Selling to Startups 101 : How to qualify sales leads and boost revenue for your agency

My focus for this blog is to share how to qualify sales leads and get your digital marketing agency or consulting team in front of key decision makers in Startup.

We launched Prelo to create a frictionless sales prospecting experience for agencies and businesses looking for funded customers in the Startup industry. 🚀

Did you know that over 70% of all sales leads are NOT qualified! As a SaaS Startup founder receiving these unqualified emails I find the experience rather frustrating. 😢

So let’s fix it once and for all!

Qualifying sales leads requires data insights such as company description, decision makers job titles and budget capacity. All of which you can access on Prelo
Prelo’s data intelligence helps you to qualify sales leads quicker

What does it mean to qualify sales leads ?

Put very simply, the process of qualifying a sales lead involves building data-driven processes to identify the prospect most likely to buy your service.

This process starts with a lot of potential customers and ends with a handful of sales leads that are most likely to purchase your service.

Creating a solid list of qualified sales leads is like oxygen for your business. I’ll share in this blog exactly how to start at the top of your sales funnel.

I’ll help you with the top questions and share how Prelo can support you with converting more sales leads into buying customers.

What are the first steps to qualifying a sales lead?

There are a handful of frameworks to help you qualify your sales leads and improve the chances of getting a meeting with a cold prospect at a Startup.

1. Sales Lead Scoring

What most companies fail to appreciate is the importance of sales lead scoring. Your job is to identify the key attributes that drive decision making for your Startup customers.

Is it price, is it quality or is it social proof ?

Once you do, collect this information through your website and your other digital content such as blogs and newsletters.

If you’ve set up your marketing funnel well, each prospect’s engagement with your website should result in a lead score. With this strategy in place, the information you collect will give you a clear representation of your prospects’ decision making drivers.

Use this data to prioritize your sales outreach. Remember that you now have a good knowledge of their pain-points based on the content they’ve interacted with. Use this to create a compelling reason for them to want your service.

2. Gathering basic information

Having access to accurate data about your sales leads is the best way to maximize your chances of securing a meeting with a decision maker from a Startup.

You can get this information from the Startup’s website or LinkedIn description page.

With this data, set yourself apart from the crowd by spending as little as 10 mins doing some analysis and engaging with their LinkedIn profiles.

Impress them by crafting a highly converting outreach email using Prelo’s email templates, highlighting something specific about their profile, their company’s mission or their position in the industry.

If you are looking for where to start, try Prelo

Prelo gives you frictionless access to the following information:
1. Company Description
2. Company LinkedIn Profile
3. Prospect’s LinkedIn Profile
4. Company’s funding status

Discover key decision makers from well funded startups in 3 clicks. Budget, Authority, Need and Timeline all in one app
Prelo provides funding updates, business contact details and everything you need to qualify a sales lead

How to use the SPIN framework to qualify sales leads ?

The SPIN as a framework is underrated. Build your digital content such as newsletters and blogs to conform to the SPIN framework. If you do this well, you’ll have an unfair advantage.


The questions you ask and the content you produce should align with your sales prospect’s stage in their journey. Are they building, launching or scaling their Startup ?

An example question that an outbound marketing agency should be asking a Startup that’s scaling is this:

“How are you currently qualifying your pipeline of sales leads”

Then an example blog that will pique my interest as a Startup founder is:

“10 simple questions to help you qualify 50% more sales leads for your SaaS Startup”

The sad thing is that most agencies fail to make an impression. Why, because they do not personalize their outreach message or content to align with their prospects’ current business growth stage.

So potential clients just end up deleting their outreach message


There is a common saying that states that you should “meet your customers where they are”. But how do you actually meet them where they are?

You ask questions to help your prospects uncover their pain-points. A simple but effective question if you are an outbound marketing agency could be something as simple as this :

“Are you struggling to book demo calls due to low-quality sales leads?”

Then I would write a complimentary blog with an example title like:

“How to find better quality leads and get 25% more demo meetings per month”


Spelling out what will happen if your prospects fail to address their problem is exactly what the “I” in SPIN stands for. So how do you phrase this to obtain the right outcome for your agency?

Staying with our marketing agency example, here is an implication statement you can use:

“Your Startup will struggle to grow if you fail to find better qualified leads”

Then I would write a complimentary blog with an example title like:

“How company X used our marketing agency to find 30% more qualified leads in 2 weeks”

Need Pay Off

Ask your prospects some key questions to better understand how valuable your marketing service will be in addressing the problems their Startup is facing.

Asking a simple question such as :

“What will a 30% increase in better quality sales leads do for your business?”

For the purpose of this blog, there is so much information already available out there as to why lead qualification is important to obtaining better quality sales leads.

So I would also focus on sharing precisely why your service is more valuable to the prospect than all the other 1000 product emails they receive every day.

