The Ultimate Guide to Sales Qualification in 2024

min read
May 31, 2024

One of the most essential parts of the sales process is also the one that causes the most hue and cry between sales and marketing teams. 

Sales qualification. 

“Marketing is sending us crap leads.”

“Sales aren't doing their jobs properly.”

How do we put an end to this forever-ongoing war? 

The answer is simple: Set up a robust qualification process.

If you qualify leads better, your sales reps can close more deals faster. 

But it’s reported that over 22% of salespeople struggle to qualify well. 

Here’s something more surprising: PhoneWagon reported it takes roughly 100 dials to make one sale. That’s a sales funnel conversion rate of 1%. That’s a lot of weeding out to do.

So, learning the art of sales qualification is unavoidable if you want to boost your sales game.

In this blog, we'll explore everything you need to know about sales qualification - its importance, how to qualify prospects better by setting up a qualification process, and what kind of tools you’ll need to implement it into your current workflow. Let's dive in!

What is Sales Qualification?

Sales qualification is a process where sales representatives assess and identify the leads or prospects most likely to purchase a product or service. This is an essential step in the sales process because it helps reps allocate their time and resources towards leads that have a higher chance of converting. 

When Does Sales Qualification Happen?

Sales Qualification primarily occurs during the initial stages of the sales process, when sales reps are: 

  • Sales Prospecting: When SDRs find prospects who match their ICP criteria and start cold emailing and cold calling them to check if they’re interested in a product or service.

Also read: 9 Best Sales Prospecting Techniques  

  • Making discovery calls: After acquiring a list of prospects, salespeople run ‘discovery calls’ to understand their specific problems, requirements, urgency, and if they’re looking at alternative solutions. This is the stage when reps or account executives ask prospects questions to quickly qualify the prospects.

Qualifying prospects early on in the sales process helps salespeople keep a healthy pipeline, and forecast revenue more accurately. 

Also read: What Is Sales Discovery?

The 6-Step Sales Qualification Process

Six steps of the sales qualification process from which you can pick and choose steps that fit your unique sales needs.

Sales qualification is not a rigid, step-by-step process that follows a predetermined sequence. 

Instead, a little bit of qualification keeps happening at every stage after the prospect enters the sales funnel. Below we outline the different steps that you can set up to have a better qualification process. 

Since it’s a multistep process, everyone does it differently. So, while we aim to give you the best starting ground, feel free to pick and choose steps that fit your unique sales needs. 

So, here goes: 

Step 1: Create an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)

An Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) is a detailed description of the ideal customer for your product or service, which helps target the right prospects, prioritize leads, and improve sales conversion rates. This description is often arrived at upon studying your top 10-20 customers. 

With an ICP, you can tailor your sales messaging to resonate with your ideal customers' needs and pain points, therefore increasing your chances of winning more deals.

To create an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP):

  • Analyze your current customer base for common characteristics.
  • Identify your best customers based on performance metrics.
  • Find similarities among your best customers.
  • Develop a rating system to prioritize and implement your ICP.

Step 2: Use a Sales Qualification Framework

Use a framework that fits your current sales strategy. Some opt for the commonly-used BANT or MEDDIC, while others may have a nice mix of different frameworks to call their own. Either way, use this as your criteria to qualify prospects and to base your questions on. 

Here's what you can do to set up a sales qualification framework and use it in the best way possible.

Here’s how you can use a sales qualification framework:

(i) Define Clear Objectives

Many individuals combine elements from various sales methodologies, to create their own set of questions or frameworks.

However, before designing the framework, it is crucial to understand your desired objectives clearly. 

For example, do you want to target prospects ‘aware of the problem’ but need guidance on solving it or those already ready to purchase? 

Focus on finding what your key objectives are before delving into the process of finalizing your sales qualification framework.

(ii) Identify Key Criteria 

The criteria to evaluate leads and qualify them for further sales engagement depends on your chosen sales framework. For example, the main criteria for BANT are budget, authority, need, timeline, and other relevant factors specific to your industry or product. 

You can collaborate with your sales and marketing teams to identify the most critical qualification criteria based on your target audience and Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). 

Train and guide your sales team on the qualification framework, including criteria, lead scoring, and the overall process.

(iii) Implement Technology and Tools

Leverage technology and tools to streamline and automate the sales qualification process to track and manage leads, capture qualification data, and generate reports. 

To start with, CRM is a must as it manages both incoming and outgoing leads, tracks prospects throughout the sales pipeline, and provides crucial information for assessing customer fit.

Some other tools in your tech stack can consist of automation software, scheduling software, research and analytical tools, verification software, etc.

Investing in technology and tools would enable data-driven decision-making and provide valuable insights into the qualification process. 

(iv) Develop a Lead Scoring System

Assign a numerical value to each qualification criterion, such as higher scores to criteria that indicate a strong fit and higher likelihood of conversion. This way, you can prioritize leads and enable your team to focus on the most promising opportunities. 

For instance, if your target market consists of enterprise customers with a team size criterion of 40+, and a prospect has a team size of 50, they would score 5/5 based on your qualification criteria.

(v) Monitor, Measure, and Refine

Analyze KPIs, gather feedback from sales reps, and gain insights from customer interactions. Use this data to enhance your qualification criteria and lead scoring system, ensuring ongoing improvement in the effectiveness of your sales qualification.

Step 3: Categorize Leads

You’re probably capturing leads through the organic or paid channels and/or outbound prospecting. In order to qualify them effectively, you’ll need to categorize them according to how they came in and who qualified them. 

