In an interview by Paul Watts for his show Sales Reinvented Podcast he asked me “What’s one thing you wish you knew earlier in your sales career?”
My answer: “I wish I would have known to be more hardcore at pre-qualifying.”
Yup. Pre-qualifying prospects is critical and when I think of all the thousands of hours I have spent nearly two decades on trying to force square customers into a round hole – it kind of makes me ill. I left pre-qualifying up to a loosely knit set of parameters bound together by hope and sometimes desperation. Over time I’ve honed my instincts to help pre-qualify prospective clients but I didn’t always listen to my gut and chased bad business. In addition to wasting tons of time chasing customers, I’d never catch, I also closed business that was a nightmare to manage and ultimately unprofitable.
How much time did I waste chasing people who were never going to buy? How many hours did I spend trying to will the response from leads that showed interest but then went cold? How much clutter did I have in my pipeline on any given day – that obscured where I should double down my focus?
I couldn’t tell you now but I wish I could calculate it.
According to this statistical nugget cited from The B2B Lead, “50% of sales time is wasted on unproductive prospecting.”
Half of sales time wasted! That’s REALLY scary when you take a look at some of the statistics about how much time sellers actually spend selling – somewhere between 15% and 50%. How much more success could you handle if you increased BOTH of those statistics?
If we improved our ability to pre-qualify prospects, we could improve how we spent our time selling. The benefits of having a higher closing potential mean you waste less time chasing leads, you have stronger relationships with more loyal clients, and often, those accounts prove to have higher margins because they are in your value “sweet spot”.
So what would I do differently and where do we help our sellers and business owners focus? We create a super detailed Pre-Qualifying Matrix to use in our Sales Playbook.
This is the time to be detailed and specific. This is painting a picture of your ideal customer. Use insights from your pool of stellar successes to outline exactly who you want to add to your pipeline. Create a profile by answering a bank of questions and then –
Document the Attributes of a High-Quality Lead:
- What Size of Company
- Which Industries (Vertical Markets)
- How Many Employees
- How Many Locations
- What’s the Organizational Makeup (decision-making structure or authority)
- Geographical Location/Territory
- Cash Flow Required for Solutions
- Talent Required for Solutions
- Symptoms/Triggers That Indicate They Need Your Solution
- What Solutions Have They Tried (failed/successful)
- Current Vendors (like your or unlike you) That Indicate an Ideal Match
- Needs (do they align with your results)
- Timeframe (focus now or planning long term)
- Culture (primed for change or to shift)
- Leadership/Project Management Needed (to implement solution)
What other specific questions could you ask to clarify if a prospect is worth spending your time pursuing?
What would you see if you looked into your pipeline and really examined who you’re spending your time on right now? Do you know enough to understand if this is going to be a worthwhile prospect? Have you answered enough of these questions to invest in trying to move them forward?
Use this bank of qualifications to jump-start your Pre-Qualification Process. Some of these you’ll be able to research to quickly determine fit and others, you’ll need to incorporate in your discovery conversations to continue to nurture prospects to leads and leads to opportunities.
Here’s the painful truth you need to realize: not everyone is going to buy from you. Not everyone SHOULD buy from you and you shouldn’t sell to everyone. Get selective. Improve your process. Stop throwing darts and hoping you hit the target.
Decrease the time you waste on the wrong opportunities so you can get clear and sharp and give the most promising customers your best time and talent.
Until next time, stop hoping, start SELLING!