What is a Partner Qualified Lead?
Partner Qualified Leads, also known as PQLs (or XQLs for those seeking to avoid confusion with Product Qualified Leads), are a special kind of sales lead that has been validated, or “qualified” using data shared by a partner company.
Traditional sales qualification is a process that involves collecting data about a new sales lead in order to determine its fit as a potential buyer. When a business collects an email address from its website or a badge scan from a trade show, for example, that often kicks off a qualification process. Through human or automated means, more information is uncovered about that lead such as its industry, company size, title, or readiness to buy. This can be an expensive and time-consuming process that slows down a sales cycle and causes strong leads to slip away.
Many look at Partner Qualified Leads as a solution to this slow and costly process. For companies that have an ecosystem consisting of many partners, it’s quite likely that at least one of their partners has already interacted with any new lead that might come along. Not only might they know basic firmographic data about them, they may also have custom tailored insights about their goodness of fit for your market and your company specifically. These kinds of insights are more valuable than anything you could ever buy from a database, and may even be more candid and reliable that what you could learn on a qualifying call with the lead themselves.
How to Use Partners to Qualify Leads
Find Partners with Product or Selling Synergies
The key to a good PQL program is finding partners that are properly aligned with your business interests. It’s unlikely you’ll ever be able to convince a partner to collect the exact data you’re looking for when qualifying leads, but you can get the next best things: Partners who want the same exact answers you do.
Most often, the best fits for a PQL partner are ones that are selling a complimentary product into your same market. Examples are everywhere: Ecommerce shopping carts and shipping providers. Home inspectors and title insurance companies. Wealth managers and tax accountants. Data warehouses and analysis tools.
Chances are you know exactly who these partners are in your market because you see them at the same trade shows, advertising in the same places, and showing the same customers on their case studies. But they’re not competitors -- they just highly aligned with your market. This means what’s qualified to them is likely qualified to you as well.
Establish a Formal Partnership
In today’s world of data privacy and security regulations, it’s important that you aren’t entering into a data collaboration effort with just anyone. Formalizing your partnerships is more important than ever, and most growing technology companies have established partner programs and terms you can enter into. This sets clear guidelines around how success will be measured and what expectations exist.
Securely Identify Overlap
This is the tricky part. It’s one thing to be willing to share insights when an overlap exists, but it’s an entirely different matter to know how to find that overlap. Simply put, if you’re trying to find instances where your sales pipeline overlaps with your partners’ customer base, the only way to get the results is for you to expose your whole sales pipeline to them (scary for you) or for them to share their entire customer list with you (scary for them). This state of deadlock is often enough to stop this kind of arrangement in its tracks.
This is where data escrow comes into play. Services like Crossbeam have been created as a secure middle party that can be entrusted with each partners’ data set, run the comparisons using an intelligent matching engine that reduces the risk of false positives and negatives, and serve back information on the overlap without ever exposing the rest of the data to either party.
Using Crossbeam, you can also select exactly what data points are shared with which partners. It may be enough to simply confirm that you are working with a company. Or, you may be comfortable sharing which of their team members is your customer or the most active user of your product. You may even be willing to share the financial terms of your arrangement with them. This is all customizable based on what’s acceptable in the context of your customer relationships and partner relationships.
Build PQLs Into Your Sales Motion
Another advantage of using a data escrow service is that it can keep your data (and your partners’ data) up-to-date in real time. This means that every new lead coming in the door can immediately be compared to the insights that your partners may already have.
Now that this powerful data is flowing, it’s time to put it to good use inside of your sales organization. If you have a few dozen new leads come into your CRM system, now you’re in a position where every one can be augmented by intelligence from your top partners.
Simply stack ranking your new leads by how many of your partners’ products they already use can ensure you call on the most highly-qualified ones first, put the right features of your product front-and-center, and give your sales reps the information they need to reach out to their counterpart at your partner company to chat about the opportunity or procure more insights.
Building PQLs into your universe of lead qualification can be a powerful way to accelerate sales conversations, improve conversion rates, and save your team precious time. It can also be a great way to build and grow your relationships with your partners, by creating clear ROI and attribution around partner influenced revenue.