It’s a cold, hard truth about sales: Just because your business has a contact data set doesn’t mean you should use it without question, nor let it use you.

After all, you don’t have unlimited time or an unlimited budget, so dedicating resources to pursuing unqualified leads dilutes your attention – attention that might be better used on qualified leads already in your sales pipeline.

A sales lead is unqualified when it doesn’t meet all, or even some, of your identified criteria for moving the lead along in the sales process. Once you classify a lead as unqualified, you need to either revisit its ability to meet your criteria or document its missing criteria and put it through a lead nurturing process.

So how do you filter out unqualified leads and more effectively identify qualified sales leads? You start with a scientific approach to your sales process to increase your lead qualification efficiency and decrease your opportunity costs. Let’s walk through the steps of that scientific process to qualified lead generation:

Begin With The First Contact Filter

When you first establish contact with a lead, it’s critical that you have a robust first contact filter to determine the lead’s qualification. Included in your first contact filter should be questions such as:

  • Is the lead a duplicate or does it contain invalid data?
  • Is the target company still in business or does it still represent an opportunity?
  • Is your product or service a viable option for this business?
  • Is the lead a subset of a hierarchy or part of a larger opportunity?

When these initial lead qualification questions are thorough, you ensure that your time is most effectively spent with only the most qualified leads after your initial conversation. Not only does this save you more time later in the sales process, but it also fills your sales pipeline with only viable opportunities.

Use Additional Lead Qualification Filters

Beyond your first contact filter, your business (or any proficient outsourced lead generation partner) should apply further filters to help you sort between unqualified and qualified leads.

Identify Your Buyer Persona

Buyer personas are an essential part of the B2B sales process, so before you start qualifying sales leads, you need to determine the characteristics of your ideal buyer. Then, during the lead qualification process, measure each potential lead against your buyer persona sketch.

Use The BANT Method

The BANT method is an industry standard for pinpointing a qualified lead. The BANT acronym stands for:

  • Budget – What is this lead’s budget for a product or service like mine?
  • Authority – What is this contact’s authority at his or her company?
  • Need – How badly does this lead need my product or service?
  • Timeline – How quickly does this lead need a product or service implementation? (More on timelines below)

When you filter leads through these four standard criteria, you’re able to paint a clearer picture of whether it is an unqualified or qualified lead – and whether it’s an opportunity worth pursuing right away.

Focus On Timeline Criteria

While the timing factor is already a part of BANT, your sales team more precisely qualifies leads if they pay particularly close attention to a lead’s timing requirements for your product or service. Once you identify that the contact needs your product or service, determining the project timeline is critical to closing the sale effectively. If a lead’s timeline requirements are more than a year out, then he or she is not as qualified as other opportunities with timing needs nearer to the present.

Develop Customized Filtering Criteria

No single criteria system can determine a qualified lead for your company as well as you can, so whether you’re qualifying leads yourself or you’re working with an outsourced lead generation partner, you should develop a set of custom criteria that qualify leads for your specific company. Consider criteria such as:

  • Company size
  • Position title
  • Industry
  • Knowledge or familiarity with your product or service
  • Other special requirements

When you create this final, customized lead qualification filter, you ensure that sales leads aren’t just generically qualified, but that they’re uniquely qualified for your business.

Qualified leads keep your sales team busy with the work that matters most: generating revenue. By adopting a scientific approach to your lead qualification process, you not only keep your sales team focused on revenue generation, but you stop wasting time pursuing leads that don’t turn into closed sales.