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Qualifying Leads – The Free Alternative

If your business is looking to close more deals and achieve a better ROI, you should almost certainly be employing the process of lead qualification. Although it's often woefully underused, it's a vital asset when it comes to ensuring your sales and marketing teams are targeting the right businesses.

Granted, lead qualification can be an expensive process; particularly if you're having to utilise a number of different sources of information. However, there are alternatives that will enable you to get a good overview of a company for free - here's everything you need to get the process up and running.

Why Bother?

Although it may seem counterintuitive to lose leads from your sales funnel, in the long run, it means saving your business time and money. As the chart from SalesForce below shows, the majority of B2B marketers have now come to the realisation that when it comes to leads, quality is more important than quantity.

Targeting a wide pool of businesses means more expenditure on email, ads, and phone calls, and with only a small number of those companies actually having a need for your product or service, you'll end up wasting resources by following dead ends. Besides, lead qualification doesn't necessarily mean cutting ties with potential customers altogether; you could use it to simply make a note of which leads to prioritise, or as a way of segmenting your customer lists instead, so you can create different groups within your lists according to different factors such as industry, budget, or location, and then market to them accordingly.

Before You Start: Know Your Ideal

Before you're able to decide whether or not to move a lead further along the sales funnel, you first need to determine exactly who is likely to be interested in your company, and therefore more likely to make a purchase. The best place to start is usually going through your previous customers and looking at those who either made frequent or high-value orders. Then work out the similarities between those businesses and use this criteria to qualify your current leads.

These similarities could be, for example, things like industry, location, the size of the company, their budget, or their number of employees. Don't assume you already know this information; taking the time to have a more in-depth look at your past clients can often throw up revelations that you weren't aware of; for example, you might be targeting a specific industry without realising that a large proportion of your clients are actually in a different sector.

If you're a new company, or you haven't had a substantial number of customers so far, you can look at your competitors to get an idea of the types of customers they sell to, or even if there's a specific niche that you notice they're not currently serving.

Getting Hold of the Data

Once you know the criteria that you want to use to qualify your leads, the next step is finding enough information on each company to be able to make a judgment. If your leads were acquired through inbound techniques such as landing pages and double opt-in sign ups, you may already have a basic amount of company information, such as industry and location.

In order to gain enough data to really be able to make a fair assessment though, you ideally need to take information from several different sources. This not only gives you a more complete picture of the company in question, it also means you can check the data for inaccuracies.

The majority of this information can be researched via sources such as:

· Company Databases – By far the quickest and easiest solution is to search for a company using a reputable directory such as Global Database, as these will have information from a variety of sources compiled in one place. Although many company intelligence providers charge for access to their data, Global Database also provides company insights completely free of charge.

· Company Websites – Aside from a company directory, the company's own website is often a good place to start. Check out their 'about us' section or corporate pages which should offer details such as location, industry and company size, although the downside here is that a bit of guesswork might be involved if they're not too forthcoming about certain details.

· Annual Reports – Check if the company has published an annual report, which will often contain more detailed information on how the company is fairing and its aims going forward. Bear in mind though, that as it's come from the company itself it's not exactly without bias.

· Companies House – The government's agency for registering UK companies makes basic information available to the public.

· Articles – You can search to see if the target company has been mentioned in the press, and if so whether the article contains any useful information.

· Direct Contact – If your search has been rather fruitless you could always try reaching out directly to the company – although you'll potentially have to answer their own questions as to why you're making enquiries.

If you've searched for a few companies and aren't getting the level of insight you need to qualify your leads, it might be worth looking into a paid option on a company database. Unlike the free data available, you'll have a much more in-depth picture of a business; for example, subscribers to Global Database's paid option gain direct contact details, detailed financials and credit scores and advanced filtering tools. Ultimately it's down to you to decide whether your business will get enough use out of a subscription to make it worthwhile.

To Sum Up...

While lead qualification can be seen as a hassle, it's definitely worth doing in order to make your marketing efforts as efficient as possible. Manually seeking out all of the data required can easily become time-consuming and tedious, so a better option for most businesses would be to make use of a database offering company information for free. There are limitations to these services, so considering a paid option might be a good idea.