you off to a quick disqualification: a lack of attention to specific business pain. After all, a pain point is the one thing every B2B buyer has in common.
Leads who are serious will always be interested in talking specifically about their problems. If you keep trying to center the conversation on their pain points, but they meander elsewhere, it’s a good sign this lead won’t pan out. What are they doing, then? Well, they’re wasting their own time, for certain. If you are unable to make an accurate assessment of their lack of viability at this stage, your company could get sucked into a sales process that is unlikely to manifest into a paying partnership, or worse: a deal that gets closed but provides no real help to the customer.
Ask specific questions, and expect specific answers
As mentioned previously, qualified buyers are usually able to speak with specificity about their pain points and the business situation that has led them here. This is because they have studied the impacts of the problems in multiple ways, and they have taken ownership of the task of finding a value-added solution.
To determine if they are a high-quality lead you need to listen to them speak about these details, and the way to do that is to ask specific questions. You always want your questions to be open-ended, so they can elaborate and give context to their answers. However, you want to avoid generic questions, because they can keep the conversation limited to a surface level.
Be honest with your leads
There’s never a valid reason to fear truth. Sure, it sounds cheesy and obvious, but most people still lie at some point because they’re afraid of the ramifications of honesty. But if you’ve made the decision that your lead’s situation doesn’t match up with your capabilities, be open with them about the reasons why.
They may have already spoken to three or four other sales reps who were clamouring at the opportunity to sign them, and they may have never even consciously considered that their pain points weren’t a good match.
Leaders must give inbound reps agency in the process
Sales leaders have a crucial role to play in the process as well, and that’s to enable their inbound sales reps to make these important decisions with confidence. If managers are constantly looking over their shoulders and second-guessing their decisions, inbound reps will hesitate out of fear they’ll make an unforgivable error. If you trust your salespeople enough to have hired them, trained them, and integrated them into the team, then trust them to make informed decisions based on what they have learned.
This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.
This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.