What Is A "Qualified Sales Lead"?

Everywhere you look -- on the Internet, in your mail, in magazines and at trade shows -- people are selling "qualified sales leads." Most of what you see aren't really sales leads at all; they're just mailing lists. And most of the rest aren't "qualified." So when you're shopping around for solutions to your revenue problem, how do you know what to do?

First we need to answer the question: What is a "qualified sales lead?" According to "The Fundamentals of Selling" by Charles Futrell:

Prospecting is the first step in the selling process. A prospect is a qualified person or business that has the potential to buy your product or service... A prospect should not be confused with a "lead." The name of a person or business who might be a prospect is referred to as a lead. A lead can also be referred to as a "suspect," indicating the person or business is suspected of being a prospect. Once the lead has been "qualified," the lead becomes a prospect.

In other words, a "lead" is a suspect, whereas a "qualified lead" is a prospect -- and there's a BIG difference. (And, by the way, JV/M only sells "qualified leads.")

Futrell goes on to ask seven questions to determine if the person or business is a qualified prospect, some of the same questions we ask when we're on the phone with your suspects, trying to turn them into prospects.

  1. Does this individual or business need my services or products?
  2. Does this individual or business perceive a need or problem that may be satisfied by my product or service?
  3. Does the individual or business have a sincere desire to fulfill this need or solve this problem?
  4. Can this person's desire to fulfill needs or solve problems be converted into a belief that my product is needed?
  5. Does this individual or business have the financial resources to pay?
  6. Does this individual have the authority to buy?
  7. Is this potential prospect's purchase large enough to be profitable?

These are the questions that we ask, and that you should ask, in the prospect qualification process (which is the bulk of the lead generation process.) And if someone offers to sell you "qualified leads" and can't answer these questions, then it's not a qualified lead. The following table shows how the differences are reflected in the alternative "leads services" available in the market, and what it means to you.

What You See/Hear Sources What You Get
Get over 14 Million Sales Leads! There are two primary vendors who sell lists containing every company in the US: D+B and infoUSA. Both sources are excellent -- for what they give you. Most list brokers are just resellers for D+B or infoUSA. Simply put: These are NOT sales leads. Lists that you get from D+B and infoUSA are just that -- lists of companies. You can "qualify" the subset of names that you buy by imposing selection criteria (such as SIC Code, size, geography, sales or employees,) but that DOES NOT make it a sales lead, nor does it make it qualified. You still have to contact the company to find a need, or stimulate interest. Expect to convert much less than 1% of these into prospects.
Construction Sales Leads!

New Businesses Sales Leads!
Most of these so-called leads are offered by regional business journals. They are based on publicly available information on new business incorporations, real estate listings and construction permits. If your products sell specifically to new businesses, or business that are moving, then these ads are targeted to you. Arguably, these can be called "sales leads," but they are not "qualified sales leads." You have no idea if the person has a need, is interested, has money to spend, can make a decision, or even wants to talk to you. You have to call them, work it, and turn them into a prospect with an effective sales call. Expect conversion rates (from suspect to prospect,) to be in the 1-2% range, assuming you sell something they need.
Technology Sales Leads!

Insurance Sales Leads!

Even though these sound like the Construction and New Business Sales leads above, they're really quite different. These type of leads come from companies who survery particular industries or buyers to see if they're in the market for a particular commodity. These are slightly more qualified than a mailing list because you know that the company has a need, but they are not true "qualified sales leads." The big problem with these is that there are 40 other companies who know about it, too. So if the company ever actually buys something, it's probably not going to be from you, and they'll probably beat the heck out of the price. Even if the list vendor only sells the lead to two or three competitors, your chances of making a profit are virtually nil. (Note criteria #7 above.)
Mailing Lists/
Sales Leads!
Anyone who uses "mailing lists" and "sales leads" in the same promotion is really only selling mailing lists. These are completely unqualified. A mailing list is not a sales lead. You have to produce and send the mailing, which can cost thousands of dollars.
Email Addresses/
Sales Leads!
Many companies harvest corporate email addresses, and sell them as "qualified sales leads". Some will even send the emails. Besides these not being sales leads at all, please do not SPAM B2B. You will ruin your company's reputation, and you will not get any business out of the program.
Magazine Leads! Many journals, magazines and newspapers now promote their ad space as "qualified sales leads" because they will provide "bingo cards" from respondents. These are the same "bingo cards" that magazines have been providing for a hundred years. Are they sales leads? Sometimes. But 90% of them are students and tire-kickers, and you still have to run the ads.

As you can see, a qualified sales lead is yours, and yours alone. But more importantly, a qualified sales lead means there's a decision-maker, who has a need, who has the authority to buy, and is willing to talk to you about how your product or service can solve his problem. And they've set up a time on their calendar to do it.

So, when is a "sales lead" not "qualified"? When it's not from JV/M.

JV/M, Inc. 1221 N. Church St. Suite 202 Moorestown, NJ 08057 Tel: 856-638-0399 Fax: 856-316-7465
EMail: Sales@JVMinc.com
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