Categorization of leads allows you to focus on high-priority leads, tailor your communication based on specific needs, and analyze the performance of each lead category to optimize your qualification process. 

There are four kinds of lead categories you must know: unqualified, MQL, SQL, and PQL.

Leads can be categorized into 4 different types, such as:

(i) Unqualified Leads

These leads require further nurturing before being passed on to the sales team. They haven't yet progressed enough into the sales process.

(ii) Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs)

These are leads that entered through the inbound marketing efforts who have met specific criteria set by the marketing and sales teams. They have probably signed up for a BOFU ebook or a demo. 

(iii) Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs)

SQLs are leads that have been further qualified by presales experts or SDRs and have been deemed ready to engage with an account executive. These are leads that have entered the sales pipeline. 

(iv) Product Qualified Leads (PQLs)

PQLs have demonstrated a strong interest in the product by starting a freemium subscription or signing up for a free trial.

Step 4: Research Your Prospects

To effectively qualify your prospects, thorough research is essential. Treat it like detective work, gathering valuable insights to assess their fit for your product or service. 

Here's how to do it professionally:

Explore their website

Delve into their ‘About Us’ section, product/service offerings, and customer testimonials. Gain a clear understanding of their core values, business scope, and customer satisfaction.

Assess their online presence

Review their social media profiles on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram. Look for relevant posts, updates, and engagement to identify industry trends and challenges they face.

Stay informed with industry news

Keep up-to-date with industry publications and news websites. Look for articles and press releases related to your prospect or their industry, providing insights into their achievements, challenges, and upcoming projects.

Engage in online communities

Participate in professional forums and discussion groups relevant to their industry. Engaging with these communities helps you understand their pain points and needs authentically.

Leverage mutual connections

If you have shared contacts with the prospect, reach out to gather insights or request an introduction. Utilizing existing relationships can enhance trust and credibility.

Utilize industry reports and research

Seek credible industry reports, market studies, or whitepapers that offer in-depth analysis of your prospect's sector. These resources provide valuable data and statistics to support your sales approach.

By conducting professional research, you demonstrate your commitment to understanding their business and needs. This information empowers you to tailor your sales strategy and showcase how your product or service can meet their specific requirements.

Step 5: Conduct a Discovery Call and Ask the Right Questions

A discovery call allows you to converse with the prospect, gather more information about their needs, pain points, goals, and challenges, and understand the prospect in general. 

You can uncover valuable insights and determine whether the prospect fits your product well by asking the right questions during the call. 

Here are some effective first-call sales qualification questions.


  • What challenges or pain points are you currently experiencing?
  • How important is it for you to solve these challenges?
  • What solutions have you tried in the past?


  • Do you have a budget allocated for this solution?
  • What is your budget range or limit?
  • How flexible is your budget?


  • Are you the decision-maker for this purchase?
  • Who else is involved in the decision-making process?
  • What criteria do you use to evaluate potential solutions?


  • When do you need to implement a solution?
  • Is there a specific deadline or timeframe you're working with?
  • What are the consequences of not addressing this issue within the given timeframe?


  • How well does our product align with your specific needs?
  • What specific features or functionalities are you looking for?
  • Have you used similar products in the past?


  • Are you evaluating any other solutions or providers?
  • How do we compare to the alternatives you're considering?
  • What factors will influence your decision between different options?


  • What resources or support will you require during the implementation process?
  • Are there any specific integration or customization needs?
  • How do you envision the onboarding and training process for your team?


  • What metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) are important to you in measuring the success of this solution?
  • How do you calculate the return on investment (ROI) for a purchase like this?
  • What outcomes or results are you expecting to achieve?

Remember, these questions are a starting point — tailor them to your specific industry, product, or service. Additionally, active listening and follow-up questions are crucial to gather more detailed information and fully understand your prospect's requirements.

Also read: 30 Sales Discovery Questions That Get Prospects Talking

Step 6: Nurture Leads

Disqualified leads enter a nurturing sequence, where ongoing efforts are made to provide them with relevant information, valuable content, and personalized interactions. The aim is to build a relationship, nurture their interest, and potentially convert them into qualified leads in the future.

Having said that, Kyle Coleman, SVP of Marketing, Clari, has an intriguing perspective on BANT for 2024. 

According to him, relying solely on Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeline information can suffocate the top of your sales funnel as today's buyers expect sellers to provide value, educate them, and earn their trust, rather than expecting them to jump through hoops first. 

So, while budget, authority, and need are essential, eventually, they should not be the main focus at the outset of the sales process.

Also read: The Ultimate Lead Qualification Checklist

How Can Storylane Help You Identify High-Quality Leads? 

Storylane is an interactive demo platform and interactive demos are inherently self qualifying. Add to it, Storylane's robust analytics engine and you would be able to qualify leads without probing them with too many questions. Here's how - You can send a Storylane interactive demo to the prospect before the discovery call. While the prospect interacts with the demo, you get all the behind-the-scene insights. Now you know which of your product's features intrigue them the most. So when you hop on the discovery call, make sure to use these insights to frame better questions and identify deeper needs and problems that wouldn't have normally come up in the call. Also, since prospects have already seen the demo, they will come to the call better prepared leading to productive conversations.

To know more about how Storylane works, book a demo or start a free trial today!

"Previously, there was scope for error and we’ve gone from a process that could be time consuming and painful to a process that’s super quick."
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"Previously, there was scope for error and we’ve gone from a process that could be time consuming and painful to a process that’s super quick."

"Previously, there was scope for error and we’ve gone from a process that could be time consuming and painful to a process that’s super quick."


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