2. Picking the Right Leads

Find Out Who’s Buying and Who’s Not

There’s a hard truth that you need to come to terms with if you’re in business: not everyone wants to buy what you’re selling. A lot of variables go into purchasing decisions, including affordability, location, and just plain old desire. The secret lies in your ability to take all of the great new folks you’ve found through your marketing efforts and to quickly figure out who you should focus your time and energy on, as well as who will benefit the most from getting your attention. Not only will you benefit from this time savings, but your potential customers will, as well.

What Is This?

This is what the sales gurus call the “lead qualifying” stage of the sales process. During this phase, you’ll be using a number of different tools and tactics to sort through all of your new leads and quickly identify those leads you should focus your attention on. You’ll have a much easier time and feel better about yourself if you’re selling to someone who really needs your product.

Why Should You Do It?

Figuring out what makes someone qualified to buy will help you in a few ways:

  • You won’t fill up your sales process with a bunch of people who will never buy.
  • You can figure out who is best to follow up with.
  • People who are the right fit are more likely to become avid fans and cheerleaders.
  • You can adjust your messaging to attract more of the right people.
  • Potential buyers appreciate being told up front if your product is not the right fit for them.
Sometimes, you’ll have people who want to buy your product but can’t. Consider a car like the Lamborghini Veneno. It’s a beautiful and exciting supercar, and a lot of people want one. But it costs $3.9 million, which eliminates a fair number of potential buyers. Oh, and only three were made. So, while there were a lot of people who would have loved to have one, and some who could afford it, there were really only a few qualified leads.

So when it comes down to really being focused on what “qualifies” a person, they have to be both ready and able to buy from you right now.


How Do You Do It?

There are many different ways that you can go about determining which of your leads are most likely to benefit from additional outreach or attention. Once you have an idea of the customer characteristics that make sense for your business, you then must decide how to respectfully communicate and act on that information.


Selecting Criteria

Is There a Need? First and foremost, is what you’re selling solving some need of the customer? Sure, in some cases it may be a desire. No one really “needs” a luxury vacation, but if the desire is strong enough it can be defined as a need. What you’re selling has to answer that need for the customer. If not, the person isn’t going to buy and your efforts are better spent elsewhere.

Is There a Budget? Next, the person you’re selling to needs to be able to afford your product or service. Not in the future, but right now. This person has to have the money and think it’s worth spending it on your product or service. This is why a lot of sales focuses on why something expensive will get a good return on investment. Remodeling your kitchen? It’ll increase the resale value of your house. Buying a suite of software? The new efficiency will save big dollars in the budget. Your leads have to be able to afford what you’re selling, whether through cash in hand or future savings.

Is the Time Right? The final piece of this puzzle is timing. The person may have the need and the cash, but may not quite be ready to buy. Maybe they have another big project they’re working on, or perhaps they are waiting for something to happen in the stock market. Whatever the reason, a truly qualified lead needs to be ready to buy right now. Otherwise, they remain a future possible customer. Invite them to subscribe to your newsletter and move on to more qualified leads.

Other? There can be many other criteria specific to your business that come into play when you’re deciding if a customer is the right fit. There may be certification requirements, location requirements, and many more.

Lead Qualifying Tips

Leads Qualify Themselves. Ask interested people to fill out a short webform to give you more information about what they’re looking for. This works well with online advertising, inbound marketing, and social media.

Consider the lead source. For word-of-mouth leads who’ve heard about you from someone else, you have no insight into the conversation or what sparked their interest. But you do know they’ve gotten “the real story” on your offering from a trusted friend, so are much more likely to purchase your product.

Take notes on a person’s interest at first contact. If you use networking events and trade shows to find new leads, write notes on the back of the business card. Don’t tell yourself that you’ll remember the conversation later. You won’t.

Give them a call. If you’re selling something big, like hundred of thousands of dollars worth of dancing water fountain displays to global entertainment arenas, a phone call will likely be needed before you can definitively decide if an interested lead is qualified.


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Using a CRM

A CRM (customer relationship management tool) helps you see if someone is a good match to become your customer. Use it to keep track of details, such as what products they’re interested in, how much they want to spend, where they came from, and what timeframe they’re looking to buy in. Basically, think of the things you need to know in order to qualify a lead, and keep track of those details in your CRM.

As you continue to do this, you will be sure to notice patterns for qualified customers. Use your CRM not only to see if a single lead is a good fit, but to collect data on all of your customers and to look back to see which qualifications are the best indicators of a future happy customer. For example, if you are a local photographer, you may initially use geography as a qualifying variable. But as your business grows, you may notice more interest from non-local clients who are willing to pay the extra travel expenses. Tracking location and sessions in your CRM will help you discover this profitable new area to grow your business!

CRM helps with qualifying leads by:

  • Providing a place to store key details about your leads
  • Helping you look over all customers to find the best qualifications
  • Giving you a way to prioritize leads by how qualified they are
  • Making the same qualification questions and answers available to your whole team

What Not to Do

It will certainly help you and your team to narrow down the list of potential customers to focus your energy on, but you should make sure to treat all of your leads in a thoughtful and respectful way, even if you determine they are not a good fit for your business.

  • Don’t ignore anyone – Though you may determine from an early e-mail or phone conversation that an interested buyer does not have the budget, or wants a customization you can not provide, or just doesn’t seem like a good fit for your team, you should still follow-up, offer an explanation and helpful suggestions for an alternative solution. You never know, they may be in a position to use your service some time in the future, or have friends who would be a better fit.
  • Don’t be too picky – If you over focus on a buyer’s budget, you may miss some real opportunities to work with great customers. Rather than reject a group of interested leads too quickly, you may want to consider a new price point or build a relationship with a referral partner that you know can offer value at the right price.

Creative Idea

Jerry the Bear is a teddy bear that comes equipped with an electronic teaching tool to help children diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes learn how to manage their glucose levels. Their target market is focused on a very narrow age group and physical challenge, but their innovative and inspiring message reaches many outside this audience. Rather than turn away unqualified leads, they created the “Buy A Bear, Give A Bear” program, so even those not directly affected can help out the cause. This created opportunities for two unqualified groups: those with the funds but no physical need, and those with the need but not enough funds.