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Marketing Qualification Stages

The following is an excerpt from: James Obermayer, Managing Sales Leads: Turning Cold Prospects Into Hot Customers, (Mason, Ohio, Textere an imprint of Thomson/South-Western, 2007) and Racom Books, Page 108

Marketing Process Prior to Inquiry Distribution


Marketing Qualification Stages 1

Figure 1

Once inquiries have been accepted into the company by marketing – the company has eliminated the duplicates, has gotten rid of competitive inquiries, has checked to see if the person has inquired on the same product in the last 30 days, and has dropped the inquiries from Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck – they can then be graded according to the applicable business rules. The inquiries will emerge as either suspects or prospects. Suspects are considered unqualified inquiries, and prospects are those that have reached a higher level of confidence so that their potential for a near-term sale can be taken seriously.

The marketing manager has two choices. One, he can send the unqualified suspect to the salesperson and let him or her deal with it. Two, he can send it into a nurture process and withhold the inquirer from the sales team until it is qualified and is considered a prospect or declared dead (see Figure1).

Suspect: Nothing is known about a suspect except name, company, address, and product of interest. There are few answers to profile questions that qualify this person so they receive a low numerical grade level, a letter grade of C or D, or a low temperature rating of cool or cold. These inquiries are often from advertising and public relations sources where you can't ask questions in order to understand the prospects needs.

If a person sees your advertisement or press release and circles reader service number, you will most likely get the least information concerning a suspect's propensity to buy. Be careful not to call these kinds of inquirers "unqualified." While that may be an apt description, unqualified to the salespeople will often translate into non-buyers who are not worth their time to follow up. And you do want them to follow up to determine whether the inquirer is indeed a non-buyer or an active prospect.

Prospect: This person has answered profile questions in a positive manner and has attained a high numerical grade – a grade B level or higher, or a temperature grade of hot or warm. Sometimes prospects are interchangeable with the term qualified. Regardless, the prospect is a person who has answered profile questions, so that you can screen the person's need sufficiently to understand their intent to buy and their degree of seriousness. These are called qualified inquiries.

Nurture Stage: This is where low-level suspects (not a sufficiently high grade level to be called a lead) are sent. Nurturing is done by:

  1. An inside lead qualification department; this can be marketing and telemarketers that pursue, qualify and nurture the inquiry until the person says, "Send in your salesperson."
  2. Inside Sales.
  3. An outside inquiry management/telemarketing vendor.

Dead: An inquiry can be dead on arrival in marketing for many reasons, but by going through the nurture stage, it is found to be a non-buyer. Resolution designations are used at this stage to close out the inquiry and to give it a final grade for marketing reports. We cover the resolution codes later but most of then are:

  1. No interest.
  2. Information only.
  3. Could not contact.
  4. Bought other (could happen before sales can reach them).
  5. Remarket: worth going into a file for on-going communications.

In most instances about 25% of the inquiries are screened out and never reach the salesperson. Of course, the majority of inquiries will die later- in the sales stages but it also can happen earlier-in marketing. If it dies later in the sales stages, the prospect bought from a competitor or didn't make a decision.



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