A Tale of Two Sales Leads…

This article is a guest post by Dan MacAdam. Dan joined Kurlan & Associates in October 2010. He has upgraded our online presence and multiplied our sales. Does the story to follow sound familiar?

Oliver Twist
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of sales and marketing wisdom, and it was the age of sales and marketing foolishness…

“The O. Twist Co., a $100 million dollar porridge company, was a hot lead. Their CEO had downloaded five of our offers in one day and was racing through the marketing funnel. He was behaving just as we imagined the perfect prospect would, snatching up our top of the funnel offers, devouring our middle of the funnel offers and quickly moving all the way to the bottom, our most “sales ready” offers.

The lead was assigned to one of our salesmen, who followed up quickly. I told him this lead had researched our widget extensively (looked at pricing info, inquired about demos) and almost certainly would be interested in purchasing them. So, the salesman, Bob called and after a few pleasantries, began to explain how the widget could help Twist Co. reduce overhead and save thousands of dollars on storage costs. The prospect sat and listened through the presentation, thanked Bob and told him he’d be in touch. A few weeks later Bob made a follow up call, hoping to close the sale. The prospect told him that he had just purchased 11,000 gizmos from our closest competitor because he felt it would fix his problem more effectively. He wouldn’t need any widgets. Bob exclaimed, “You never told me you needed gizmos, we have those too!” The prospect retorted, “I didn’t know what I was looking for…and you never asked!”

Pickwick Industries was a mid-sized company that had been in the pipeline for a few months. An executive assistant poked around for a while, downloading top of the funnel offers and not really expressing any serious interest. A salesperson called to qualify the lead, assuming she would be able to cross them off the list pretty quickly. When she called, the assistant Pip picked up. He said “Wow, I’m glad you called today. Our CEO Miss Havisham was just talking about how she needs some widgets…you sell those right? Hold on I’ll put you through.”

The saleswoman asked Miss Havisham questions about her business issues and the problem she was trying to solve. How long had the problem persisted? Why did she want the widgets now? What would it cost Pickwick Industries if she didn’t fix this problem? While she was creating S.O.B and finding compelling reasons by asking tough questions, she realized that Pickwick needed both widgets and gizmos to solve their problem. She rounded the bases, qualifying, uncovering the budget and creating urgency. Miss Havisham finally shouted, “I need widgets and gizmos and I needed them yesterday!” What started as a qualifying call turned out to be the biggest sale of the year and a one call close.”

The two leads were very different. One was a decision maker of a large corporation, the other was a gatekeeper. The first lead would have been scored very highly, while the second was middle of the barrel at best. In the first scenario, the salesman assumed that he already knew the prospect’s needs and that the sales call was really just a formality. Bob based this solely on the prospect’s browsing history (and the faulty advice of an overenthusiastic marketer). Remember that sometimes a prospect doesn’t know what they want/need. Just because they indicate interest in a product or service doesn’t mean that’s the one that will best solve their problems. It’s up the salesperson to uncover the real issues and find the most effective solution.

In the second scenario the saleswoman, with a stroke of luck and impeccable timing, had a conversation with the decision maker. However, the key was her technique; she didn’t assume anything about the prospect’s needs and frustrations but took her time, followed the process and asked the right questions. It led to a cross sale and a one call close on a lead that might never have been followed up.

Lead scoring is obviously necessary, practical and advantageous when prioritizing and sifting through leads, especially if you have a high volume. But never assume a lead is qualified and ready to buy based only on what they’ve done on your website. Use the information you know about the prospect as a starting point, to begin the conversation or explore issues, but don’t skip steps in the sales process simply because they downloaded a how-to-guide.

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