Prepare SDRs to Qualify Leads with Agreed-Upon Definition
One of the most critical roles a sales development rep (SDR) plays in an organization is to qualify prospects before they speak to sales. But the pressure to quickly qualify and handoff meetings to sales reps often results in leads that are passed along before the prospect has been fully qualified. This issue is compounded by sales reps with differing opinions of what constitutes qualification and who may ignore qualified leads that have come from SDRs. This lack of alignment causes problems on both sides of the handoff.
Organizations need a standardized Closed Loop Handoff Process to enforce expectations around the process of SDR-qualified leads (SDR-QLs) being handed off to—and taken ownership by—sales reps. The first phase is to define and align the organization around the qualification of a sales-worthy meeting so SDRs can effectively run their process.
SDR leaders struggle to get clear alignment with sales
There are two main issues around lead qualification for sales development organizations: lack of defined process and lack of alignment with sales. Many organizations have not followed a rigorous process to develop their lead qualification definition. It might be ad-hoc, anecdotal, or even left up to individual sales reps to determine what meetings they are willing to accept.
The second problem is that even for SDR organizations with well-defined criteria, it has not been developed in collaboration with sales. Twenty-three percent of sales development leaders cite alignment with sales on a qualified lead definition as a top challenge, according to the 2019 TOPO Sales Development Benchmark Report.
The following process can facilitate collaboration and alignment between sales development and sales around the attributes that are required for a consistent and repeatable lead qualification process. The pipeline contribution of marketing (inbound) and SDRs (outbound) is 70%. With that much pipeline passing through SDRs, it is imperative that they are provided with an objective definition of a fully qualified lead.
Organizations need to agree upon the minimum criteria required for handing off leads from sales development to sales. It is critical that this is a collaborative process between the two teams to make sure both understand what is most important in the qualifying process.
Creating an SDR-QL definition
Defining a qualified lead starts with identifying the required attributes and their specific criteria. The attributes commonly used for defining qualification are in the following categories: organization (e.g., firmographic, environmental), authority (e.g., entry point contact, decision maker), need (e.g., challenge, use case), project (e.g., project existence, budget, timeline), and next steps.
There are attributes that are required by sales, as well as specific attributes that disqualify a lead from further sales conversations. The list of criteria helps organizations create an agreed-upon definition of a qualified lead that can pass to sales for a scheduled meeting. For example, a solution may work great for an organization with 500 employees, but if it is no longer effective over 1,000 then an attribute of less than 1,000 employees is required.
A key to success is to make sure criteria are objective so the SDR can easily determine if the lead meets that criteria. The more yes or no answers that can be built into an organization’s qualifying definition, the fewer subjective decisions the SDR will have to make.
Determine the attributes of a good account. Start by looking at the organizational attributes of accounts. These include the firmographic (e.g., company size, location) and environmental (e.g., technology installed) attributes that an effective sales development team uses to qualify their leads. Sales development and sales leaders need to list all possible attributes to determine which are most relevant for qualification.
Determine the contacts to speak to. Authority attributes relate to the specific contact or role at the account. It is important for SDRs to speak to the right people. Often sales reps will say that they only want to speak with the CIO, but define the minimum role that can be qualified. The Director of IT is a more realistic entry point, and is also more likely to be the champion for the solution than an executive decision maker.
Identify the need. These attributes can be difficult to determine for the SDRs. They identify if the lead has a pain, challenge, or use case that the solution can solve. One way to make these attributes objective is to list the most common qualifiers for the SDR to select. This creates a yes or no question for the SDR while qualifying the lead.
Determine if a project exists and if it has budget and a timeline. The project, timeline, and budget attributes can be considered together and how they relate to conversations with sales. Does a defined project or a willingness to explore a solution create a better meeting? Does a lead need dedicated budget or just availability to money to implement a solution? And finally, is it helpful to have a firm timeline or just a sense of urgency? Look back at recent closed-won deals to determine how these factors influence the sale of a solution.
Determine the required next steps. Agreeing to a meeting and actually showing up are significant criteria in qualifying a lead. Do not overlook the obvious.
Create a qualified lead definition guide for SDRs. Once functional leaders have agreed upon the required attributes and their specific criteria for qualified lead definition, create a simple checklist of the required attributes for SDRs. This reference will not just help them qualify leads, but also guide qualification conversations.
Align the definition of a qualified lead to the expected outcome for SDRs. A qualified lead is one that meets the minimum criteria for a conversation with sales. Ultimately, the goal is for an opportunity and a closed-won sale, but organizations should focus their qualified lead definition on identifying the best meetings for sales.
Make qualification criteria as objective as possible. The qualified definition is a tool for SDRs to make a determination if a lead is a good fit for a meeting with sales. Criteria should be defined so there is a clear yes or no answer to inclusion. For example, if a solution only works with certain installed technology, include that complete list in the definition. The SDR can qualify the lead only if their installed technology is on that list.
Define qualification criteria with specificity. The criteria definition should be as specific as possible to help SDRs make the right determination. For example, instead of just listing titles for authority attributes, organizations can specify roles and areas of responsibility.
Capture all possible “knockout” scenarios. Disqualification criteria help SDRs understand when to shut down a qualification conversation that cannot progress. Define these scenarios to minimize the instances of “false-starts” that erode sales reps’ confidence in the SDR-QLs.
Managing the qualification of leads process starts with a collaborative effort between sales development and sales to create the definition of a qualified lead. The result makes SDRs’ jobs easier by giving them an objective measure to qualify a lead and schedule a meeting with sales. Organizations with a clear and agreed-upon lead qualification definition have better meetings with more qualified leads. Not only does this create more trust between sales development and sales, but it also drives more revenue.