The Exact Lead Qualification Process We Use at Proposify

Qualifying leads is a critical step in any company’s sales process for both the sales team and the prospective client. Without it, your reps could be wasting valuable time on demos for ill-fitting leads who either won’t buy or who inevitably churn after a few months. I’m going to take you through our exact qualification process we employ at Proposify to identify best-fit leads who deserves a demo.

the exact lead qualification process we use at proposify

11 min. read

So, you’ve got a lead in the door requesting a demo of your product.

Do you oblige and carve an hour out of your day?

Or, do you spend 20 minutes qualifying this lead to determine whether they’re even worth pursuing?

When it comes to sales, losing deals are an unfortunate part of the job. Yet, there are processes that help you assess just how far down the road you need to go before moving on and marking it closed or lost.

Qualifying leads may seem like a deal killer, but the reality is that having your lead go through a qualification process benefits both of you.

For your potential prospect, it makes sure they’re getting value from the call instead of feeling like they’re in an interrogation room getting bombarded with questions.

For you, it makes sure that you reserve the extensive time and resources that go into a demo for good-fit customers—ones who can benefit from your product or service and who are more likely to buy.

Earlier in 2019, our director of sales, Daniel Hebert, whom I had on the show recently, completely revamped Proposify’s qualification and demo process. I’m going to share that process with you and break down exactly what our sales development reps (SDRs) use when a new lead comes knocking.

How to qualify a sales lead

  1. Use a visual deck to guide the discussion and give the call structure
  2. Include an up-front contract at the beginning of the call
  3. Spend most of the call discussing your lead’s pain
  4. Offer your point of view and the reason you think this pain exists
  5. Describe an ideal state that covertly masks the benefits of your product
  6. Then pitch. Only pitch your product once you’ve gone through these steps
  7. Determine next steps—don’t be afraid to disqualify the customer if you don’t think you can help them. If you can help, say so, and book a demo before hanging up.

1. Use a deck

Don’t let your reps wing their discovery calls. Getting your reps using a visual representation to help them through the disco call serves two important purposes:

  1. It provides a structure to the call, offering a framework which allows your rep to flow through elements one at a time in a logical order. A deck ensures delivery is tight, concise, and less likely to wander into the weeds and random interrogation questions.

  2. It enables you to execute your sales process of choice. Ours is the Sandler Methodology. This particular methodology proceeds down the entire pain funnel, getting the rep to dig deep into why the prospect is looking for a solution and how the pain affects them.

Plus, having reps stick to a deck when qualifying leads is enormously beneficial to the psychological health of your marketing leader. He or she can sleep easy knowing the integrity of the brand voice and strategy is preserved when their reps use branded, proof-read, professional material when interacting with potential customers.

I’ll include some snapshots from the deck we use at Proposify during a discovery call to illustrate how a visual aid provides a guiding framework to the conversation.

2. Include an up-front contract

Even though this may be one of the first times a rep will jump on the phone with a lead, it’s important to include an up-front contract.

An up-front contract at the start of the call ensures your lead knows exactly what you’ll be going over on this call, and lets your rep stay in control of the conversation.

Plus, it helps build rapport and foster a positive relationship with your lead. It’s also just a good habit to build into your sales calls in general.

Start off with a minute or so of small talk. Where they’re from, any mutual connections, what the weather’s been like—remember, people like talking about themselves and this call is about building a connection. The key here is to be sincere, you can tell when a rep is feigning interest and just waiting to get into the pitch.

Once you’re ready to dig in, here’s what a typical up-front contract sounds like on a Proposify demo call:

OK! Thanks for jumping on the call today.


Are we still good for 20 minutes? And is there anyone else joining us today?


The purpose of this call is to get a better understanding of your sales process and give you a high level of Proposify… but before we get started, what would you like to accomplish on this call today?


Great, we’ll definitely go over that. I’d also like to cover…


There are no difficult decisions to be made today. I’d like to reserve 5 minutes at the end for if we uncovered a mutual fit and we feel we could help, we can discuss next steps, which is typically a 60-minute product demonstration. Does that sound good?

That’s it. Short and sweet, the up-front contract should take no longer than a few minutes. But in those few minutes you’ve established a blueprint for how the call will proceed.

3. Identify (and amplify) your lead’s pain

It sounds barbaric, but digging into a lead’s pain points is a sales trick as old as time.

This is likely where you’ll spend the most time on the discovery call. It’s where you take the conversation from the general to the specific and, maybe for the first time, steer away from a purely logical approach and introduce an emotional element to the discussion.

an examples of a messy sales cycle that wastes time

Our lead’s current proposal process. What a mess.

This part of the conversation is designed to spark a conversation about business challenges and to dig deeper into what’s holding them back.

Uncovering a lead’s pain starts off with an open-ended question before drilling down into the specifics.

Here’s how we do it:

When we speak with companies like yours, they typically have one of the following challenges:

  1. Their sales team is spending too much time on admin tasks and not enough time selling
  2. The sheer excess of admin tasks is the reason why their sales process is ineffective
  3. Or, the majority of their forecasted deals don’t close, they “go dark”

Do any of these resonate with you?

With a little initial guidance, your lead will identify where they’re hurting. Then, like any compassionate professional in your position would do, you pick up a big stick and commence prodding away at their painful hang-ups.

In this scenario, questions like these act as the stick:

  • Tell me more about that…
  • Can you be a bit more specific? Give me an example.
  • How long has that been a challenge?
  • What have you tried to do about it?
  • And did it work?
  • How much do you think that has cost you?
  • How do you feel about that?
  • Have you given up trying to deal with the problem?

