How To Generate Qualified Leads That Actually Convert To Sales

You don’t want just any leads.

You want qualified leads that are highly likely to convert to paying customers. But how can you attract more of them?

Here’s what we are going to discuss today:

  • Why you should stop chasing quantity and focus on quality instead.
  • How to optimize the top of your sales funnel for lead quality.
  • How to identify the most promising leads with lead scoring and disqualify leads with qualification frameworks.

Ready to start generating leads that actually convert to sales?

Continue reading…

The Lead Generation Dilemma Every Marketer Needs To Face

In his article “Facebook Lead Ads vs. Landing Pages: Which Is Better? [Data]”, senior SEO specialist at WordStream, Gordon Donnelly, discusses a dilemma that every marketer faces when generating leads: quality vs. quantity.

“The real issue here is not, are conversion campaigns more effective than lead generation campaigns?

It’s that Facebook lead gen seems to exist on this spectrum where the more we focus on increasing lead volume, the more we run the risk of losing quality; vice versa, the more we focus on quality, the more we run the risk of losing volume,” explains Gordon.

marketing campaign quality and volume arrow diagram

While he was talking about Facebook advertising, this applies to any lead generation method. There’s always a trade-off between quantity and quality. But which one of them is more important?

Why You Should Stop Chasing Quantity and Focus on Quality Instead

You have probably heard the term “vanity metrics” before. These are metrics that do not have a direct impact on your bottom line.

They are called vanity metrics because there’s a temptation to focus on improving them just because it makes you feel good, not because it helps to increase your revenue.

Is the number of leads a vanity metric? It depends on whether they are qualified or unqualified leads. But what’s the difference between the two?

  • Qualified leads are your ideal customers: they know that they have a problem, they are aware that you are offering a solution, and they can afford to pay for that solution.
  • Unqualified leads are not your ideal customers: they may not be aware that they have a problem, they may be unsure of what you are offering, and they may not be able to afford the solution.

It goes without saying that qualified leads convert to paying customers at a much higher rate.

Moreover, they make better customers, since they tend to be less likely to ask for a refund, need less support, and are more open to your other offers.

Of course, an unqualified lead may turn into a qualified lead over time, whether through becoming more aware of the problem, or learning more about what you offer, or simply improving their financial situation.

“So what’s the harm in getting their contact details then?” you may be wondering. “Who knows, maybe they’ll end up buying from me eventually.

But you need to consider the fact that you have limited resources. Your time, energy, and money are finite. So when you spend these resources on acquiring unqualified leads, you have less resources left to invest in acquiring qualified leads.

And since qualified leads convert better, this means that you are missing out on potential revenue.

In other words, unqualified leads are costing you money, which is something that you can’t afford if you are serious about growing your business.

Example: Noah Kagan Saved 47% on His Email Bill by Pruning His Email List

When Noah Kagan, the founder of AppSumo and Sumo, saw his MailChimp bill, it made him sick. “$700?! No thanks,” he thought to himself.

monthly email bill showing money  saved

At the time, they had around 105,000 subscribers on their main email list. But on average, only 19% of their subscribers would open and 2.5% would click each email.

“This means MOST people are NOT reading our emails. And this is probably true for you, too,” explains Noah.

But email marketing service providers charge people by the total number of subscribers… So he decided that it was time to prune his email list.

He targeted “not active” subscribers that he defined as people who haven’t engaged with any of their emails in 3 months.

Noah ended up reducing his email list size from around 105,000 subscribers down to 72,000 subscribers. As a result, his email marketing bill went down by 47%, from $719 to $375 per month (savings of $4,128 per year).

“Your ego will be hurt going from 105,000 email subscribers down to 72,000 (like we did),” he says. “But at end of day, worry about results not vanity.”

This is a great example of how unqualified leads are costing you money: you not only pay to acquire them, you then pay to keep them on your email list.

It’s best to avoid acquiring unqualified leads in the first place. Of course, that is not always possible, but simply being proactive about qualifying leads can drastically increase lead quality. And that is going to have a direct impact on your bottom line.

Optimize the Top of Your Funnel To Attract Quality Leads

You need to consider the big picture if you want to generate leads that actually convert to sales.

Think about your sales funnel:

traffic marketing funnel

Lead quality depends on:

  • Traffic quality.
  • Bait quality.

In other words, you need to:

  • Drive the right kind of traffic to your sales funnel.
  • Offer them an enticing lead magnet.

Let’s take a look at each of these two key factors needed to generate quality leads.

Drive the Right Kind of Traffic To Your Sales Funnel

You want to make sure that the traffic you are driving to your sales funnel consists of your ideal customers.

