How to qualify leads

Our web site provides loads of information to help entrepreneurs start and grow a small business.  We get a fair amount of traffic, currently about 9,000 unique small business owners every day. We support the site through advertising.

There are numerous companies who want to reach small business owners.  As a result, we get many inquiries every week from potential advertisers and partners so we have to screen each lead to see which ones are worth pursuing.  In other words, we have to qualify every prospect to avoid wasting our time and theirs.


We use a mental checklist.  It is nothing we have written down on paper, just some basic things that we look for in the message that a prospective advertiser sends to us.

We feel we have a qualified lead if we can answer “yes” to all of these questions:

  • Did they read our media kit? At the bottom of every page on, there is a link called “Advertising” which displays our media kit.  This is a standard document that all publications have to show rates and other information that an advertiser needs.  If someone sends us a message and asks “What are your rates?” they instantly failed our screening test and we simply refer them to our media kit online.
  • Did they pass the tire-kicker test? What kinds of questions are they asking?  Does it give us the impression that they have an advertising budget?  If they ask “What is your availability for November?” we feel we have a qualified prospect.  Very few people ask about advertising availability unless they are serious about purchasing advertising.
  • Are they willing to pay for advertising? Unless your intent is to work pro bono, if someone can’t pay you it means that they are not a qualified lead.  You would be surprised at how many requests we get for partnership/affiliate deals which only pay upon a sale of their product.  The risk in such cases falls entirely on us.  If their ads are poor or their follow up is pathetic, they won’t close many sales regardless of how many of our visitors express interest in their product.  So, if their message is vague or somehow suggests that we may be dealing with someone who wants free advertising and will only pay if they generate sales, then they are not a qualified prospect.

Do you have a qualification process for your prospects?  If not, you may be spinning your wheels chasing down leads that will go nowhere.

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