4. Introduce your point of view

This stage of the conversation is a chance for your reps to demonstrate their expertise by offering their point of view.

Doing so simultaneously allows your lead to reflect on gaps in their process and limitations in their existing solution while also establishing your company’s credibility by demonstrating how you’ve seen it all before and helped people out of similar pickles.

Here at Proposify, our point of view is that the PDF is killing deals. So, when our reps get to this stage of a qualification call, they offer their perspective on the evolution on sales documents and the limitations of the PDF.

a graphic showing problems with status quo software for proposals

Sure, you could patch a proposal together with a crude combo of ALL of these tools. Or, you could create beautiful proposals quickly with just one.

Here’s how they paint that picture in the qualification call:

In our experience, we often see companies with a time-consuming manual proposal process.

This process includes a jumble of tools and systems, like Word templates, proposals in InDesign being built by designers, proposals getting printed and mailed, or emailed as a PDF…

But then we also see salespeople shifting to adopt e-signatures which may help get contracts signed, but doesn’t help them actually create impressive documents, or create them any faster

Is that similar to how your proposal process has evolved over time?

Sure, things are moving in the right direction. But there are limitations to this evolution.

Time consuming manual tasks still dominate the proposal process. Reps need to spend a lot of time editing and sending their proposals, only to wait in silence as they chase customers for approval.

In short, the PDF is killing your process and killing deals.

In a few sentences, we’ve illustrated our significant insight into how stale processes are holding back modern sales teams.

We’re also shining a spotlight on glaring holes in our lead’s process, ones they may not have yet considered or thought deeply about.

5. The ideal state

Think about your lead’s frame of mind at this stage of the conversation.

You’ve dragged them through the desert of their misery, exposed their pain, emphasized it, and poked at the open wound.

Enough is enough. It’s time to get your lead to start conceptualizing the ideal state, time to show them the promised land.

Our reps do that by going over what others have told us they wish existed. These are, of course, the thinly-veiled benefits of Proposify. But, we still haven't come close to pitching anything about Proposify’s functionality to this point.

Here’s what our reps say:

When we speak with companies like yours, this is what a lot of sales operations managers wish would happen:

  • They had a single location to pull important sales documents together
  • Automation that reduces the amount of manual work and errors
  • A solution that enhances their customers’ buying experience
  • Visibility into what happens with proposals once they’re sent
  • A tool that ultimately lets them win more business and get deals done faster

Does this resonate with you? What would you add or change?

That’s great. If it’s OK with you, I’d love to share more information about what we do at Proposify.

6. The pitch

Finally, in the last minutes of the disco call, comes the pitch. Only now do we start talking about Proposify.

Having the pitch way back here at the end of the call is very much by design.

Up until now, we’ve been working hard to construct a narrative that identifies our lead’s pain, highlights just how much that bottleneck is holding them back, and presents a neat solution.

All while empathizing with their hardship and building a good rapport with a potential prospect. Leading head-first with a pitch serves no purpose other than diluting that narrative and detracting from the value on offer.

Up until now, it’s all been conceptual. Now, we’re getting down to business.

Remember, this call is all about assessing whether this is a lead worth pursuing further. The pitch at the end of this call is really just a pitch for them to hear the real pitch that follows a demo.

Here’s what it sounds like:

We’ve developed a way for companies to centralize the creation, sending, and tracking of important sales documents like quotes, proposals, and contracts.

Our software reduces excessive admin tasks so reps can get their selling time back.

Sales leaders have full visibility into what’s coming up in the pipeline, what gets sent to customers, and how those customers interact with proposals.

Marketing leaders have full control over the brand’s look and feel, so all reps need to do is pull existing templates and content from the library. It’s really quick and easy.

The platform pulls in automation so reps can stay on track, follow-up with what’s important, and get deals done faster.

a diagram showing the benefits of proposify

Notice how the solution, Proposify, is contrasted against the pain.

7. Next steps

The final thing to do is figure out where, if anywhere, this relationship is headed.

There are two possibilities here:

  1. Qualify and offer a demo
  2. Disqualify and move on

If we disqualify, we make sure to validate that they’re not a good fit. Like so:

Based on what we discussed today, I don’t think we would be a good fit to solve your challenges. Do you agree?

They might surprise you and disagree, and convince you they want it. Either way, disqualifying leads isn’t a bad thing. It may feel like a loss, but that’s not the case.

The purpose of this call, after all, is to determine whether or not this lead is a good fit. Better to move on after a 20 minute disco call than have them jump ship after a customized one-hour product demonstration that may have taken tenfold that time putting together.

If they are a good fit, here’s how we wrap it up:

It seems like we could help you with cutting down the time your reps spend on admin tasks, do you agree?


Usually, at this point, we book a 60-minute product demonstration. Would that make sense?


Who else do you feel should join that call?


What would you like to accomplish during the demo?


Great! Do you have your calendar open?

Make sure you schedule the call before hanging up - don’t let them hang up without having the call in both of your calendars.


There you have it. This is the 20-minute discovery call process we run through with every lead that signs up for Proposify.

Sticking to a structured qualification process like this means you’ll spend less time demoing bad leads and more time on leads who are more likely to convert.

Try this qualification process the next time you have a lead in the door. It will save your sales team precious time and resources and increase the likelihood of good-fit leads converting to paying customers.

The Exact Lead Qualification Process We Use at Proposify

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