June 6, 2016
B2B sales experts often talk about how important it is to qualify your sales leads. Instead of treating all sales leads like they’re the same, or just passing all new sales leads on to the sales team without any initial review or prioritizing, it’s important to create an upfront process to “qualify” your sales leads by spending some time to ask questions, build relationships, and figure out which sales leads are really a good fit for what you sell. Without lead qualifying questions, you might be wasting too much time pursuing the wrong opportunities, while the good ones fall through the cracks. Qualifying your new sales leads is essential, because it can help you save time, improve your conversion rates and run a more efficient sales operation.
However, some companies take this idea of qualifying sales leads too far, and actually create the opposite problem – they end up having such a specific idea of what a “good” sales lead looks like, that it becomes impossible to find anyone who fits the description. Try not to create such a narrow range of acceptable sales leads that you narrow your lead criteria too much. If you’re too specific about what your “ideal customer” looks like, you might miss out on lots of opportunities.
For example, let’s say that your company sells a private jet ride-share service for business executives. You might think that your “ideal customer” is a company CEO who wants to use a private jet for business travel. As a result, your company might set out to target company CEOs and high-ranking executives, and direct your marketing efforts at finding and contacting these people to pitch them your service. But, unfortunately, high-ranking corporate executives are the busiest and hardest-to-reach people on earth. They have many layers of underlings who are helping to serve as gatekeepers to keep sales people and unwanted communication from wasting their time. This means that instead of targeting this one “ideal” prospect, you need to broaden your horizons and expand your definition of what really makes an ideal customer. Instead of trying to talk to the company CEO, try talking to the company’s corporate travel department. A corporate travel administrator is much more likely to be receptive to a new solution, especially if it can save them time, money or effort. Instead of trying to find the hard-to-reach decision maker at the top, find the person who’s lower down in the trenches, dealing with the problem every day that your solution helps to solve.
As another example, let’s say that your company sells a business automation solution. A big part of the sales process for a complex business solution is knowing how to “probe for pain.” During the early conversation with a new prospect, you need to ask good questions to find out where the customer has issues with their current system or solution. Keep in mind: most of the time, when a company decides to switch vendors or implement a new system or solution, it’s because their current system doesn’t work, their current vendor has lousy service, or there’s some other significant “pain point” that is driving them to invest the money and effort required to make a change. Instead of narrowing your concept of “ideal” business leads based on type of company, industry, or level of decision-maker who is contacting your company, think more broadly – the best customers are often the ones who have the “worst” problems and pain points that your solution can fix.
Solution selling is about finding customers’ pain points and then aligning your solution with what they need, in a way that relieves their suffering. You need to find someone who has issues and you can solve their problems – don’t try to find one “ideal” type of customer because the odds are against it. Instead of chasing after a predetermined notion of an “ideal” customer, it’s better to be versatile in solving problems for several different situations and types of customers.
Gregg Schwartz is the vice-president of sales and marketing at Strategic Sales & Marketing, a lead-generation firm based in Connecticut. His company helps technology companies and various startups and small-to-mid-size businesses in the business-to-business sales category generate sales leads and improve their sales processes.