Can the BANT framework help you qualify sales leads in 2022 ?

BANT is a lead qualification framework originally used in the 1960s by IBM Sales Reps to help them determine how likely a prospect was to buy their product based on 4 key factors.

Budget – Can your prospect afford your product or service
Authority – Do they have the authority to make a purchasing decision
Need – Does the solution or product align with the need of the your client
Timeline – What is their timeline to make a purchase

You’ve probably guessed it by now, BANT is indeed an acronym.

Adapting the BANT framework to help you qualify sales leads

Is it still applicable in 2022? Perhaps not with the same rigidity it was previously applied in the 60’s.

Can you imagine asking a sales lead if they have the budget to pay for your service? It doesn’t happen anymore, at least not with digital products.

Thanks to platforms like Prelo, there’s so much information out there to help you determine how likely a prospect is to have a budget or purchasing influence.

While the BANT framework is no longer used as a rigid framework for qualifying the probability of purchase, the principles surrounding its 4 pillars are still in used today.

Prelo will tell you how likely a Startup is to have the budget. It will tell you the decision makers and it will give you enough information to decide if your product aligns with your clients needs. Knowing when the Startup fundraised will give you an insight as to how quickly they’ll make the purchase.

8 quick fire questions to help agencies qualify sales leads

As an agency, make sure that you are selling the right service to the right Startup clients.

The best way to set yourself apart and make the most impact is to qualify your sales leads by asking the right questions.

  1. Where do you currently get most of your revenue/traffic from ?
  2. Is your goal to increase revenue, brand awareness or both ?
  3. What does a successful engagement with us look like for you in 3 – 6 months ?
  4. Do you have an agency solving your outbound/inbound challenges right now ?
  5. Why are you changing agencies ?
  6. Are you evaluating other marketing agencies right now ?
  7. Can you share a list of 10 ideal clients ?
  8. How many hours per week will you set aside to support our agency ?

These questions will help you understand if your prospects know what they want. Further questions will ensure that you are both aligned in your understanding of what success looks like before you commit.

Some things to avoid when qualifying sales leads

If you specialise in outbound email marketing don’t try and sell them on a content marketing service. It will end in disappointment.

Decision makers in Startups are generalists, so the know what they want. If you can avoid it, don’t try to be a jack of all trades.

What’s worked in the past for us is transparency. Explaining to your sales prospects that you have partners with specialties outside of your wheelhouse is powerful.

5 Positive signs that you’ve qualified the right sales leads

Getting on a phone call with sales leads you’ve spent time to qualify is a big achievement, so don’t waste the opportunity. Your triggers of buying intent must be heightened to ensure that you pick up on the signals to know when things are going in the right direction.

Here are 5 solid signs that your conversation and/or engagement is going in the right direction.

1. They ask about payment options

If your sales leads ask you about your payment plans this is a buying intent question. Usually this is a negotiation tactic to see if you have solution in place that accommodates their cash-flow challenges (for example)

2. They want some insight into your previous customers

Again this is a great sign that they like the service and are interested in determining if your promised solution aligns with the reality of the your actual service.

3. They ask about your contract terms and condition

This is a clear buying intent. Prospects are keen to understand the legal standing surrounding the deal so they want some comfort and clarity around the contract to ensure that they’re covered.

4. They ask a question you’d previously answered

This is a sign that they are excited about your service. Repetition either comes in a few forms.

Either it’s your sales leads repeating something you previously said to seek further clarification or something as simple as a question asking you to clarify a specific service.

5. They ask about your competitors

This is a great opportunity to show confidence in your solution without putting down your competitor. Give them a couple of examples and help them by highlighting why your services are different

Closing statements on how to qualify sales leads

In this blog, I covered the tools and frameworks every Prelo customer should employ to qualify more sales leads. Executing the tools and frameworks well will increase client meetings and boost revenue.

To make this blog interesting for some of our customers, I’ve shared the challenges of qualifying sales prospects through the eyes of a digital marketing agency entrepreneur selling their services to a Startup.

Aside from lead qualification tools, I visited some effective frameworks such as BANT and SPIN. I highlighted how businesses have adapted these frameworks to improve their sales lead qualification processes.

While it may be outside of the specific topic of sales leads qualification, I wanted to share the key questions you should be asking your prospects so that you optimize your engagement for success.

Always remember that Prelo is a frictionless tool designed to help you identify sales prospects with the budget and the relevant decision makers within each organization to accelerate your sale and boost revenue.

Tired of pitching to Startups with zero budget?

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Use Prelo’s to qualify sales leads and build your sales pipeline ready to boost revenue

On twitter : 🐤 @oluadedj
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Until the next time.

Founder, Prelo
I tweet about helping founders win!