You can do that by:

  • Clearly defining your target audience, then excluding everyone else.
  • Emphasizing the key benefit that your product provides.
  • Making it clear what it is that you are all about.

Note that if you drive the wrong kind of traffic to your sales funnel, then you shouldn’t expect those leads to convert to paying customers.

That’s why you need to be ruthless about targeting your ideal customers and excluding everyone else.

For example:

The previously mentioned Noah Kagan excludes women from his Facebook ads campaigns. Why?

Because when he analyzed the data, he realized that women weren’t opening his emails. So he stopped targeting them.

Here’s how Noah explains it:

“It’s not that I don’t like women. I love them! 

But the point is that they are not actually as interested in my content. 

There’s probably someone who can better share that type of content with them.

So I target my audience which is males, 25-44.”

Excluding people like that may feel uncomfortable at first, but you need to remember that you want qualified leads, so it makes sense to only go after your ideal customers.

Offer Them an Enticing Lead Magnet

Once you get the attention of your ideal customers, you need to then give them a reason to enter your sales funnel.

You can do this by offering them bait, also known as a lead magnet, which is something that you give away for free in exchange for their email address.

This can be anything that can be downloaded or accessed online:

  • An ebook.
  • A cheat sheet.
  • An email course.
  • A video course.
  • An app.

…etc.

Keep in mind that If you want it to attract qualified leads, you need to make sure that it offers a solution to a problem that your ideal customers are struggling with that is somehow related to your product.

There’s a lot that can be said on the topic of creating a highly effective lead magnet, but ultimately it all boils down to providing a ton of value.

As we have explained in a recent Instagram post:

“Here’s what you have to understand: people ARE NOT going to give you their contact information unless you give them something super valuable in return.

popup text message with emoji

It’s probably safe to say that the #1 mistake people make when it comes to lead magnets is hastily throwing something together without putting any thought into it, then being shocked that it doesn’t convert as well as they had hoped.

You need to approach creating your lead magnet the same way that you would approach creating a paid product.

In fact, your lead magnet should be so good that you could charge money for it if you wanted to, you just choose not to.

How To Know Exactly Who Your Ideal Customers Are

There’s always quite a bit of guesswork involved in starting a business.

You need to make educated guesses about who your target audience is, what problems they are struggling with, and how to solve those problems.

But once you launch a business, data starts coming in. You should use that data to refine those initial assumptions.

And when it comes to knowing who your ideal customers are, once you have enough data, you don’t have to guess anymore. You can simply see who’s buying your products.

You should look at the people who have already purchased something from you and ask yourself:

  • Who are they?
  • How did they find out about my business?
  • What made them buy my products?

Once you have those answers, you can adjust your marketing to target people who are similar to your existing customers, since they are the ones most likely to convert.

Note that this isn’t something that you do once. It’s a never-ending process of continuously refining your understanding of your target audience. You should always be gathering data, analyzing that data, and then tweaking your marketing strategy accordingly.

Why You Need To Add Just the Right Amount of Friction

There’s a common lead generation advice that says that you should remove any and all friction if you want to attract leads.

In other words, you want to make it as easy as possible for the potential customer to give you their contact information. Get rid of everything that stands in their way.

The reasoning behind this is that when people are using the Internet, they tend to be extremely distracted, so if getting your lead magnet requires even the slightest amount of effort, they’ll simply leave and won’t come back.

The issue with this approach is that it is optimizing for quantity. Sure, you’ll get more leads that way…

But is someone who would be so easily discouraged from downloading your lead magnet really your ideal customer? Probably not.

Of course, it may also be the case that your lead magnet is simply not good enough, which is why people can’t be bothered to download it.

But the point is that introducing just the right amount of friction to the opt-in process can help you increase lead quality.

For example:

  • Ask for their name as well as for their email address.
  • Use regular Facebook ads instead of Facebook lead ads.
  • Ask them to confirm their email before you send them their freebie.

After all, it stands to reason that someone who:

  • Has a problem.
  • Is aware that they have a problem. 
  • Wants to get a free solution to that problem.

…will be willing to type in their name, click on an ad, or open an email and click on a confirmation link.

Example: Facebook Lead Ads vs. Landing Pages

Facebook offers a type of ad that is designed for lead generation called lead ads.

It allows people to fill out an opt-in form without leaving the platform, with just a few taps on their smartphone screen (Facebook pre-fills it with the information pulled from their account).

The idea is that it’s easier to subscribe to an email list that way as opposed to clicking on a regular ad, going to a landing page, then typing in the information.

WordStream did a study to see what converts better: lead ads or regular ads that send people to a landing page.

They analyzed over 3,000 campaigns and about $9.5 million in ad spend over the course of 60 days.

They focused on two metrics:

  • Conversion rate.
  • Cost per action.

