Are you chasing too many rabbits?

Don’t waste time chasing after weak sales leads.

One of the challenges of inside sales is dealing with an inbox box flooded with inbound leads. Usually, these leads come about because the Marketing Department sent out a promotional email at a targeted group of prospects.

The email sent out usually has teaser information and a link where someone can click to download a special report or some other information. But there’s a catch – before you can read the information, you must first attend a one-on-one or group webinar or agree to speak with a salesperson over the phone.

Sneaky? Maybe. Effective. That depends.

You see, there’s nothing wrong with receiving inbound leads. Far from it. The problem is distinguishing between good and bad ones.

How do you correctly set priorities before contacting inbound leads?

First, are the inbound leads decision-makers, influencers, or curiosity seekers?

Let’s face it – most decision-makers are not going to download reports because they’re too busy making decisions. That leaves just the influencers and curiosity seekers. So, your first task is to determine which one is which. You can do this quickly by doing research on LinkedIn or a company’s website.

Second, you need to determine what size company (e.g., revenue, employee number) is the best one to contact first.

So true.

Third, but be careful – the company size isn’t always the best determining factor. You also need to ensure if the lead works at a company or organization that would need what you are selling. Are they a good fit?

Fourth, some inbound leads will provide bogus email addresses or phone numbers. Others will leave a generic email address like Gmail in hopes that you can’t find out where he works. Clever, but rarely effective, because you can always check on LinkedIn. And, in some cases, the inbound lead may already be on your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) under the correct company name and email address. You need to look.

If that’s the case, should you waste your time in contacting them? Again, it depends. If you can tell through your research that the lead comes from a hot prospect company that you have been trying to reach for a while, do yourself a favor and use a lead generation tool to uncover the best phone number and email address. Sure, the lead may be surprised that you contacted him. But…he also may be impressed that you were persistent enough to find him.

What you want to avoid is chasing rabbits. But that, I mean you don’t want to waste so much time tracking down every single inbound lead, that you lose sight of targeting high priority ones first.

I know it’s overwhelming to receive a lot of inbound leads simultaneously. But you need to take your time, do your research and take a steady aim.

Better to bag one big rabbit, than no rabbits at all.

Why do Customers Lie?

Customers lie for various reasons.

After several conversations, presenting an online tour or two, submitting a sales proposal or contract, and setting up a free trial, you’re now confident that your prospect is ready to become a buyer.

But days, weeks and months go by, and all you are hearing are lame excuses, or worse, crickets.

No returned phone calls. No responses from your repeatedly sent emails. Your voicemails are getting deleted.

Then it dawns on you –

Your prospect lied to you.

I’m sure you have heard the old saying “All buyers are liars.”

Well, that’s not always true. Of course.

But enough customers do lie.

Why?

Several reasons –

First, your potential buyer was never a decision-maker. Yes, we have all heard that you need to vet a prospect to ensure they are indeed a decision-maker. If you are afraid to ask a potential buyer directly, you can always ask “Can you please explain to me your purchasing process?” or, “How does your company make purchasing decisions?”

And there’s always research. Check LinkedIn. Is the potential buyer a CEO or a summer intern? You see my point.

But no matter how well you think you determined who the key decision-maker is, something always falls through the cracks. Maybe the key decision-maker was demoted and he’s too embarrassed to tell you. Maybe there is more than one key decision-maker, but your prospect is afraid to inform you.

Regardless, you wasted time speaking to the wrong person and got your hopes up high for nothing.

Potential buyers are sometimes liars.

Second, your potential buyer can’t pay for your service or product. It happens. You’re told the budget is there. You think the budget is there. But then, when it comes time for the close, the budget isn’t there. Ouch. Maybe the potential buyer was interested in the beginning, but when he discovered he didn’t have the money, he was too ashamed to tell you.

Third, your potential buyer was never a serious customer. Sure, he gave you all the right signals and said all the right buzzwords. But in the end, he was just window shopping. Or, worst he was comparing your service and product with a competitor that he was more interested in. It’s like going to your local Best Buy to check out electronics, and then going on Amazon to buy the same electronics at a lower price.

Unfair? Of course. But it happens in sales all the time. Yes, I know the price isn’t everything, and you should focus on the value you are offering your prospect. Unfortunately, not all prospects read the same sales books you’re reading.

And finally, your potential buyer is too busy. Despite what you may think, you’re not the only vendor in town contacting your prospect. Depending on the industry you’re in, prospects are constantly being bombarded with sales calls. Or, maybe your potential buyer was interested when you spoke to him, but he got pulled away with more pressuring demands. It happens.

Like it or not, customers lie all the time. The key is not to take it personally. Move on. You can always circle back later.

Note: If you like this post, please read my book — Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

Qualifying Prospects, Part 4

As you tell from the videos in the previous posts, there are several ways you can qualify prospects. The key is to ask good questions so that you are not wasting time with a prospect who may not be very serious about working with you.

By now, you must realize that before you can help a client, you need to make sure you have a solid understanding of his needs and what he values. Never assume anything.

With regard to value, remember, it’s not what you value but what the client values that will tip the scales in your favor. For example, when you sell a car, you may think that good gas mileage is important, but the prospect may value more space for his large family. When you sell a house, you may think having a good corner location is important, but the prospect may value having a large backyard.

Do you see my point? In order to move the sales process from point A to point B, you need to find out what really matters to the prospect.

