If your company sells products or services to people or businesses, then it’s very important that you understand the difference qualified and unqualified leads. It will not just help you to sell more effectively but it will also let you know precisely what you’re getting yourself into when it comes down to stating the selling process.

Just because your company owns a contact data set doesn’t mean you should use it without any question, nor let it use you: it’s a cold, hard truth about sales.

After all, you have limited time and limited budget, so dedicating your resources into pursuing unqualified leads diverts your focus- the focus that may be better used on the qualified leads that are already in your sales pipeline.

A lead is unqualified when it doesn’t meet all or some of your identified criteria for moving the leads along in the sales pipeline. And once you classify a lead as unqualified, you need to either document its missing criteria and put it through a lead nurturing process or revisit its ability to meet your criteria.

Qualified Leads

Qualified leads are those individuals that are familiar with your company and its offerings in one way or another. Sometimes, sales and marketing teams will work on collecting qualified leads and doing some legwork for you. In other cases, you may have put in the work yourself to nail down qualified leads. Either way, qualified leads know what you are all about and are in charge of making buying decisions for their company or themselves. They also have an allocated budget to work with and have let you know what their expectations and needs are, which makes selling to them much easier.

Unqualified Leads

Unqualified leads are not familiar with your company and are usually not confident about what you offer or how it could potentially benefit them. Unqualified leads, on the other hand, are not familiar with you or your company and are usually not confident about what you offer or how it could potentially benefit them. They don’t really know exactly what they are looking for and they also don’t have a budget that will allow them to purchase a product or service from you anyway. This can make it very complex to work out a deal with them since you will be fighting an uphill battle, and most of the times it won’t even be worth all of the trouble that it will take to convince them to buy your product or service.

How to compare qualified and unqualified leads?

With digital and outbound sales and marketing, your goal is to segment the leads into one of the two categories- qualified leads and unqualified leads. With help from nurture campaigns, leads can easily be switched from one category to another. But really, what’s the difference? Why isn’t a lead just a lead? Following are some of the ways to compare unqualified and qualified leads.


  • Have completed, or are in the process of completing your nurture campaign cycle.
  • Are in total control of their own buying cycle, completing their own educational research.
  • Have listed and brainstormed their exact needs in a solution.
  • Have a clearly defined budget allocated to work with and are researching solutions within their means.
  • Customers that come from qualified leads usually have lower churn rates because they close on their own terms.


  • Don’t know what they’re looking for in a solution yet.
  • Are usually not sure of what your company offers.
  • Have not been nurtured enough to close their sales cycle.
  • Your solution is out of their price range.
  • While it is possible to convert unqualified leads into customers, but the churn rate is sky-high.

So how do you more effectively identify qualified sales leads and filter out unqualified leads? You should begin with a scientific approach to your sales process to decrease your opportunity costs and increase your lead qualification efficiency. Let’s walk you through the steps of the process to qualified lead generation:

Begin With The First Contact Filter

It’s important that you have a robust first contact filter to determine the lead’s qualification when you first establish contact with a lead. Included in your first contact filter should be questions like the following;

  • Is the lead a subset of a hierarchy or part of a larger opportunity?
  • Is the target company still in business or does it still represent an opportunity?
  • Is the lead a duplicate or does it contain invalid data?
  • Is your solution a viable option for this business?

You ensure that your time is most effectively spent with only the most qualified leads after your initial conversation when these initial lead qualification questions are thorough. Not only does this save you more time later in the sales process, but it also fills your sales pipeline with only viable opportunities.

Use Additional Lead Qualification Filters

Beyond your first contact filter, your organization or any other proficient outsourced lead generation partner should apply further filters to help you sort between qualified and unqualified leads.

Identify Your Buyer Persona

A buyer persona is a necessary part of the B2B sales process, so before you begin qualifying sales leads, you need to determine the characteristics of your ideal buyer. Then measure each potential lead against your buyer persona sketch during the lead qualification process.

If you don’t understand your customers, you’ll waste your valuable time trying to follow unqualified leads. To resolve this, organizations must start by building buyer personas. A buyer persona is basically a detailed profile of an ideal customer that is based on your existing research and data. By using buyer personas, you will be able to concentrate your lead generation and prospecting efforts to ensure that you are not wasting your time and resource chasing the wrong people.

