There’s no doubt that leads are what fuel your business. That’s why most companies work furiously to generate as many leads as possible.

However, the number of leads you generate doesn’t make much difference if they aren’t worthwhile ones.

For example, let’s say that you help solar panel companies land more clients. Would you rather have 20 leads with little money or 1 lead that indicates they’re willing to spend money to build their business?

Generating more leads only really matters once you’ve dialed in the quality. One of the best ways to do that is to qualify your leads.

What is lead qualification?

Lead qualification is the process of determining which of your leads are a good fit for your product or service. These leads have the means to buy your product and are interested in getting started soon. They live in an area that you can service.

The process of qualifying leads differs based on a company’s size, needs, and resources. The most effective qualifying processes can do most of the work automatically, and there’s often a multi-step process.

MQLs vs SQLs

There are two types of qualified leads: marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and sales qualified leads (SQLs). 


As you can probably guess from the name, MQLs are leads that go through a qualifying process set up by the marketing department. The qualified ones move on to the sales team, while the rest usually stay in the marketing funnel for more nurturing.

Generally, the marketing department's qualifying process is done on a larger scale and on autopilot using tools. This is often done by asking questions on the opt-in form to collect data for lead qualification.

MQLs are lower-quality leads than SQLs. In a perfect world, you’d deliver only incredible leads to the sales team that are willing to buy. However, because you’re dealing with a larger quantity and relying on pre-built rules and automation, it’s impossible to create a flexible and comprehensive system to measure each person.


After an MQL is passed on to the sales team, they further qualify the lead to determine whether it’s worth continuing the conversation. At that point, it becomes an SQL.

This is often done through a series of questions asked over the phone. Because of the one-on-one nature, it’s easier to get a feel for the lead and to really understand their situation and needs. SQLs are higher quality leads than MQLs but require more resources and effort.

The SQL process can be done at the beginning of the sales call or in a 2-part process. Some sales teams have a “setter” who qualifies the lead before scheduling a phone call with the “closer.”

Benefits of lead qualification

Without a lead qualification process, you’ll have a frustrated sales team with a low close rate. Here are a few of the primary benefits of an effective lead qualifying process:

  1. Better close rate - The most obvious benefit to your company’s bottom line is that better leads close at a higher rate.
  2. More focused marketing - Identifying your ideal lead can help the marketing team know where to allocate their resources.
  3. Fewer wasted resources - Sales teams that waste away their days with poorly qualified prospects lead to lost opportunity costs and frustrated reps.  
  4. Motivated sales team - When too many leads in the dialing system are low quality, the reps treat all leads like they’re low quality. The reverse is true as well.
  5. Flexible sales pitch - The process of generating SQLs also gives you insight into their background and main issues. Sales reps can design their pitch around that information rather than sticking with rigid scripts.

How to qualify a lead in 6 steps

Here are the steps to building a lead qualification process for your sales team.

1. Create your ideal customer profile (ICP)

The first (and perhaps most important) step is to determine exactly the customer you want to target. A basic ICP will likely include the following:

  • Location
  • Industry
  • Job title
  • Team size
  • Revenue
  • Other intent signals

Of course, you’ll also need to tailor this to your specific industry. For example, if you offer data security to companies, you’ll want to know about their technical infrastructure. If you lend money to businesses, you’ll want to know more about their financial situation.

Then, you’ll also want deeper insights, such as:

  • Pain points
  • Timeline for getting started
  • If they are the decision-maker
  • Business structure (for example, if you sell coaching for sales teams, but your prospect runs an e-commerce site, they won’t be right for you)

Plenty more can be included, and the idea here is to go deep. At this point, it’s better to have too much than too little, and you can whittle the list down as you go.

If your company is relatively new, you’ll make educated guesses about your ICP. Once you have more data, you can make adjustments.

2. Set up a lead-scoring system

Lead scoring means assigning values to data or actions your leads take. Here are a few examples:

  • +10 points for a team size over 15.
  • +20 points if company review exceeds $1 million.
  • +50 points for requesting a free demo.
  • -20 if their timeline to get started is 3+ months.
  • Immediate disqualification if they don’t live in an area that you service.