Here are the results:

Lead generation versus conversion campaign chart

“So while cost per action was higher, the takeaway here is that lead generation campaigns convert to leads (from clicks) at a 2.07% higher rate than conversion campaigns. Which, due to the more streamlined user flow, is something we expected!” explains the previously mentioned Gordon Donelly.

WordStream then did another study where they analyzed their own data throughout the same 60-day time period to determine which lead generation method resulted in higher quality leads.

Here are the results:

lead generation campaign versus conversion campaign chart for 60 days

WordStream concluded that:

  • Lead ads were more effective at converting clicks to leads.
  • Regular ads that sent people to landing pages were more effective at generating quality leads at a lower cost.
landing page or lead ads quality or volume arrow diagram

As you can see, the additional friction involved in showing people regular ads, then sending them to a landing page works in your favor, provided that you are optimizing for lead quality.

Lead Scoring

We have already discussed the importance of analyzing data to identify your ideal customers and adjusting your marketing strategy accordingly.

There’s also something called lead scoring that allows you to assign a value to each lead based on how likely they are to convert so that you could then prioritize reaching out to the most promising leads.

Companies that sell low-touch products that don’t require salespeople to reach out to leads don’t necessarily need to use lead scoring, but it’s essential for businesses that sell high-touch, expensive products and have dedicated sales teams.

When that’s the case, you don’t want your salespeople to waste their time calling up leads who are unlikely to buy, so you need to put a solid lead scoring system in place.

Here’s the main idea behind lead scoring:

  • You analyze the conversion rate of all your leads.
  • You identify the attributes that leads who have converted to paying customers have in common.
  • You then assign each new lead a score based on their attributes. The more attributes they share with the leads who have converted to paying customers, the higher score you assign to them.

Your sales team then prioritizes leads with the highest lead scores.

This may sound super complicated, but it can all be automated with machine learning. You just need the right software.

Sales Qualification

When you have a sales team that reaches out to the most promising leads and schedules sales calls with them, you need to make sure that they know how to quickly disqualify leads that are unlikely to convert.

There are several qualification frameworks that can help with this:

  • BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline). A salesperson using this framework seeks to figure out whether the lead has the budget required, the authority to make the decision, an actual need for the product, and is able to make the purchase within a reasonable timeframe.
  • ANUM (Authority, Need, Urgency, Money). Similar to BANT, a salesperson using this framework seeks to figure out whether the lead has the authority to make the decision, an actual need for the product, urgently wants a solution, and can afford the product in question. 
  • FAINT (Funds, Authority, Interest, Needs, Timing).  A salesperson using this framework seeks to figure out whether the lead has the funds required, the authority to make the decision, is interested in the solution in question, needs that solution, and intends to buy within a reasonable timeframe.

There are quite a few other frameworks including CHAMP (Challenges, Authority, Money, Prioritization) and MEDICC (Metrics, Economic Buyer, Decision Criteria, Decision Process, Identify Pain, Champion).

But the point of all these frameworks is to quickly disqualify leads so that the salesperson wouldn’t waste their valuable time on someone who was never going to buy anyway.

It makes sense to research these frameworks, decide which one is most suitable for your business, then provide your sales team with training.

It’s also worth noting that there’s often a psychological barrier to disqualifying leads. It may feel counterintuitive to reject someone who has expressed an interest in your product.

But you need to remind yourself that if you have a solid framework for disqualifying leads, then you aren’t losing anything because they were never going to buy anyway.

Moreover, there’s also the limited resources issue that we have discussed at the beginning of this article.

The more time, energy and money you spend on low-quality leads, the less time, energy, and money you have left for high-quality leads.

It’s important to always remember that your resources are finite and that you need to manage them wisely if you want to get anywhere in business (or in life, for that matter).

Conclusion

You need to resist the siren song of vanity metrics.

Sure, saying “I have 1,000,000 email subscribers” sounds cool, but it’s not the number of leads that is important. What matters is how likely are they to convert to paying customers.

Because if you have an email list with 1,000,000 subscribers, but they don’t care about whatever it is that you are selling, then it’s just an expensive ego boost.

So make a commitment to always focus on quality instead of quantity when it comes to lead generation.

You don’t want just anyone’s contact details. You want the contact details of your ideal customers.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Drive the right traffic to your sales funnel.
  • Offer your ideal customers a lead magnet so valuable that they would be crazy to say no to it. 
  • Put a lead scoring system in place so that your sales team could prioritize the most promising leads.
  • Pick a sales qualification framework and then teach it to your sales team.
  • Gather data and analyze it. Who is buying your products? Make adjustments accordingly.

More qualified leads means more paying customers, more paying customers mean higher revenue, higher revenue means more profit.

And more profit means more money for you.