This is a guest post by George Langan. George has had a diverse career as the CEO of a number of software startups, a sales trainer at the AT&T National Sales School and the VP of sales at two major software companies. He’s hired, trained, and managed hundreds of sales people and sales managers. He is currently the CEO of SalesMentor™ LLC a sales technology company and a Customer Centric Selling® Partner. George can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sorting out the 52%
Would you believe me if I told you that 52% of the prospects you engage with won’t do anything? That’s the average. They’ll waste your time and resources in a sales cycle (probably one of your competitors too), and at the end of the day they won’t do anything. They’ll look like a real prospect; they’ll answer your calls, tell you they like your company, and maybe even say you’re a great sales person. You‘ll use resources from your company, do a demo, have them in the forecast, defend them to your management and then finally they just fade away. They won’t do anything! So how do you separate the good prospects from the bad prospects?
1. No Goal Means No Prospect
There are lots of tire kickers and information gatherers out there. If the prospect doesn’t have a quantifiable goal they are trying to achieve or a problem that they are going to solve, they’re not a real prospect. If they tell you they have goals or problems, but won’t share the details with you, they are not a real prospect.
2. Quantifiable Goals are Measured in Dollars
Saying that the company wants to “move to the cloud” is a nice objective, but it’s a nice-to-have not a must-have. You need to know why they want to move. How much more productivity/cost saving/personnel reduction can be achieved? The answers to these questions give you the data you need to quantify the objective and see if it’s real.
3. You Can’t Sell to Someone who Can’t Buy
Does the prospect know how their company buys products/services like yours? Not just how purchasing works, but who is involved in the decision making process. Can they get you access to the Key Players and decision makers? A big red flag should pop up in your head when prospects say things like, “This is my project and I’ll take it to senior management for a rubber stamp.” Unlikely.
4. There are Two Sides to Every Story
Just think about a conversation with a significant other where you were misunderstood. It happens a lot (well, to me anyway). In sales, you may think that the prospect has given you the information that you need, but the only way to be sure is to get it in writing. Follow up each call with an email that recaps the conversation. If you start with the phrase, “I want to confirm my understanding of our conversation,” you’re on safe ground. Then recap
- Their goal/problem
- The cost of doing nothing
- The current situation
- Your capabilities
- Next steps
- Then confirm that the prospect agrees with “your understanding of the opportunity”. If the prospect doesn’t agree with the goal/problem, can’t quantify it or won’t give you access to the decision makers, you don’t have a prospect and you just saved yourself and your company a lot of time.
5. Always be Qualifying
Even if you get the prospect to agree to everything you talked about, that’s just step one in the sales cycle. As you move up the food chain to key players and decision makers, you always have to be qualifying. The best way to do that is in writing, use the qualifying email and get agreement; so you’ll never be surprised. I can guarantee that your competitors will not be as professional; it takes time and talent to always be qualifying.
The bottom line is that if you concentrate on real prospects, who have quantifiable goals/problems, have a budget and will give you access to decision makers, you’ll be working with the companies that will buy a solution; the real prospects. Let your competitors spend their time with the companies that will do nothing.