Companies invest sizable chunks of time and money implementing lead generation campaigns that are designed to deliver high potential sales opportunities to their sales force. The idea is that sales activity becomes more focused when reps are responding to qualified leads that have the highest potential for close (as identified by specific factors designed into the led gen campaign). In theory, this is exactly what should happen, but more often than not what happens is that the qualified lead – that cost budget dollars to acquire – becomes a lost sale due to five fundamental mistakes that sales people often make when cultivating a qualified sales lead. They are:
1. Ignore the opportunity: Yes, I know, it’s crazy that salespeople would be handed a qualified leads list of people who WANT to know more about their services, but they still don’t pick up the phone. Buyer attention spans are short, and there are plenty of options available, so when a potential buyer has raised their hand, indicating their interest in what you offer, sales should be ready to respond quickly. Ask yourself: What is the average response time of a sales lead received and responded too? The answer might surprise you!
2. Remove Me: As I’ve led sales teams through the years, I’ve noticed a common trait among salespeople. They believe that the sale is never over, nor lost. While I admire the spunk and determination to succeed at any cost, there will always be situations where the fit just isn’t there, or the time isn’t right, and a deal will not happen. Accept it and move on. If in the course of calling a prospect they ask you to remove them from your list, do it. Refusal to do so isn’t likely to score you high marks. People aren’t too eager to buy from companies that ignore their wishes.
3. Crossing the TMI line: It is not uncommon for successful salespeople to develop a tight professional and personal bond with their clients. That bond is what keeps a solid sales relationship intact, but tread carefully when it comes to sharing intimate personal details, and be sure to avoid discussing topics that tend to polarize, such as politics or religion. Always keep in mind that this is a business relationship first!
4. Me, Me, Me: The surefire way to kill the sale is to do nothing but talk about you, your company, your products, your services, your processes, how great you are, and whatever else you want to blather on about that seems important to you. Whether you are calling someone from a leads list or meeting them for the first time at a networking meeting, learn to stop talking about yourself. Your prospect DOES NOT CARE! Not at this stage of the game anyway. Your mission is to make a connection, which can only happen when you listen more than you talk. Ask questions that get your prospect talking about themselves, their business, challenges they are tasked with solving. Recognize that in today’s social sales world, your prospect already has plenty of the “technical” info about what you and your competitor’s sell. Stop wasting time with feature dumps. It’s an out of date practice that should be banished from your sales process. Buyers want results; speak to that, not the features.
5. Qualification – what qualification? Salespeople must artfully juggle the closing of short-term sales while simultaneously developing long-term opportunities. That requires asking probing questions to further qualify the sales potential. Time is finite, so each salesperson must “stack rank” their sales leads in order to maximize their sales efforts. What tends to happen instead is that salespeople want to give the same amount of time to everyone they talk to. That’s a big mistake. So, the typical first phone call probably goes something like this… “Hi, Ms. Executive. I’m Barb at WidgetRUs, and I see you indicated through our website that you’d like to learn more about our products. What day and time can we meet?” Totally, wrong! Your 1-1 face time should be focused on the sales opportunities with the greatest potential. Here are some examples of the type of questions you can ask to further qualify the potential sale:
- When do you plan to make your purchase?
- Do you have the budget now or is this something you are thinking about for next year?
- Are you the only one who is involved in the buying decision?
- How long does it usually take for a buying decision to be made?
- Is there paperwork required for me to complete to be considered as a vendor?
Remember that the lead is the conversation starter. Your prospective buyer has expressed interest at this point – nothing more. Resist the urge to spew out your sales pitch, and instead use the time to get to know what is most important to them. When you do, you’ll see your lead to sales conversation rates improve as a result!