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What is a Qualified Lead?

A qualified lead is like a gold nugget in a sifting pan. It takes patience and a process to remove the rock and sand, but when discovered, it’s well worth it!

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by Eric Sharp

When I think of the process a company endures to find a qualified lead, I can’t resist the gold mining analogy.

Finding qualified leads is a lot like panning for gold. It takes steadfast patience and a meticulous process to remove the rock, dirt, and sand, but when they hit gold, they know it was worth it!

So, what exactly is a lead? What is a qualified one? Why do companies want them and what are their benefits?

It can be a rocky subject, so let’s start digging into it. (Sorry, couldn’t resist the pun.)

What is a Qualified Sales Lead?

The basics: What is a lead?

There’s a great disparity when it comes to the definition of a lead.

Some claim a lead is someone you have not spoken with. Investopedia says a sales lead is not a sales prospect. This article states a lead isn’t a lead until it’s been qualified and then BusinessDictionary mucks things up even more.

Okay then.

After 15 years of being in and around marketing, I still can’t seem to find a universal or clear-cut definition. Maybe it’s a rabbit hole.

Nevertheless, let me add to the disparity with my definition:

A lead is an individual or company that is showing signs of buying behavior by the interest they express in a service or product.

Test Name Test Title

Regardless of all this ambiguity, I believe most companies would agree that a lead:

  • has a name & contact info
  • is a step or two away from the sale

The nomenclature used in this basic sales funnel (Prospects > Contacts > Leads > Closed) has always made the most sense to me when it comes to lead qualification.

Furthermore, a lead can be “won”, “lost”, go “cold” or exposed that it wasn’t a lead in the first place (“non-qualified”).

Non-qualified lead (ugh!)

There’s not many things more frustrating for a sales team than getting one of these handed to them. However, it happens. Often. Studies show that only 25% of leads are legitimate and should advance to sales.

Non-qualified leads are like leeches. They come out of hiding, suck precious resources, and leave a nasty mark behind. (It is worth noting that leeches do serve noble purposes.)

As you probably suspected, non-qualified leads are the complete opposite of qualified leads.

So, what is a qualified lead?

Let’s shift our focus to every sales professional’s dream — a qualified lead.

A qualified lead has a need a company can solve, enough money to pay them, and the buying authority to make it happen in the time frame everyone desires.

I wish I were smart enough to come up with that myself, but this definition comes from the BANT formula — a sales method revolutionized by IBM 30 years ago.

Let’s break this acronym down.

  • B = Budget (does the lead have enough money to buy the product/service & willing to spend it?)
  • A = Authority (does the lead carry the buying power to pull the trigger?)
  • N = Need (does the lead have a problem that can be solved by the company?)
  • T = Time (does the lead want the product/service in the time frame a company can deliver it?)

Marketers have been using BANT for decades, and though there’s some who believe BANT stopped working, it’s — at the very least — a general framework for identifying good leads.

The benefits of a qualified lead


Finding qualified leads is like panning for gold!

Every organization craves a steady clip of qualified leads. When received, sirens go off, and people get excited. I know we do at ProtoFuse! (The excitement part, not the setting of sirens.)

Why the excitement?

Well, a qualified lead – back to my gold mining analogy — is like finally seeing that glimmering nugget at the bottom of the sifting pan. The process is sometimes laborious, but the reward will always be rich!

A qualified lead:

  • takes less energy & money to nurture (since their needs and time to purchase are clearly identified)
  • can purchase faster (since the decision stops with them)
  • helps an organization better understand their buyer persona (which ultimately refines their sale funnel)

Like I mentioned. Every sales professional’s dream.

Qualifying leads is getting easier

Finding qualified leads continues to be a challenging assignment for marketers. However, there’s no better tool than a website to target prospects, make contact, generate a lead and help a sales team close.

Furthermore, we believe qualified leads are one of the ten powerful elements to intelligent websites.

How a website generates qualified leads

How would you describe a qualified lead?

With such disparity out there, what can you add to this conversation? What is a lead? What is a qualified lead? How are they beneficial?

I’d love to hear in the comments below!

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