software leadsSales teams oftentimes have to chase after and deal with software leads that turn out to be naysayers in the end. Despite already having been qualified by marketing and labeled “sales-ready,” some number of B2B software sales leads still fail to give a favorable purchase decision. But why did they get to that point in the first place? Haven’t those prospects provided your marketing team with the answers they need to actually become qualified and transferred to sales?

The truth is that the answers you get from your software leads are only as good as the questions you ask them. Regardless of whether you’re part of marketing or sales or both, you need to follow a set of questions that not only gets your desired answers but are also aligned with the other department’s (or activity’s) needs. In addition, sales teams need to do a little bit of lead qualification themselves before going after forwarded prospects. This post focuses on five key insights that the sales staff must consider about each lead before jumping in.

The main reason why sales teams also need to qualify prospects at their end of the spectrum is that marketing can only do so much as to guide leads along the pipeline. In fact, research findings released by MarketingSherpa reveal only about 21% of marketing-qualified leads actually convert to sales. To avoid wasting any company resources on unpromising leads, sales teams should think about the following points before setting ERP sales appointments:

1. Understand prospects’ motivation. Although this consideration is typically within the domain of marketing, sales teams need to gauge the true willingness and motivation of their target leads. You need to find out the initiatives taken by the prospects’ company at acquiring or evaluating the solution you’ve offered. How did the prospect and his or her company handle marketing’s efforts?

2. Consider their budget. Willingness to buy should always be coupled with the ability to do so. After all, this is how economists define demand. The questions asked at the sales portion of the pipeline should likewise focus on things like the allocated budget or plans for budget allocation in relation to your offer. A qualified lead needs to have both the intention to buy and the resources to make the purchase.

3. Know where in the buying cycle they’re in. At what point in the buying cycle are your sales people engaging a prospect for the first time? Ideally, engagement takes place at or near the later stages of the cycle. This increases the likelihood that you’re not the first they’ve considered as a solution provider. The need for further differentiation and caution is underscored in this scenario.

4. Determine the real viability of your solution. Does your target lead really have the company resources to implement your software solution? How does this factor compare with the competition? Is your prospect convinced that your product/service does solve a problem? Your sales lead qualification questions should follow somewhere along these lines.

5. Engage with the real decision-maker. Does your target prospect have the full authority to make the final purchasing decision? In today’s setting, this question is a bit difficult to answer as decision-making authority no longer rests on traditional corporate officers. This should be clearly understood by the sales team in order to avoid throwing the pitch at the wrong place.

Experts often cite the distinction that “sales-ready” doesn’t necessarily mean “purchase-ready,” indicating the need to further qualify leads at the sales side of the ball park. With empirical evidence to support this claim, this should be considered by every marketing and sales practitioner, especially for those engaged in long and complex buying/sales cycles such as business software and technology acquisition.