What are Pre-Qualified Leads and Why Do You Need to Drive Them?

There’s a growing trend in the world of B2B marketing – that of the pre-qualified lead.

There’s a growing trend in the world of B2B marketing – that of the pre-qualified lead.

Pre-qualified leads differ from the more traditional marketing qualified leads (MQLs) that inbound marketing teams have long worked hard to enter into the top of sales funnels. Indeed, whereas strategies that work to generate MQLs rely on content marketing practices – i.e. publishing and promoting vast quantities of content and seeing who reads and downloads it – sourcing pre-qualified leads is about targeting specific accounts that have been hand-selected based on pre-determined criteria.

To put it even more succinctly, marketing qualified leads select themselves – but when it comes to pre-qualified leads, you do the selecting.

The Emergence of Pre-Qualified Leads Programmes

One of the reasons that many marketing departments are turning towards pre-qualified leads programmes is that, although the process of generating MQLs is straightforward enough, lead nurturing is more difficult – and many companies let themselves down at this stage.

When you use content marketing and inbound marketing practices to generate marketing qualified leads, it’s imperative that you have a robust and effective lead nurture and sales follow-up strategy in place to ensure that those leads are properly filtered, qualified, and converted into sales-ready prospects.

When this doesn’t happen, however, all you’re left with is growing pile of unqualified leads, with very few of them ever turning into paying customers. This, in turn, leads to frustration in the sales department, with much friction between marketing and sales teams shortly ensuing (see our ‘4 Steps to Bring Your Inbound Marketing and Sales Teams Together’).

Essentially, generating MQLs is about casting the net wide. However, while this strategy is of course good for initially snaring lots and lots of fish, the fact of the matter is that most of them will eventually slip through the net.

account-based-marketing-funnel

(Image source: bpmonline.com)

A pre-qualified lead programme, on the other hand, is more akin to spearfishing, as it focuses exclusively on prospects with the highest propensity to buy.

In this sense, pre-qualified leads are those that you have researched and understood to be an ideal fit for your technology, service, or business solution – precisely what account-based marketing initiatives are designed to do – before you begin to target them specifically with personalised content.  

As such, pre-qualified leads enter your sales funnel with further qualification than MQLs – and since pre-qualified leads are much more likely to close, they therefore justify additional attention from both marketing and sales.  And this indeed is why more and more B2B companies are today turning towards account-based marketing to support their ongoing inbound marketing and MQL-generation efforts.

Identifying Pre-Qualified Leads

So, who are your pre-qualified leads, and how do you identify them?

It all starts with research. Each account you consider might be an ideal fit for your solution will need to be vetted against a set of criteria to confirm that they would indeed have a high propensity to buy.

A good place to start is with the BANT methodology.

BANT stands for:

  • Budget – the prospect has the budget to spend on your product or service
  • Authority – the prospect has the authority within his/her company to make a purchase decision
  • Need – the prospect has an actual and verifiable need for your offering
  • Timeline – the prospect is in need of your product, service, or solution now

bant-leads-account-based-marketing-agency

(Image source: instream.io)

If your prospect meets all of the BANT criteria (and note that there are alternative methodologies, such as CHAMP (Challenges, Authority, Money, Priority), that may be more useful to your particular company), you have a pre-qualified lead.

Incentivised Surveys

Another way to identify pre-qualified leads is with incentivised surveys.

These surveys will contain prioritised qualification questions and responses will be incentivised perhaps by offering a free trial of your product, free access to high-value content, or other reward.

Once you’ve collected all your responses, you can sift through them to find the answers you’re looking for, and, in the process, identify pre-qualified leads that will become your inbound marketing and account-based marketing targets going forward.

Predictive Modelling 

Your existing MQL data that resides in your customer relationship management (CRM) system should of course not be left to waste - there could well be whole swathes of pre-qualified leads already in there that have yet to ‘raise their hands’ due, perhaps, to insufficient lead nurturing practices.

What you will need to do is go through all your contacts one at a time and see which ones meet your pre-qualified lead.

More importantly, the data pertaining to these prospects’ past behaviour – what content they’ve downloaded from your site, which pages they’ve interacted with, which emails they’ve opened, etc. – will enable you to develop forecasts on their future behaviour. This is known as predictive modelling, and may be more specifically defined as a tactic that uses data science to accurately predict which marketing actions and strategies are the most likely to succeed, and indeed which of your existing contacts tick the boxes to become pre-qualified leads.

By mining your data for key metrics about your most active prospects, you will be able to determine which accounts are the most likely to close, and can thereby focus resources on them.

Over to You

Handing your sales department a high-quality list of pre-qualified leads is one sure-fire way to start driving conversion rates.

Pre-qualified leads are indeed a great way of not only better aligning marketing and sales, but your inbound marketing and account-based marketing efforts as well – which is precisely why you need a programme to drive them.

If you need held driving pre-qualified leads at your organisation, get in touch with the inbound marketing experts at Incisive Edge today.