We all know the importance of turning to your network for referrals, and we especially know that the best businesses are built on relationships (after all, it’s what we built our business on!) But, how often do you consider your network of contacts as prospective leads? You may want to give them a shot because statistics have shown that only about 25% of leads convert to actual sales.

While we don’t recommend or suggest that all of your contacts could be considered as qualified sales leads, there’s a good chance that a few of them may be, but you’ll need to weed them out first. So before you sign your mom up as your latest customer, take a second…or at least 5 minutes to truly qualify your contacts and discover that a few new customers have been hiding in your contact list this whole time.

Start qualifying your contacts…

Sales Dating

Qualifying leads is like the dating part of the sales process… before you get married to your client. While the final result is generally the same, whether a lead is considered qualified or not, the way people get there (that crucial dating process) can be very different across industries. Qualifying a lead shows sales that this person fits the profile of your ideal customer and will have a higher chance of closing.

But before you go out and start analyzing your contacts, you need to understand what the differences are between qualified and cold leads…

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For example, Realtors are looking for leads that want to buy a home, but don’t we all know someone who’s ‘looking to buy’ all the time? Realtors need to weed those folks out quickly before they waste their precious time on people who may not be terribly serious about making the home purchase anytime soon.

Real estate agents may find themselves asking contacts or leads about how long they’ve been looking, if they’ve been pre-approved for a loan, or if they’re working with another agent or broker. The answers to these simple questions can be more revealing than you may think, and more importantly could give a real estate agent whether the contacts are qualified and really ready to buy a home from them.

Cold Leads

You’ve probably been at the receiving end of a cold call before and it probably felt very random and annoying. Cold leads are people you reach out to who haven’t shown any interest in you or your business. They’re a shot in the dark and it would be very lucky if you reached out to one and they ended up being qualified.

Hot Leads

This is quite the opposite of cold (obviously) and these are folks at the beginning of your pipeline or sales cycle and have shown interest in your business or have been referred to you by a client or friend. They’ve given you their information and they want to learn more about what you do, there’s a good chance they’ll become a valuable qualified lead.

Qualified Leads

This is what you want! These leads are the perfect fit, your sales soulmate. To be technical, a qualified lead fits your qualifications for a customer; they’ve shown interest in what you do and you provide what they need. They’ve likely come to you through a direct search and they’re ready to make a purchase from you or utilize your service in the very near future.

5 Minutes to Qualify your Contacts

Taking the time to go through the process of qualifying your leads or contacts will determine whether it’s worth your time and energy to reach out to these contacts and give them your best sales pitch. Nearly half of all LinkedIn users have over 500 connections. That’s a good amount of contacts you may not have considered as qualified leads and who may be worth a second look!

Test out these steps as you scroll through your contact list and see if you discover any qualified contacts. Plus as you go through, you may just discover a couple contacts who could also be helpful for giving you referrals or future business.

1. Who are they?

If you take a look at your list of contacts, it probably ranges from your grandma to your college roommate and everyone in between. It’s safe to say that most of these contacts wouldn’t be a qualified sales lead, but are you sure about that? Take a second look and assess who they are. Ask yourself a few key questions as you perform your quick assessment, what do they do for a living? Are they in a position to make a decision? Do they have a business problem that needs solving? These should start to narrow down your contact list substantially.

2. Are they relevant?

This is key. Your contact may be in the position to make a decision and they may align with you on the time frame, but are you the solution to their problem? Here’s where you need to be really honest with yourself. You may want their need to fit with what you can provide them but it may not work out. At the end of the day, it’s not worth it to put in that work, time, and energy for a sale that will most likely fall through. Be critical in your assessment and understand that it’s not a failure if it’s not a fit!

3. Have they expressed interest?

If they fall into the relevant category then it may be good to recall if they’ve ever expressed interest in the service you provide. Yes, that goes well beyond the classic catch-up ‘what do you do, again?’ polite question. If your contact has a general understanding of what you do and hasn’t expressed interest in working with you or finding out more about it, they may have considered working with you and ruled it out. Don’t be discouraged! They may be worth a gentle prod or reminder with more details of what you do, or perhaps they just hadn’t thought about it at all. Be proactive and give your contacts a reminder of why they’re relevant and what you could offer them.

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4. Reach out!

The final step to truly qualifying your contacts is reaching out and asking them. Across all industries, the qualifying process requires you to ask your leads a series of questions to determine how serious their interest level is. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t do the same for your contacts as you qualify them. Shoot them a quick email or give them a call and let them know that you thought of them as a possible client. Be sure to acknowledge that you’re aware of how working with friends could potentially cause awkwardness but refer them to other customers or friends you’ve worked with in the past to assuage any fears they may have.

Get Qualifying!

You know the steps, you know the questions, and you now have the power to assess your contacts. Whether you’re scrolling through the contacts on your phone, or taking a second look at your LinkedIn connections, chances are you’ll discover that your college roommate may be a qualified lead after all! Be critical with these assessments and don’t fall into the trap of over-qualifying your contacts that eventually won’t follow-through when it comes to the sale.