Qualifying SMB leads – Best practices when selling to small and mid-sized businesses

Are you selling your product to small and mid-sized businesses and want to improve your qualification process? 

Then this article is for you.

It includes:

  • Real-life examples 
  • Common qualification methods that do not work in the SMB world
  • Actionable insights
  • Lots more

So if you want to get GREAT results from your qualifying team, you’ll love this new article.

Let’s dive right in.

What is a Qualified Lead?

A qualified lead is a potential customer with whom your business has spoken and met certain criteria. 

Some companies split the qualification process into two steps: leads qualified by marketing and leads qualified by sales.

  • MQL: A Marketing Qualified Lead carries more potential than other leads or the general population to turn into a customer. They’re open to your brand or product, even though a specific sales discussion between your company and the individual has not taken place.
  • SQL: A Sales Qualified Lead can be found further on in the sales process. Usually, the sales team has already engaged with him or her. These leads are already in the process of making purchasing decisions and therefore have been confirmed (qualified) as a potential customer.

Lead qualification methods that DON’T work in the SMB world

There are lots of great lead qualification methods out there. Unfortunately, most of them are applicable when selling to large organizations, not to small and medium businesses. 

Let’s take a look at the more popular methods and why they don’t work.

BANT – Budget, Authority, Need, Time

Here are the problems with BANT for SMBs:

  • Budget: stands for finding out about the lead’s available funds. SMBs typically don’t have a spare budget for any nonessential services. In most cases – your product is either mandatory for their operations (in which case they have to have a budget) or you have to demonstrate the ROI.
  • Authority: stands for identifying if the lead has the authority to make the purchase decision. In SMBs typically only the owner makes all the decisions. You are either speaking with the owner or not.
  • Need: designed to assess if the lead has a need for the product. As we wrote above, SMBs purchase products which are either mandatory for their operations or there is a clear ROI demonstrated. There is very little room for nonessentials with SMBs.
  • Timeline: design to assess if there is a deadline for choosing the solution. This one is relevant in the SMB world.

The CHAMPS ( Challenges, Authority, Money, Prioritization) and the ANUM (Authority, Need, Urgency, Money) approaches are similar to BANT but they prioritize identifying different elements over one another. 

However, they also don’t work for the same reasons BANT does not work.

Our four tips for qualifying SMB leads

1. Don’t neglect the pre-research

Many businesses have a tendency not to conduct any research when approaching SMBs. Because of the typical large volumes of SMBs, the qualification teams treat all businesses the same way. 

However, doing a bit of research can go a long way in helping to qualify the lead and get them interested in the product. 

Example: At Worldpay (A $43B payments company), when the SDR team used to take the time to conduct pre-research, the gap between an MQL and SQL went down by nearly 20%!!!

This goes to show just how much pre-research can help.

2. Identify the owner

When you reach out to the businesses, sometimes you end up speaking with a manager, the bookkeeper or even the CEO.

However, in most SMBs, the owner is the only decision-maker when it comes to purchasing decisions.

That’s right. The owner.

Therefore, when qualifying an SMB lead, it is important to try and identify who the owner is and have the sales conversation with him/her. 

3. Get there first

SMBs are time-poor and research-poor.

80% of the likelihood of sales can be attributed to who gets there first.

If you managed to speak with the SMB before they started to shop around and your product or service solves their problem – they are likely to decide to buy on the spot.

However, if they are already in research mode, you are looking at a competitive situation.

Example: some of our clients purchase leads from aggregators (A company that aggregates leads from multiple websites and lead vendors to sell to their clients). 

These leads are of SMBs that have started searching online for a solution and left their details to receive a quote. 

The details are then sold to 5-6 different companies competing for the same lead.

The service provider ends up in a very competitive situation. Although the conversion rate from a prospect to an SQM is high, the ultimate conversion to a sale is very low.

So what is the best way to get to the SMBs first? Is it possible to identify they have a need even before they start searching for a solution?

This is exactly Tarci’s expertise. We use big data tools to scan millions of SMB websites and uncover events and triggers that indicate buying intent.

4. Change the call time according to the business type

Different types of SMBs have different peak hours of servicing clients. 

You want to reach out to the SMB when they are working but not busy servicing clients.

For example, the best time to reach out to restaurants is during the day since they are mostly busy in the evenings.

The best time to reach out to dentists is pre/post hours since they don’t answer calls/emails during client appointments.

Reaching out at the right time will help to get through to the actual decision-maker and qualify the lead.

5. Be direct and use simple language to explain what your service / product does

According to Gartner research, suppliers should focus on providing customers with information that is specifically designed to help them complete their buying jobs.

This is true both when selling to large customers and even more true when selling to SMBs.

To help qualify an SMB lead, use simple language to explain what exactly your service or product does. 

If the owner understands what you do and is interested in hearing more – you got yourself a qualified lead.


Now that we have reviewed the key tips for qualifying SMB leads, it’s time to start executing.

Remember, it takes time and iteration to understand what works best for your business.

And it takes the right leads and the right warm lead partner such as Tarci to ensure you are off to a good start.

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