What Is a Qualified Lead? (And How to Get More of Them)

By Daniel Threlfall

What Is a Qualified Lead? (And How to Get More of Them)

Having a clear definition of a qualified lead is absolutely vital for A) generating quality leads and B) converting them.

But do you want to know what’s crazy?

Over half of companies lack a formal definition of a qualified lead. 

Let’s change that right now and figure out what a qualified lead is and how to get more of them. 

Why It’s So Important to Know What a Qualified Lead Is

It may not sound like that big of a deal, but lacking a formal definition can hurt your conversion rate and negatively impact all areas of sales. 

Research from Velocify found that only 34% of organizations without a formal definition were able to move a lead to an initial conversation more than half of the time. 

But guess what happens when organizations take the time to clearly define what a qualified lead is?

That number jumps to 63%.

“Once you find the similarities, document them in a target prospect profile, and then firm up the definition of ‘qualified lead’ reps know exactly which opportunities to move forward with and which to abandon,” writes Emma Brudner of HubSpot.

“A simple definition can save salespeople from going on wild goose chases. And when their time is better spent, more signed deals are the result.”

So, as you can see, it’s incredibly important to have a qualified lead definition in place, and it can be a real game changer long-term. 

Qualified Lead Definition

When hearing the words “qualified lead,” most people have a baseline understanding of what it means. 

Obviously, it’s someone who expresses interest in buying from you.

But when you dig a little deeper, you’ll realize that there’s a lot more to it than that. 

I like Ironpaper’s definition of “someone who could become a potential customer to you, based on criteria and identifying information that they have freely provided.”

I also like Emma Brudner’s definition of “a prospective customer who matches the company’s ideal buyer profile in terms of need, budget, timing, and other factors.”

The key overlap is that a qualified lead is a person that’s interested in your product and meets your company’s criteria.

Ironpaper also offers this example, saying that the person has a lead score of 90 points, is an SQL (something I’ll discuss in just a bit), is interested in an analytics dashboard, and has five engagements. 

In other words, it’s super specific. 

While there’s a certain universality to the term “qualified lead,” the specifics will vary from business to business.

That’s why it’s important to figure out the ideal characteristics you’re looking for, as this will determine the exact definition you use. 

At the end of the day, a qualified lead checks all of the boxes and one that you want your sales team to pursue right away. 

Unqualified Lead Definition

It’s equally important to define what an unqualified lead is so you’ll know which opportunities not to move forward with (at least not right away). 

And it’s pretty simple. 

An unqualified lead is someone who doesn’t meet all of your criteria and/or doesn’t have the ideal characteristics you’re looking for.

Going back to the example I just used, an unqualified lead might:

  • Only have a lead score of 70 rather than 90
  • Be an MQL rather than an SQL
  • Only have two engagements rather than five 

I also like this chart from Money Journal that highlights some of the key differences between qualified and unqualified leads. 

So, how should you approach unqualified leads?

“Once you classify a lead as unqualified, you need to either document its missing criteria and put it through a lead nurturing process or revisit its ability to meet your criteria,” says Infotanks Media

In other words, you don’t necessarily want to “scrap” an unqualified lead and disregard them. 

It just means they’ll require some nurturing until they meet the right criteria and can be classified as qualified. 

MQLs vs SQLs

Really quick, I also need to explain the difference between a marketing qualified lead (MQL) and a sales qualified lead (SQL).

Both are in your sales funnel, but an MQL is higher in the funnel and a lead that your marketing team considers more likely to buy than other leads.

However, they’re not quite there yet. 

They may have completed a minor action like downloading an eBook, for instance, but haven’t completed a major action like requesting a demo. 

An SQL, on the other hand, is further along in the sales funnel, has all of the right characteristics, and has completed a major action like requesting a demo. 

Here’s a nice visual that illustrates the difference between an MQL and SQL. 

The bottom line is that MQLs and SQLs are both qualified leads but are at different stages. 

So, it’s important to know how to tell the difference and how to effectively approach each type of lead.

Check out this previous post we wrote about MQLs vs SQLs for a full rundown on this. 

How to Get More Qualified Leads

Now that we know precisely what a qualified lead is, let’s get into the meat and potatoes of this discussion. 

How to get more of them. 

There are a nearly infinite number of techniques you can use, but here are some specific tactics we’ve had great success with at Chili Piper and that I know for a fact can work wonders for you as well. 

Create Data-Driven Case Studies

“What’s in it for me?”

That’s usually the number one question a lead will have when checking out your product. 

When it’s all said and done, they want to know how it will help their business and the practical benefits it offers. 

Whenever you’re able to encapsulate those benefits and provide quantitative data of how it’s helped other companies, the number of qualified leads you generate is going to surge. It’s inevitable. 

And from my experience, one of the best ways to do that is through data-driven case studies. 

Let me show you what I’m talking about. 

On the Chili Piper resources section, we have a page specifically devoted to case studies where we feature real-life customers and how they used our platform to grow their business. 

