Automation Step 4: What’s your qualification criteria?

Alright, next step in our email automation process

Is to establish your qualification criteria.

(We’re almost ready to go implement something – woohoo!)

Now you may already have this down pat.

And if that’s the case, just give it a quick once-over to see if there are any improvements you’d like to make.

But if you aren’t totally sure what you’re using to qualify your leads as they come in…

Chances are you’re doing it on the fly using your intuition during sales calls and email conversations to evaluate whether someone is worth your while or not.

Problem: that’s not scalable.

Here’s where we need to start thinking like recruiters.

lead qualification criteria recruiter meme

Recruiters only want the absolute best, most qualified candidates to fill their positions.


I order to find those candidates they have to reach out to a pool of 1,000x more people than they actually need in order to find them.

This is the fastest way to fill positions with high-quality candidates, and it’s also the approach you should model here.

The good news is, if you’re more a bit more targeted in your lead generation efforts than slapping up some preferred qualifications on ZipRecruiter… you’re not going to end up with the giant pile of resumes to sort through that this approach is known for generating.

Now, especially if your schedule isn’t full or you’re looking to grow aggressively and have the capacity to take on the additional work…

This approach can seem like the opposite of what you should be doing.

Why would I limit my pool of potential candidates and make it even harder for them to reach me than it already is?

In truth, that pool of candidates is ALREADY limited… that information is just hidden from view because they haven’t passed through your filter yet.

Yes, you will get some fallout from some individuals who otherwise may be an ideal client for you, but simply won’t go through the hassle of qualifying themselves prior to speaking with you…

But even so, a couple things to keep in mind:

(1) Opportunity cost.

Is it a good use of time to squeeze out the full potential of every single prospect currently in your pipeline? Or is it a better use of time to skim the cream off the top and then go out to fill it back up through additional advertising, content marketing, and outreach?

My sense is that there’s a point of diminishing returns which is much earlier than we’d like to admit… especially if you’re doing manual qualification and spending vast swaths of time each week on energy-intensive calls with people who may or may not be a fit for your service.

lead qualification criteria diminishing returns

The less time and focus you spread across prospects who in the end, may have zero future interaction with your firm, the better.

(2) The back-burner conversion.

If you do have a long-term content strategy in place (e.g. you plan on emailing leads on your list on an ongoing basis after this initial qualification period), you have a backstop to slowly convert those leads over time, who are otherwise qualified, but not quite ready to move forward.

Instead of trying to muscle your way through and pull those folks along (which again, requires time and energy)…

You can turn the burner down to simmer and let the message sink in over time, while also using that same content marketing strategy to generate new potential clients who may be a better immediate fit for your firm’s services.

Alright, so let’s get down to it.

What are the qualification criteria that you use?

There are two ways to look at this.

Option 1: Explicit Qualification

Clear pieces of data you can collect to plug into your “master perfect client formula” to get a quick “yes/no” on whether a lead is worth pursuing.

This is the recruiting equivalent of U.S. citizenship, minimum GPA, years of experience, etc.

Some traditional examples would be:

  • Job role
  • Company
  • Annual revenue
  • Headcount
  • Training budget

But these can also be more specific and targeted questions that you know directly contribute to whether or not they’ll find value in what you do.

For instance, you’ll find these within our discovery call qualification survey…

lead qualification criteria survey

These four questions tell us almost everything we need to know in order to verify that technically, what we do could work.

And what we don’t want to do here is to create an unnecessary “nice to have” hurdle that someone needs to jump through that may not impact your ability to work with them.

So be careful and use sparingly.

Option 2: Implicit Qualification

This happens from the moment someone encounters your firm for the first time… and encompasses almost everything you do. So naturally, it’s a bit hard to pin down.

But in keeping with our recruiting analogy, this would be the equivalent of the company culture, the salary, the mission statement, etc.

Ernest Shackleton’s famous Antarctic expedition job ad is the perfect example of this:

“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.”

And we do our fair share of this as well. For instance, just before the main discovery call CTA on our homepage:

lead qualification criteria implicit

Hopefully, much of this has already been accomplished during lead generation.

But take some time to think about which implicit qualifications are most important, and how you might elicit those:

  • What do our ideal clients believe?
  • How do they think about this problem?
  • How do they behave?
  • What do they like?

And finally, to bring it on home, a rule of thumb…

Rule of Thumb: start small and build later.

Let’s say you put your masterful qualification criteria together and implement it in your marketing funnel.

If you don’t have enough in place, you’re still going to have conversations with people who aren’t really a good fit for what you do… Not horrible, but something you can adjust for by adding a criterion or two to the list.

If you have too many hurdles in place, you’re going to get… nothin’ but crickets. And then, you have no way of diagnosing what’s wrong.

Are none of the leads we’re generating actually qualified?

Or are they just too busy to fill this out?

Is our marketing not working right anymore?

Do we need more people in the funnel?

Did something break on our website?

Not fun. Air on the side of simplicity to start, and then scale up from there.

Alright, folks, that’s about enough for today.

Questions, comments, feedback… something you see that’s horribly off target?

Email me at and let me know.

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