Sure uncovering sales leads is necessary in today’s saturated market, but the subsequent legwork of converting them needs to be maximized efficiently. Developing proposals, providing estimates, or answering customer questions takes valuable time, so it’s important to ensure you’re talking to the right people and not barking up the wrong tree.

Many salespeople use the BANT standard pioneered by IBM—budget, authority, need, and timeline—when evaluating prospects. You want to make sure you’re offering the customer something that they need that’s within their budget, that you can deliver it on time, and that the customer you’re speaking to has the authority to make the purchase.

So, how do you know if your lead is a good fit? Start by asking yourself these three questions:

What problems do they face?

When someone buys something, they’re usually trying to solve a problem. Anyone can sell widgets, but few can become experts in solving widget-related problems. Sales calls and appointments aren’t about pitching your product. They’re about getting more information on how you can help the customer to ensure their needs and your service or product align.

Even if leads come asking for a specific service, a conversation might turn up opportunities for comprehensive packages. By having a thorough understanding of the problem they face, you’ll become the trusted partner to your prospects. They might even refer business to you.

Who has the seniority to make a purchase?

Many SMBs or franchises have complex processes when it comes to purchasing products and services. When you’re reviewing your lead database, pay attention to the job positions at the company the person represents. For example if you’re selling IT services, you’ll probably have programmers visiting your company. But when arranging a sale, you’ll likely have to speak with management.

Sometimes it makes sense to get buy-in from the people who will use the product and champion it within the company; other times, it’s best to go straight to senior management or the decision maker. Understanding the problems the organization needs to solve (see question #1) will help inform which route to take.

How engaged are they?

Potential customers are doing their homework before making a purchase, so it helps to know how much research they’ve been doing into your company and how serious they are. This suggests who is farthest down the sales funnel, and where you should focus your efforts.

Connectivity’s Customer Insights product enables you to gain in-depth insights you wouldn’t find through typical lead tracking systems. When a new contact interacts with your business, they are added to a database that tracks the interactions they have with your company, whether via phone, email or via social channels. Examining this database can help you uncover engaged leads you didn’t even know you had.

Save time now, and later

By asking yourself these questions upfront, you’ll focus efforts where they’ll serve you best to streamline the conversion process. Not only will you save time upfront by focusing on prospects that are likely to close, you’ll also save time later by closing a sale that leads to a profitable, compatible partnership.

Want more advice on finding qualified leads? Check out these four ways to find leads you never knew existed and five simple tips for effective lead outreach.

Katie Shaheen is Connectivity’s Central Region Sales Manager.