A crucial element of success in business is using your time wisely. In sales, being efficient and strategic can mean the difference between success and failure. The timeline between finding a lead, qualifying them, doing discovery, working through the buying process and finally getting a commitment can be incredibly long. Closing makes it all worthwhile, but going through the process only to lose the deal can be disastrous for business and a salesperson’s psyche.
One key step in avoiding that kind of disappointment is learning how to quickly identify the RIGHT leads. In order to succeed in identifying leads you must do three things:
- Know what to look for.
- Know what to avoid.
- Know how to manage the right leads.
Understanding the Difference Between a Lead and a Prospect
The brilliant Sales Coach & Writer Anthony Iannarino talks often about developing a “hunter culture” for your sales philosophy. In a hunter culture, salespeople thrive on creating opportunity. They regularly spend time prospecting and developing those opportunities. Anthony also lets you in on a little-known secret: the fastest growing organizations use cold calling as their primary qualifying tool. Leads may come from a variety of sources – a lead generation program, the sales person’s own research, past prospects (one of the most overlooked sources), or even a Google search. But before we go deeper into the conversation about how to qualify a lead, let’s make sure we have a clear definition of a lead first.
A lead is not a prospect. It is a potential prospect. A prospect is a person or organization that has a problem your product or service can solve. Identifying the right leads means deciphering between a prospect and someone or some business you cannot help with your offering.
The fastest way to qualify a lead is by picking up the phone and having a conversation with someone who can answer questions that help you make that determination.
Sales Must Be Accountable for Their Own Leads
Successful salespeople and organizations know that accountability is critical to identifying the right leads. Salespeople must be responsible for tracking their own leads. They may not generate all of their leads, but they must be in charge of identifying and tracking them. In making them accountable, you will motivate them to determine which leads are prospects faster and which must be moved past quickly.
Ask the Right Questions to Qualify a Lead
Cold calling and accountability are the keys to quickly identifying leads, but how do you qualify a lead during that first conversation? This is where business acumen comes in. The salesperson must know the right questions to ask to distinguish the prospects from the time wasters. To start, avoid:
- Anyone buying on price alone. There will always be someone out there willing to undercut you. If the lead’s only interest is finding a better price, they aren’t a prospect you want.
- Anyone not interested in a partnership. If the lead indicates that they see all vendors as subservient to them, it won’t be a pleasant or working relationship. Prospects are people or businesses who want to be your partner.
- Anyone whose problems aren’t something you can solve. You can’t be everything to everyone, and trying to is a huge waste of energy and time.
Here are the positive indicators you should look for:
- The lead has a problem you can solve with your offering.
- After an initial conversation, the lead believes you may be able to create value for their organization.
- The lead is dissatisfied with their current state and believes that there is an opportunity for improvement.
Identifying the Right Leads is the First Step
If you have embraced the ‘hunter mentality’ and know that qualifying leads is key to your success, you need a method to track your leads. This is where a CRM is crucial. If you generate enough leads and work regularly on identifying and moving them into the prospect channel, you’ll need a tool and methodology to keep them on track. You must build the discipline of generating, qualifying, cold calling and reviewing your leads and prospects as a regular part of your work week and use a tool that helps you do this efficiently. In doing so you’ll create a constant stream of new, solid opportunities. This will give you added confidence, making you a better salesperson for your prospects and existing customers.
To learn directly from one of the world’s leading sales experts, Anthony Iannarino, about how to build a winning sales process, watch the recording of the webinar The Top 3 Challenges Small Sales Teams Struggle With…Solved.
This post was previously published on SAP.