How Do You Handle Unqualified Leads?

Unqualified Leads

A small business's priority should be to maximize time and resources for higher returns on investment. Unfortunately, many companies make one crucial mistake which greatly affects productivity and sales, nurturing "unqualified sales leads". 

So, what exactly is an unqualified lead, and how can one ensure they are not interacting with one? How do we filter out the profitable opportunities from the ones that could incur potential losses? Let's dive into these questions.

Qualified Leads versus Unqualified Leads

What are Qualified Leads?

In simple terms, a qualified lead is an ideal customer. They fit all such criteria and demonstrate the ability and willingness to buy.

Every company should have a unique definition of a quality sales lead. It should develop a blueprint that the marketing and sales teams agree on, depending on their business.

Often we distinguish between Marketing Qualified leads (MQLs) and Sales Qualified leads (SQLs).

MQLs are those reviewed by the marketing team and qualify to be passed down to the sales team for further action. SQLs, on the other hand, are evaluated by the sales team and considered ready to push for a sale/conversion. 

Unqualified Leads

On the other hand, unqualified leads represent those qualified to enter the pipeline but may not necessarily be willing or ready to purchase. This category typically involves those that have viewed the website and engaged with the content and social media but have different motives. Unqualified leads could also include those without much buying power within their firms.

Unqualified leads, if not detected early, can cost you lots of time and resources. So, the faster your team can spot them, the better. What are some of the ways they can do this?

Signs you are only generating Unqualified Leads

Here are some common ways you and your team can spot unqualified leads.

Vague calls

When your team gets on a call with a lead, it could sometimes end way too soon, mainly because the contact has no idea about you and your product. They are unsure of how you would help them and if they need your service in the first place.

Often, this is a sign that they previously engaged with you casually and had no intentions to collaborate. Take this as a warning, and either drop or archive that prospect till further notice. 

Commitment issues

Failure to commit or uncertain answers are often clear signs that a lead is not the decision maker in the company. So, you could be moving in circles with someone who cannot take any action.

At this point, unless they are your only access to a company, you may want to move on to more influential parties in the company.


One of the most apparent signs of an unqualified lead is incompatibility. You just cannot agree. They don't like your price; they need too many adjustments to your offering, do not see the value in your product, etc.

All these show that they may not be ready to work with you. It also sometimes indicates that you may not be able to satisfy this lead, even if they eventually choose to purchase. 

What Are The Dangers of Unqualified Leads?

Unqualified leads are bad news for your company. How?

Waste time and resources

Chasing unqualified leads is the main way to waste time and sales resources. Your salespeople spend a lot on futile clients, which in the long run reflects low conversion rates.

You could miss out on better opportunities.

From a salesperson's perspective, you have limited resources for lead management. So, by spending too much time on unqualified leads, you miss the opportunity to chase better prospects. Every minute wasted on such people comes at the opportunity cost of losing a qualified prospect.

Low returns on CRM investment

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools are meant to help you manage your prospects and nurture them to conversion. But if you primarily use them on leads that never convert, they will not yield much financial benefit. Yet, they tend to be expensive. 

Best Practices in Dealing with Unqualified Leads

Have you experienced any of these signs with your leads? There are ways to deal with the unqualified leads without unnecessary complications.

Be straightforward

Tell them the truth without being harsh. Point out the flaws in the deal and how they can disadvantage both parties. Because it is not a promising prospect doesn't mean you must cut ties on bad terms.

Your prospects will appreciate your honesty more than having to endure a terrible working experience. So always clarify why you believe they might be better served elsewhere. It leaves room for future referrals and projects.


Networking is an essential survival skill in the business world. So, if their problem and your solution are incompatible, try referring the sales lead to someone more compatible with them. This does not include rival companies but those that would be a better fit for the client. 

For example, instead of coldly rejecting them, say, “Thank you so much for considering us, but we may not be the best fit for you. May I recommend someone else who can provide you with the best possible solution?” This solution is a win-win. You save time and still make the customer happy without incurring too much opportunity cost to let the client go.

Start using Data-based prospecting methods

If you are consistently generating unqualified leads, you need to revisit your prospecting methods, i.e., how you reach out to your leads in the first place. You also need to enable better analytics and big data analysis to gather as much relevant data from as many sources as possible in order to make better prospecting decisions. The most common lead generation methods include:

  • Inbound marketing through blogs, webinars, etc
  • Paid search advertising
  • Social media and online communities

However, not all leads that engage with you, subscribe, etc., are worth pursuing. So, your team must derive and test appropriate lead scoring metrics that are highly relevant to your business. 

For example, if overtime, you may have many prospects who "check out the pricing page" but eventually turn out to be unqualified leads. In that case, you may want to consider other factors for prospects to be qualified. Otherwise, the same cycle of nurturing many unqualified leads would just continue. 

Furthermore, several automated prospecting solutions would help you filter out unqualified leads early in the process to save you time down the road. 

Drip Campaigns

Unqualified leads may be a liability now but valuable in the future. That is especially the case for those that could be potential customers but are not willing to buy now. For example, their budget may not be enough right now, but it looks promising in the future.

Such leads are best kept in the pipeline for the long term with drip campaigns

drip campaign

With drip campaigns, you slowly nurture these leads with relevant content over time, primarily through emails. Provide guides, new product information, etc. That way, when they are ready to consider companies for their needs, you will be top of mind. It also allows room for them to refer you to others. 

Since the whole process can be automated, you must simply sort your leads based on their profiles and add them to the relevant campaign. Hence, drip campaigning is efficient and effective as many businesses have shown improved long-term sales with these strategies.


Dealing with unqualified leads as a small business can be daunting, considering you do not have much experience to work with. However, with lead management software, you can efficiently qualify and handle your leads.

When you identify unqualified leads in your pipeline, minimize time and resource wastage by dropping or adding them to drip campaign pipelines. Marketing automation and CRM tools like SharpSpring and others will help you conduct this more efficiently.


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About the Author

Priscilla Achieng

Priscilla Achieng is a lead Technical Content Writer at Funnelbud. A Content marketing professional by day, a passionate soccer fan by night, she also provides copywriting and SEO services for businesses of all sizes.