Time is a finite resource. You may be a sole trader allocating your time across marketing, selling, making product or delivering service. Or perhaps the MD/CEO of a business with a dedicated sales function.
Whichever it is, the number of hours available within the business to convert leads and opportunities into sales is finite.
Many times I’ve heard sales leaders talk about sales being a “numbers game”. That is, the more leads and opportunities you generate, the more sales you’ll win. Broadly speaking, I agree. But there is huge risk with this simple view. It can result in pouring time and energy into leads and opportunities which are either not going to close. Or worse, sales which are detrimental to your business.
I wonder how many of us fall foul of the numbers game. Responding to every enquiry with a rush of excitement as we see the sales funnel growing. Without proper qualification though, we are just kidding ourselves. We potentially end up with a sales funnel full of poor quality leads and opportunities which will do not much more than sap our time and energy.
In my opinion, it is essential you have processes in place to ensure you only engage time and effort pursuing leads which have a healthy probability of success. And leads that will generate good quality business. Only then does the “numbers game” deliver!
I am course talking about qualification – qualifying to WIN.
So, the lead or enquiry comes in. It has been generated by a perfectly targeted marketing campaign. Before we do anything else, we should perform an initial qualification. At this early stage all we are really trying to ascertain is whether this lead should enter the sales funnel. We are looking for indicators that verify that the enquiry is indeed from someone in a preferred target audience from a marketing perspective.
- Is the company in the right industry for our services/product?
- Are they in the right geography?
- Are they of the right target size?
- Is the individual enquiring in the right role?
You should develop your own qualification criteria and set a minimum level of “ticks in boxes” required for a pass which answers the question “is this the right type of business for my product or service?”
Leads which pass this first qualification test are subject to a further level of qualification. This means engaging the prospect in dialog, preferably a phone call. At this next level, we are trying to answer the question “is this prospect likely to buy from me and in a reasonable time frame?”
Again, you need to develop your own criteria which should cover things such as:
- What problem are they trying to fix? What happens if they do nothing?
- Have they made budget available? How much?
- Who else are they looking at?
- How do they evaluate products/solutions and make buying decisions?
- When do they want to purchase? Why? What happens if this date is missed?
Now is the time to be honest and pragmatic. If you do not get strong qualification criteria, the lead should be pushed back into nurturing. If is strong, then engage according to your structured sales process. But don’t forget to keep re-visiting the qualification criteria to ensure that you fill any holes and verify there has not been any change, especially in time frames and budget.
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