Would you treat an encounter with a bunny and a lion the same way? Hopefully you said no, if not… Never travel to Africa.
The same goes for inquiries and leads.. Many marketers and sales people assume that inquiries and leads are one and the same, but in fact, they are very different animals.
An inquiry is a lot like a bunny, curious but can be quick to run away. A lion, much like a lead, knows what they want; food, or in the case of leads, a solution to their problem.
Let’s leave the animal metaphors behind and dig a little deeper into what the difference between the two really is when it comes to the marketing world, and how you should deal with each of them.
- Inquiries show interest in your product or service, but they may not be looking to make a purchase anytime soon, if at all.
- Qualified leads are just inquiries that have been looked into further than initial contact.
- Using a point system to classify worthwhile leads can save you time and money in the long run.
So, What is an Inquiry?
Understanding the difference between inquiries and leads is a common problem for marketers.
Imagine your website is a booth at a convention. An inquiry is the person that walks by and turns their head just enough to be interested and walk over. (This can also apply to a literal person at a literal event, but I digress.)
Inquiries visit your site and fill out your email form or leave your event booth (hypothetical or literal) with a brochure or business card.
An inquiry is someone who’s interested in the type of work your company does. They might not be aware of your products or services, or they might not realize how they could benefit them. Sometimes an inquiry ends up being a dead end. Even though they show interest, their company doesn’t stand to benefit from your product or service. So where does that leave you?
Formerly known as tire-kickers, these inquiries leave you as a marketer with a new job; determine whether the inquiry can turn into a lead or if it stays at this stage of the selling process.
Are they worth the chase?
So, What’s a Lead?
A lead is a genuine business prospect. Leads have a problem, you have the solution. A lead has the money, you have the product. While leads still need to be nurtured once identified, the process of finding them within the inquiries is a beast of its own.
So, how do you convert a lead out of an inquiry? You have to allocate your time and resources to the right people. There’s no use in wasting time selling to inquiries when they don’t meet the qualifications of potentially becoming a genuine lead.
Work smarter, not harder.
How do you do this?
Let’s travel back in time a few years. Let’s look at the BANT system and how it applies in 2021.
The BANT system was created by IBM years ago, and to date, it stands out as one of the best descriptions of what business leads must have to be considered qualifying. BANT stands for Budget, Authority, Need, and Timing.
When someone inquires about your product, you have to figure out the legitimacy of them as a prospective lead. As far as the budget goes, that means seeing whether or not the inquiry has the time and money to spend on your solution.
An inquiry’s ‘budget’ can also apply to how much they stand to lose without implementing the solution you offer. Ask your inquiry; How much ROI do they hope to achieve? If they can’t achieve that without your solution, it should be in their budget.
Is the person that made the inquiry into your business the head honcho, the decision maker? Or do they have direct contact and influence with the person in charge?
This answer can look like a lot of things. If the one making the inquiry is towards the bottom of their totem pole, they may still be worth looking into. Maybe they work at a company with a creative culture that listens to their employees in any position. Maybe not. Each inquiry should be treated like a specific entity for this reason.
How long has this problem been prevalent in the inquiry’s company? How badly might this problem be affecting them? What happens if they don’t solve this problem? If you have the solution, it’s your job to make them see the importance of what you’ve spent so long understanding.
While you have an inquiry, it’s important to make them see the urgency of the issue at hand. How will this issue affect their goals and deadlines? Time is money, right…
Keeping these guiding factors in mind can help your company direct their time and effort in a more sustainable and cost-effective way.
Which is More Important, Then? An Inquiry or a Lead?
Rather than pit the two against each other, it’s important to realize they go hand-in-hand. In generating business leads, inquiries are necessary. Inquiries can be found at the top of the business sales funnel. The goal is to guide them from the top all the way down to the bottom of the sales funnel.
Next Step: Score the Lead and Nurture It
A standardized point system allows you to see which leads you need to focus on. Allot a maximum number of points for each criterion in the BANT system and score your inquiries for each before tallying the grand total.
For instance, an inquiry from a higher company officer can trump a mid-level inquisitor, but what if the latter has a bigger budget and a more time-sensitive timeline? A point system can help you decide which potential lead can eventually turn into a sale faster. It will also bring to light which areas you need to focus on for maximum effect.
If all your inquiries are top-ranking company officials, then you’ve got yourself a gold mine of potential leads who are most likely decision makers. Then again, if most of your inquiries are entry-level employees, you might have to work quite a bit harder to convert them into leads.
This can be a time consuming process and, in the age of the internet, can sometimes feel impossible. With automated email services and B2B lead generation strategies on your side, following inquiries and turning them into leads can become a lot easier. Nurturing leads through email marketing is an issue to study in and of itself.
Of course, the internet has its perks as well. With the growing popularity of Zoom, it’s easier than ever to have a (virtual) face-to-face conversation with those inquiring about your business.
The options for online communication are endless and intimidating. Taking the time to identify worthwhile inquiries is the first step to generating leads for your business and simplifying your communication efforts.