Establish sales and marketing alignment

Contrary to the belief of many, only 45% of organizations set an organization-wide definition of a sales-ready lead. It’s an age-old story: Marketing teams provide unqualified leads, sales teams continue to ignore them, and then both teams are left frustrated. So, don’t let your organization fall into such a mess.

Research has proven that organizations with strong alignment between sales and marketing teams result in improved sales numbers. Consider the following statistics;

  • Aligning marketing and sales teams result in 38% higher sales win rates.
  • Marketing and sales team alignment can help your organization become 67% better at closing deals.

Establish an open line of communication between sales and marketing teams, and get these two teams on the same page. This will greatly increase productivity and it will also save both the teams the headache of spending their time following unqualified leads.

Contact past customers

If you’re encountering problems trying to reach unqualified prospects, one quick solution may be to reach out to the people whom you have already sold in the past. It is less likely to be a waste of your time- after all; they were your qualified prospects at one time!

This is a great approach for the following two reasons;

  • They may put you in touch with other qualified prospects.
  • They may be interested in buying from you again.

There is a very small downside to reaching out to your past customers- even if they are no longer in a position to buy from you, you’ll be demonstrating that your company values its former customers.

Optimize your web forms

Perhaps your company website is your most valuable asset when it comes to qualifying potential prospects. Whenever someone visits your company website, they do so for a variety of reasons; maybe they are just browsing- but more likely, they’re trying to look into the product or service you offer.

So how do you differentiate between the ones that are qualified prospects and the uninterested website visitors?

Use your web forms to qualify the incoming leads. To get the most out of your web forms, you must establish a balance between asking for too much information but still collecting critical contact, firmographic, and demographic information.

To get the most out of your website forms, incorporate qualifying questions when appropriate. This will help your sales team prioritize colder leads vs. hotter leads.

Refine Your Marketing Content

Another area is content marketing where too many companies fall short. In fact, 65% of sales representatives say that they can’t find content to send to their prospects. And if your company falls under that percentage, then it’s time to revamp your content strategy.

However, you may create good content, but, unless it’s timed correctly, it likely to go unnoticed. So, instead of hoping for the best for your content, map your content materials to your buyer’s journey.

When you are strategic about your content creation, you can then move your prospects through the funnel, so that they are automatically qualified by the time they reach your sales team.

Use the BANT Method

The BANT method is an industry standard for pinpointing a qualified lead. The BANT acronym stands for:

  • Budget: What is the budget of this lead for a product or service like mine?
  • Authority: What is the authority of this contact at his or her company?
  • Need: How badly does this lead need my product or service?
  • Timeline: How quickly does this lead need a solution implementation?

When you filter your leads through these four standard criteria (BANT), you can easily paint a clearer picture of whether it is a qualified or unqualified lead, and whether it’s an opportunity worth following right away.

Focus On Timeline Criteria

While the timing factor is already a part of the BANT method, your sales team can qualify leads more precisely if they pay close attention to a lead’s trimmings requirement for your offering. And once you identify that the contact really needs your offering, determining the timeline of the project is important to successfully close the deal. If the timeline of a lead is more than a year away, then this lead is not as qualified as other opportunities whose timing needs are quite near in the future.

Develop Customized Filtering Criteria

None of the single criteria systems can determine qualified leads for your organization and neither can you. So, whether qualifying lead on your own or with an outsourced lead generation company, you should develop a set of customer criteria that can effectively qualify leads for your organization.

You can consider the following criteria;

  • Company size
  • Position title
  • Industry
  • Familiarity or Knowledge with your product or service
  • Other specific requirements

When you build this customized set of the lead qualification system, you ensure that that your sales leads aren’t just generically qualified, but are uniquely qualified for your offering.

Qualified leads keep your sales team busy with the work that matters the most to your company; generating revenue. And by adopting a scientific approach to your lead qualification process, you don’t just keep your sales team focused on generating revenue, but you also you stop wasting your time trying to pursue leads that don’t convert into closed deals.


The lead generation process has now become much easier with the influx of resources that are easily available to sales professionals and marketers as well- and finding qualified leads is the real challenge. So, for this reason, it’s very important that you review your strategies and ensure that you are not wasting your time on ineffective lead generation methods. Remember: it’s not about reaching as many prospects as possible – instead, it’s about reaching the right ones.

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