When your leads hit a certain point threshold, they become an MQL and are passed on to the sales team. You can do lead scoring for SQLs, but that’s less common. At that point, the salesperson usually focuses more on a good conversation than a point scale.

Many companies run their lead scoring on a “yes/no” basis because they may not need a more complicated solution.

For example, consider a door-to-door pest control salesman. Their lead qualifying process is “Does this person live in a house?” If the answer is “yes,” they ring the doorbell.

3. Generate leads

Now, it’s time to start generating the leads. With an ICP on hand, it’s easier to know where to focus your efforts.

For example, a content marketing strategy is easier to create because you can pick topics that appeal to your leads. Or, you can run Facebook ads with a better understanding of how to target the right people.

On the actual form where a person becomes a lead, you can ask some of the qualifying questions right there, such as income, location, company size, and more.

Of course, that depends on your company’s goals and industry. The more complex your solution (and higher the price point), the more information you can usually collect from leads upfront without turning them away.

Read Our 2023 Niche Insights Report

Discover the industries our customers are targeting this year.

4. Automate MQL process

If you’re dealing with a decent quantity of leads, you’ll have to figure out how to automate some of your processes. We mentioned one in the previous section, and that’s to have an opt-in form that asks some of the qualifying questions.

You’ll likely need to use software to automatically do the lead scoring. Many customer relationship management tools (CRMs) have this function. When a new lead comes in, it analyzes the data and assigns a score. You can also have new actions (such as calling in or opening an email) contribute to their score as well.

When a certain score is achieved, the lead is automatically passed to the sales team. With a system like this in place, the marketing team can handle almost unlimited numbers of leads.

5. Qualify leads on a sales call

Hopefully, only leads with a decent chance of closing are being passed onto the sales team. But you’re not done qualifying them yet. There’s a huge difference between getting some information on a form and having a real conversation with them.

In addition, many people aren’t completely honest on a form when they’re more likely to tell the truth on a phone call.

Many sales teams like to have the rep confirm the information they filled out on the form to ensure they’re still talking to a good lead. Furthermore, asking these questions again will almost certainly lead to more context. 

Then, you can dig deeper, especially into their pain points. At that point, it’s much easier to position your product or service as the solution.

6. Review and tweak

You’ll never be able to nail your perfect ICP and lead scoring on the first try. However, you’ll eventually collect enough data to make informed tweaks.

For example, let’s say you’ve closed 500 deals since you began taking your lead qualification process seriously. Your CRM should allow you to download your customers’ data into a single spreadsheet.

From there, you can determine what actions or information your customers most have in common.

For example, if you determine that 80% of your sales are to companies with more than 50 employees, you might want to assign more points to leads who fall in that category.

Or, if 98% of your closed deals come from leads with a lead score over 100, that’s a pretty easy adjustment you can make. 

Starting with high-quality leads

While qualifying leads is incredibly important, that process becomes much easier if you start with generating the right kind of leads.

Once you’ve created your ICP, you should focus on generating leads that most closely follow what you’re looking for. Again, quality is more important than quantity—although once you nail down quality, then you can work on generating as many of those leads as possible.

With Coldlytics, you can take your ICP and generate lists of leads that meet your specific parameters. These lists essentially serve as MQLs, as you’ll already know that they fit the quality standard you’re looking for.

You can create a free account today and play around with the parameters. You’ll be amazed at how specific you can make your list—and you only pay when you decide to buy.

Quality data for cold email, phone, or direct mail. Researched on demand.

Your perfect prospects in 24 hours.

Businesses worldwide are igniting their sales pipe with Coldlytics.
Be one of them.

How about a call?


Let me show you how to acquire customers and light up your sales pipe with Coldlytics.

I've ran successful outbound sales campaigns for countless businesses, and I want to share my knowledge with you.

Zero obligation. What are you waiting for?
- Matt

Book a Demo