Is Lead Generation Dead or Just Dormant?
In the early days of my sales business, I experimented with techniques that either became a part of my lead generation and sales process or were discarded as not effective.
One of the habits I got into was to make a list of my prospects at the end of each week. My list consisted of every prospect to whom I had made a presentation and from whom I had not yet received a "yes" or a "no". On Mondays, I started my week by calling all of my prospects - starting with the hottest prospects and working through the list.
The problem was that by the middle of the day on Monday, I had spoken to or attempted to speak to all of my hottest prospects and all that was left was my not so hot prospects. And there were a lot of those. I had a feeling that I should cross some off my list because they were preventing me from prospecting new accounts. But, I didn't want to cross off something that might become money. After all, I figured, there was a reason I called on those prospects and made a presentation to them in the first place. If I crossed them off, would I be giving up too soon?
And so it was 2:00 pm on a Monday afternoon , many years ago. sitting at my desk, head in my hands, staring at the list of forty-two prospects whose progress in the sales cycle had stalled. That's when Jim, one of my sales guys came around the corner into my office whistling a happy tune. I think Jim, made it a point to be happy whenever he entered the office.
"Gil what's wrong? You look like you just found out ice cream doesn't really build strong bones and teeth," Jim, said cheerfully.
"I'm thinking of suing the dairy industry for perpetuating that lie," I said "but that's not the problem. The problem is that I only have a few hot prospects but I spend my whole day every Monday contacting this entire list of prospects that haven't given me an answer. I feel like I'm wasting my time but I don't know because I can't tell if the prospects are dead or just dormant."
"I can see why that would be worth thinking about. Want to think about it together?" Jim offered.
I took him up on it and we headed into Conference Room to draw on the whiteboard. The Conference Room was where we did our best thinking - at least our best thinking that didn't include drinking pounds of coffee.
Jim handed me the markers and took a seat. He’s teaching lead generation to me now!
"Now, first things first," Jim began "how do we know whether or not we should call on a prospect in the first place?"
"That's easy," I said. "First, they have to be able to spend enough money with us to get a discernible result. We've already established $10,500 as the minimum."
I wrote: Sufficient Dollars on the board.
"Secondly," I continued "we must have access to the decision makers."
I added that to the board.
"Third, our audience has to have an interest in the product or service that the prospect sells."
I wrote Product Matches Audience on the board.
Now the hard part, Just because we've identified qualified prospects does not mean that we should pursue each with the same vigor. How do you decide which of the qualified prospects is the highest priority?"
For me, the answer is my level of engagement with the decision makers.
"Tell me more," Jim asked.
"Sure. I would rather spend my time with a prospect that has $10,500 than one with $20,000 if the $10,500 account is treating me like a valued resource. That is, the decision makers tell me what is going on with their business, explain their goals, needs and objectives and listen to my opinions and advice. I feel like I have a better chance of closing a sale with an engaged prospect."
"Okay," Jim said "that seems reasonable. So, an account drops down your priority list if there is a change in your access to or engagement with the decision makers."
"Yes," I agreed.
"Similarly," Jim continued "a prospect would drop down the list if something had changed in their other qualifications. That is, if it became clear they didn't really have sufficient money to spend or if it turns out that their product doesn't match the interest of our target audience."
"That's true," I said.
"So, you have all the information you need," Jim said brightly.
I frowned because I didn't see how. I stared at the board while Jim sat quietly. Then it hit me. The challenge was not deciding if a prospect was dead. The challenge was deciding how much effort to put into a prospect.
I smiled at Jim and said, "I've got it."
"Tell me," Jim encouraged.
" As I get more engaged with each prospect, my original assumptions about their qualifications will change. Perhaps, they don't have as much money to invest as I thought or their products or services aren't a perfect match with our audience or perhaps my access to the decision makers is surface access and not deep engagement. My understanding of their qualifications changes as I get more deeply involved in the account."
"Right. So, as your understanding of their qualifications change, what happens to your activity? Jim asked.
"My activity becomes focused on what I need to do to move a prospect forward. For the highest qualified, most engaged prospects, I need to contact them frequently because a sale is imminent. With high qualified but not engaged prospects, I need to think of ways to build the relationship. This might involve weekly contact but maybe it's every other week or even less frequently."
Need appointments with decision makers?
With that, Jim jumped up and grabbed a marker and drew this "Call Prospects Based on Importance".
"Now, instead of having a long list of prospects that you call every week, your prospects are arranged in order of importance and you can call them as time allows," Jim shared.
"Perfect!" I shouted as I added new skills to my skill set. By listening to my team members who bring many years of experience to the table, I also grow, We have modified our service offerings and pricing since then, but you get the picture
Bottom line, focus and don’t waste your lead generation time on prospects that are not ready.
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