Below are some questions that I’ve asked over the years when qualifying prospects. I’m assuming that you have either received a phone call or email inquiry, and your goal is to find out more about the prospect and his needs and problems.

If possible, before contacting a prospect, try to do some quick research. Check out his LinkedIn profile. Is he a C-Level prospect or an intern? Check out the company’s website – does the company fit your client profile? Are there any clues from the website why the prospect is contacting you? Don’t spend a lot of time doing research – just a few minutes – but enough so that you know who you are speaking to.

ask good qualifying questionsHere are samples of my qualifying questions –

1). How did you hear about us? This is a good icebreaker. Also, this question helps your marketing department find out where incoming prospects are finding out about your company (e.g., Google ads, trade shows, referrals). However, there is another reason why I ask this question first – it gives me a clue where the prospect is at in his buying process. For example, if a prospect says that he just “Googled your company,” he may be at the early stages of his buying process. But if he responds that he “called around and spoke to colleagues” in the industry, that could mean that he’s serious about making a decision. Sometimes prospects will tell me that they have already checked out my competitors, but were dissatisfied with what they are offering, and have decided to contact us. When that comes up, I always ask what was it about our competitors they didn’t like. This only gives me more ammunition to help me later in the sales process and helps close the deal.

2). What kind of problems are you having? What are your pain points? Obviously, the goal is to find out why the prospect is contacting you, and how you can help him. Notice that I’m not talking about my products or services. On the contrary, when qualifying prospects, always make the focus on them – not you. They will be impressed that you actually care about them and that you are not pitching the benefits of your product or service.

3). Why are you trying to solve this problem now? This will give you a clue about how urgent the prospect feels about his problem. There could be a number of reasons why the problem has surfaced –

a). They now have budget. They know they have a problem but couldn’t do anything about it until now when the budget was recently approved.
b). A new director or manager was recently hired and wants to solve the problem.
c). A new employee was recently hired who used your product or service at a previous company, and he is recommending it to his new employer.

4). What timetable do you have? When do you hope to solve your problem? If the prospect states within the next few months, great! However, if there is no firm timetable or if the prospect is being very wishy-washy and hesitate about telling you, try to dig a little deeper until you get an answer. You don’t want to get burned here. If there is no urgency on part of the prospect, try to create some urgency and see what happens. However, if that doesn’t work, maybe you might be better off scheduling a call-back down the road when the prospect is more serious about moving forward. Your time is valuable. Don’t let the prospect string you along.

5). Do you have budget? Some salespeople are shy about asking this question because they don’t want to raise the money issue early in the sales process. However, you need to know upfront if they have the financial resources to purchase your product or service. If not, then don’t waste your time.

The above are just a few questions that I ask. It really depends on your industry and the types of products and services you are selling. But the point is the same – ask good questions.

 

Qualifying Prospects, Part 3

In parts 1 and 2 of this post, I shared with you videos from YouTube from leading sales experts on how to qualify prospects.

Below are a few more videos on the same topic –

Alan Gordon, author of The Big Book of Sales, says that in order to be a professional sales person you must be able to ask good needs development questions. If you can’t qualify the prospect, you will not be able to successfully move forward with the sales process.

Here is his video below –

Claude Whitacare, sales trainer and speaker, argues that you may experience a lot of no answers before you finally discover what a prospect is seeking.

Here is his video below –

 

Qualifying Prospects, Part 2

In part 1 of this post, I discussed why it’s so important to ask good open-ended questions to qualify prospects. Below I want to share two more videos from sales experts on how they would qualify prospects.

Rich Grof, business and sales coach, offers three key questions to ask when qualifying prospects.

Here is his video –

Itzik Amiel, Founder of Power Networking Academy, argues that you need to do research and develop good questions in order to qualify prospects.

Here is his video below –

Qualifying Prospects, Part 1

When you think about it, being a good salesperson is like being a good journalist – you need to ask good questions.

How else are you going to help your client if you don’t know what types of problems he’s trying to solve? You can call this approach asking “qualified questions” or “needs development questions.” Some refer to it as the “discovery process.” But whatever you call it, the goal is still the same – uncover needs, wants or problems before moving forward with the sales process.

I think the biggest mistake that some salespeople make is they do a product dump on a prospect before they have a real understanding of what the prospect actually wants. They go over all the benefits and features of a product, and then ask “Well, what do you think?” After a little hesitation, the prospect will normally reply “I actually don’t need anything that you discussed. Here is what I’m really looking for.”

If you just found that out at the beginning of the process, you would have saved yourself and your prospect a lot of time. Take a deep breath, be patient, and act like a reporter. Ask good open-ended questions, but also try to make it conversational in tone at the same time. You are not a tough investigative reporter trying to uncover a scandal. Think of yourself as being more of a fun entertainment reporter. You know, the kind that asks softball questions and has a nice, enjoyable engaging interview with a celebrity.

You are just one human being asking another human being how you can help him.

Below and in the next few posts, I’m going to share with you how sales experts ask good questions.

Ago Cluytens, a sales expert, and trainer makes the case that you only really need to ask three questions in the first meeting with a prospect before moving forward with the sales process.

Here is his video below –

Jane Frankland, Online Marketing & Business Development Expert, says you need to ask five key questions when qualifying a prospect. You don’t have to get all your answers in the first call or meeting, but get a clear sense of whether it’s worth your time to pursue a prospect or not.

Here is her video –