The Forward Observer

B2B: How to Close Your Sales Qualified Leads

Are you faltering at the goal line when it comes to closing sales qualified leads? The B2B sales lead game has changed. Here’s how you can score big.

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Anyone who has been in a sales situation is familiar with this situation.

It’s the sure thing. It’s first and goal. You’re about to score.

The prospect says they love what you’re offering, they have a budget and plan to move ahead. They just need to “think it over.”

And then, it slips away – you seem to have nothing but the prospect’s voicemail.

What happened?

First, let’s review the three different kinds of leads as your prospective customer moves through their B2B buyer journey from awareness to consideration to a decision:

  1. Information Qualified Lead (IQL)
  2. Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)
  3. Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)

the buyers journey

Information Qualified Lead (IQL)

When a lead first converts, they are often providing their contact information in return for some type of useful information, also known as a top-of-the-funnel offer. Examples include an ebook, whitepaper or tip sheet. The buyer is usually just beginning to research the solution to a problem. They usually don’t know your company and how you can help.

Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)

Through automated lead nurturing and the delivery of timely content mapped to their buying journey, let’s say that IQL becomes interested in how your company might be able to solve the problem for which they have been researching a solution. They download information about your company and how you can help solve their problem.  At that point you have a marketing qualified lead. The lead is now warm.

Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)

To help an MQL advance to the decision stage you offer more timely content and things like free trials, demos, free consultations, estimates/quotes or coupons. When the MQL raises their hand and moves to the decision stage, you now have a sales qualified lead. The lead is hot.

Sales Has Changed

A sales qualified lead is different from other leads. It is also different from the leads of years past.

For a long time, when a buyer was doing product research, they had to contact the seller early in the process. Only the seller could provide most of the product information that was needed to make a buying decision.

Now with the Internet, buyers can do a lot of their research without having to contact the seller. According to a study from Corporate Executive Board, buyers are now 57%-70% through their research before first contacting the seller.

So in the past, a sales person was able to engage a buyer much earlier in the process and guide the seller from awareness to consideration to decision. But now, the buyer is contacting the sales person much later in their journey. And the buyer is much more educated about the purchase.

This has changed how sales are now closed. In the past, solution selling was king. Sales people would diagnose customer needs, align them to their product and then sell the solution.

Now, the buyers are defining the solutions themselves using their own research data. A sales person who is trying to sell to this type of sales qualified lead using the old solutions approach will falter.

Dan Tyre, HubSpot

Dan Tyre, HubSpot

To get a front line dispatch from the marketing trenches about these changes, I spoke with Dan Tyre, HubSpot’s Sales Director.

Dan, who has the most positive attitude in the world, said “selling is easier than it’s ever been before, but you have to do your homework.”

Dan Tyre on Sales Today


To succeed now, salespeople need to be “much more consultative, demonstrate a deep understanding of customer problems and build trust.” Sales people now need to be more like physicians, they “need to do a complete diagnosis at the early stage of the sales pursuit.”

Dan shared with me five tips to help close the modern, sales qualified lead:

1. Be Mentally Prepared

With an SQL, sales people need to remember that they are dealing with a more qualified and better-informed lead. The lead has shown an interest in your company’s product or service, and indicated a willingness to engage with you in order to make a buying decision. At this point, sales people should focus less on qualifying the lead and instead have an attitude of “this guy’s going to close by my helping him solve his problem!” That attitude will give you more confidence and convey subliminal cues that will significantly increase the odds that you will close.

2. Be Professionally Prepared

There’s more information about prospects available to sales people now than ever before. Use it all! The night before (when you can actually review), dig into search engines, website visitor data, LinkedIn and other social media, CRM, etc. Build a picture of who this person is so that you can more quickly build trust with them. Sales people who wait until the last minute to prepare will reduce their closing percentages.

3. Be Respectful Of A Prospect’s Time, Position And Needs

Remember that while you have a vested interest in making a sale, it’s not about you and your company. It’s all about solving the prospect’s problem! And remember that while an effective lead scoring system may indicate the prospect is sales qualified, the scoring metric might not always be accurate. You will probably need to back up your thesis with data and facts, and provide information that reinforces your case.

4. Add Value From The First 10 Seconds

A great way to open a call is to reference the information a prospect has already downloaded from your site and ask “What were you looking for help with?” That gives you an opportunity to immediately start adding value around the problem that the prospect has already identified as a priority (and keeps the focus on the prospect, not the sales person and their product features). This should enable you to better understand the prospect’s challenges and more quickly obtain “trusted advisor” status.

5. Ask More Than Tell – For Professional Discovery

Using good questioning skills should help you diagnose the problem and the potential solution more effectively. You should be in good shape if you let the prospect do most of the talking so that you can diagnose the real pain you’re being asked to solve. If you’re dealing with a sales qualified lead and you don’t know what their pain is, you’re probably in trouble. Some of the best sales questions are “why?” and “what is the implication of continuing to do that?”

Your turn: What tips do you have for closing sales qualified leads?

photo credit: West Point - The U.S. Military Academy via photopin cc

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