These case studies span a wide range of industries, which is great because it allows us to appeal to a wide range of leads. 

Now, let’s look at one of my favorite case studies — this one featuring Krishan Patel, Director of Growth at unified engagement acceleration platform Apollo. 

Here it explains the problem Apollo used to have with their leaky sales funnel, where about 40% of their inbound demo requests were failing to convert to booked meetings. 

But then it goes on to explain that after using Chili Piper, they saw a massive increase in inbound meetings of 50%. 

And with their confidence in their ability to convert inbound leads, they were able to rev up their acquisition efforts and ultimately boost their revenue by 300% even with a smaller sales team. 

This Chili Piper case study goes over the details of how these improvements were made. 

And it also includes a video of Krishan to get his firsthand account. 

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Taking this type of data-driven approach has helped us resonate with a lot of people and is a big part of how we generate qualified leads. 

It’s the ultimate “show me the money” tactic and one I highly recommend using. 

Offer a Free Demo

Letting people see what your product or service is all about kills two birds with one stone.

Not only does it allow you to easily generate leads and bring potential customers into your sales funnel, it also establishes a baseline level of qualification.

After all, anyone who’s interested enough in booking a demo has at least some level of interest. 

So by default most people who book a demo can be classified as qualified leads. 

And assuming your salespeople are lights out with their demos and follow best practices, a good portion of your leads should convert. 

That’s why I strongly suggest offering a free demo so that people can see your product in action.

This has contributed heavily to the success of Chili Piper and helps us consistently generate a high volume of qualified leads. 

In fact, a free demo is the very first offer visitors find on our homepage

And it’s always just a click away on the site menu regardless of what page visitors happen to be at.

And check it out. 

Asking the right questions on your demo form allows you to qualify leads even more, helping your salespeople effectively prioritize their efforts. 

On the Chili Piper demo form, for example, we ask leads to specify which CRM they’re using and their country/region. 

“Yes, adding questions to your forms reduces responses, but if your leads are too often low quality, this strategy makes sense,” says Barry Feldman of content discovery and native advertising platform Taboola. 

It’s just a matter of asking the right questions so you can filter through leads and give priority to those who show the most promise. 

Use Longtail Keywords That Show Intent to Buy

I probably don’t need to tell you about the importance of creating great content. 

Content is king and all that jazz. 

But I think one area where businesses go wrong is creating overly broad content that won’t necessarily bring in qualified leads. 

It may generate leads — that’s true. 

But if all of those leads are at the top of the sales funnel rather than the bottom, the impact will be marginalized. 

The solution is to use plenty of longtail keywords that qualified leads will naturally search for. 

Digital marketing mastermind Neil Patel says, “You must be very selective with your keyword choice,” and “the more specific it is, the better.”

Let me give you an example. 

One of the blog posts we wrote a while back is called Lead Conversion Strategies: The Best Appointment Scheduling Software — 2020

It’s a mouthful, but that’s a good thing because of how specific and targeted it is. 

If someone searches for “best appointment scheduling software for lead conversions” in Google — a longtail keyword — this is the first thing that pops up. 

Not trying to toot our own horn, but this is the number one position out of 13 million results and has helped us drive plenty of quality traffic to our site. 

But more importantly, much of that traffic consists of qualified leads with a strong intent to buy. 

After all, if they’re searching for something like the best appointment scheduling software, it means they probably have at least some level of interest in buying this type of software. 

In turn, this gives us an opportunity to objectively show why our product is one of the best appointment scheduling softwares on the market and reel in ultra qualified leads. 

So keep this in mind when you’re running your content campaign, and be sure to use plenty of longtail keywords that indicate intent to buy.

Qualified Lead FAQs

What is a qualified lead?

It’s a potential customer that possesses your company’s ideal characteristics. 

What is an unqualified lead?

It’s a potential customer who doesn’t meet all of your criteria and/or doesn’t have the ideal characteristics you’re looking for.

What are the two different types of qualified leads?

Marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and sales qualified leads (SQLs). 

Why is it important to formally define what a qualified lead is?

It allows your reps to prioritize their efforts and make better use of their time.

It also helps you move a larger percentage of these leads to an initial conversation. 

And in the long run, it should positively impact your productivity and conversion rate. 

How can you get more qualified leads?

  • Create data-driven case studies
  • Offer free demos
  • Use longtail keywords that targeted leads will naturally search for

Getting Hyper-Specific With What Constitutes as a Qualified Lead

“61% of B2B marketers send all leads directly to sales; however, only 27% of those leads will be qualified.”

Taking the time to understand what a qualified lead is and who exactly it is you’re looking for should make your entire sales process more efficient and put you ahead of more than half of your competitors who lack a formal definition. 

So, when it’s all said and done, your reps can laser focus on the leads that are most likely to convert, giving your profitability a shot in the arm. 

See how Chili Piper can help you qualify your prospects and swiftly send them to the right rep.

See Chili Piper in action

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