It feels like a dream when you get invited to a networking event and realize that everyone in the room could use the type of product or service you’re offering. You’re giddy at the prospect of closing each deal because your help is so obviously needed that there’s no way anyone would turn you down.
So you schedule one-on-one meetings, build a good rapport with each potential client, and do everything in your power to communicate the value of what you have to offer in your proposal.
But days or weeks go by and only one of your perfect prospects actually closes.
If you go back to your proposal and see that you clearly explained the benefits of your product or service, re-read your communication to see if you missed something, and can’t think of anything you would have changed, take a deep breath and remember:
It’s not you—it’s them.
Your prospects weren’t as perfect as they seemed.
It’s common for most people in sales to jump on a potential client if they see the possibility of solving a problem for them. But this isn’t the smartest way to determine which clients to bring on.
Today’s article focuses on how to turn a potential prospect into a high quality lead so you can stop wasting time with the wrong clients and start working smartly.
Not All Prospects are High Quality Leads
One of the biggest mistakes businesses make is thinking that everyone can and should be their customer. After all, we’re familiar with the phrase, “Sales is a numbers game.”
However, most people would agree that they’d rather have a handful of quality leads that are more likely to close instead of a hundred potentially time-wasting leads that never go anywhere.
So instead of trying to sell everyone you meet, discover your real target audience and stop trying to sell to who you think your target audience is.
Look at your best customers. Make a list with three columns that identify your clients, their specific problems and frustrations, and how your business is currently solving them.
Take a step back and see if you can find a few common themes amongst your customers.
Do you notice more small businesses who lack the proper infrastructure to do things on their own? Or are you a whiz with large scale companies who are growing so rapidly that they don’t have the time to focus on the particular aspect of their business you do so well?
Once you identify a successful customer model for your business based on the similarities you uncover during this step, you can start using it to weed out prospects with laser focus and make your decisions very cut and dried.
Start Weeding Out Prospects
Set the bar with standards, or pre-qualifiers, that your clients have to meet for you to even consider working with them.
If your potential prospect passes the pre-qualifying test, move them along in your sales funnel. But if they don’t, stop wasting your time trying to sell them on what you have to offer. You don’t necessarily want to toss them aside completely, since having more connections is never a bad thing. But, stop using sales time for them.
Recall this list of pre-qualifiers anytime you meet someone. Keep the conversation going if they start checking boxes off your list, and politely move on if they don’t.
How will you know what to use to determine if a potential prospect meets your guidelines?
Using the criteria you identified in the previous section, you’ll generate a list of must-haves and write them down. If most of your best clients have under 5,000 employees, for example, make one of your must-haves company size. Does working with clients with small budgets stress you out? Use a minimum annual revenue as a pre-qualifier.
Tie these similarities together to form a new customer model. This amalgamation will be a blueprint for the specific type of prospect you will be targeting from here on out. That means if someone new doesn’t fit this bill, don’t spend too much time on them.
Of course, there will be exceptions to this rule, but for the most part, you shouldn’t deviate too far from the parameters you discover during this step.
New clients will either be part of your target audience or they won’t. It’s that simple.
Pay Attention to Body Language and Communication
Now, just because you’ve prequalified someone doesn’t mean they’re ready to buy from you. You’ll gain valuable insight by paying attention to your prospect’s body language and back and forth communication as you’re prequalifying them and moving them along in your sales funnel.
Kelly Gurnett of B Plans has three key signs to pay attention to when dealing with a prospect:
1. They Won’t Stop Talking: If your potential client seems to do all of the talking and you find yourself struggling to get a word in edgewise, mark this as a big red flag.
Don’t get me wrong, you want your prospect to open up and give you as many details about their specific situation as they can. But, there also needs to be a balance of communication. If you can’t get a word in, it’s a sign that they’re not really listening and may not be interested in what you have to say. Keep moving.
2. They Always Have an Excuse: Yes, you have to be persistent in sales, but only to a certain degree. If you’re constantly receiving excuses about how they’re too busy to meet, or if they’ve canceled on you more than once, it may be time to accept that they’re just not that interested.
Listen, you don’t need to chase down and beg every prospect you meet to use your product or service. You’ll have customers who can’t wait to get their hands on your help if you stop spending time on the wrong ones.
3. You Just Have a Bad Feeling: Gurnett says it perfectly, “Sometimes, you can’t quite put your finger on why a person or a relationship feels ‘off’, but it keeps nagging at you.”
Don’t ignore these signs and trust your gut. You should never have bad vibes before you start working with a client, when you should be in the honeymoon phase of collaboration.
As much as it may pain you to walk away from a potential revenue stream, you should do so confidently knowing that they weren’t really an ideal fit in the first place.
Remember, not all prospects are high quality leads. The trick is identifying what you’re truly looking for in a long term client and using that criteria moving forward to weed out prospects who don’t fit the bill. If they don’t meet your qualifications, or if they’ve given you red flags to make you reconsider, just move on.
The less time you spend on a prospect who doesn’t pan out, the more you’ll have for the right client. And this “right client” has the potential to turn into a raving fan who may send additional quality leads your way so you never waste time with the wrong client again.